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MIAA D1 GIRLS’ BASKETBALL FINAL | BRAINTREE 59, SPRINGFIELD CENTRAL 56

Redemption is sweet for Braintree girls in D1 title victory

Braintree ‘s euphoric players run onto the court at the MassMutual Center in Springfield where the Wamps recorded a redemptive victory over Springfield Central in Saturday’s D1 girls’ final.
Braintree ‘s euphoric players run onto the court at the MassMutual Center in Springfield where the Wamps recorded a redemptive victory over Springfield Central in Saturday’s D1 girls’ final.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

SPRINGFIELD — As soon as Mackenzie Moore was set to inbound the ball from underneath the Springfield Central basket, her Braintree teammate, Adriana Timberlake, sprinted for the other end of the court at the MassMutual Center.

Moore fired a perfect three-quarter-court laser to Timberlake, who snared the ball in stride and drove to the basket for an open layup, the 2 points with 1.8 seconds remaining locking up Braintree’s riveting 59-56 victory Saturday night for the program’s third Division 1 crown in five years under the direction of coach Kristen McDonnell.

The first two titles were overly satisfying. The third was a redemptive triumph.

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Central bounced Braintree, 61-47, in last year’s final. McDonnell stepped down two weeks later, interference from some players’ parents playing a key role in her decision. She returned three months later with a renewed sense of self.

But in a rematch of the state final in the season opener in December, Central ruled again, 63-46.

Ninety-two days later, Braintree found a way.

With 9.6 seconds left, Springfield Central senior Jada Murray-Gee sank the first of two foul shots, cutting Braintree’s lead to 57-56. But she missed the second attempt, and the Wamps (23-3) earned possession on a jump ball, setting up Moore’s long pass to Timberlake.

Braintree's Adriana Timberlake (left) hits the deck after being fouled by Springfield Central's Selena Gonzalez in the second quarter. Timberlake finished with a team-high 19 points for the Wamps.
Braintree's Adriana Timberlake (left) hits the deck after being fouled by Springfield Central's Selena Gonzalez in the second quarter. Timberlake finished with a team-high 19 points for the Wamps.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

“I did not think I was going to catch that, Mackenzie didn’t think it was going to get there,” said Timberlake, a junior forward who poured in a team-high 19 points.

“I ran as fast as I possibly could to get that ball. It was awesome. It was crazy,”

It was just another example of the chemistry this Braintree squad has developed.

“I think they’re just an incredibly unselfish bunch, they have trust in each other and they just do things the right way,” McDonnell said. “The poster child of what a team should be.”

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Much earlier in the game, Braintree junior Barbara Ronca displayed the type of confidence the Wamps have in each other.

Braintree senior Jenna Roche scored two of her 14 points on this heavily-contested shot against Springfield Central’s Selena Gonzalez.
Braintree senior Jenna Roche scored two of her 14 points on this heavily-contested shot against Springfield Central’s Selena Gonzalez.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

With Braintree on top, 27-17, with 3:09 to play in the first half, Ronca picked up a rebound and her perfectly threaded outlet pass led to an open score by senior Jenna Roche (14 points). Clapping in celebration before the ball even rolled off Roche’s fingertips, Ronca and the Wamps were clearly in their groove.

Central (21-3) pushed Braintree to the end, but Ronca’s harmless celebration foreshadowed something much greater.

“We just knew we couldn’t go into the game easy,” Ronca said. “We were always pumped after every basket and knew we couldn’t stop pressuring them.”

Braintree led for the first 18:45 of play, but the Golden Eagles fought back, taking their first lead on a right wing 3-pointer by Makayla Thompson with 5:15 left in the third. She slapped the floor in jubilation, and the lead changed hands six times prior to the fourth quarter.

“I saw what we were in terms of fighting the whole time, but I think we lost our poise a little bit,” Springfield Central coach Erik Maurer said.

Braintree senior Rachel Tutkus was determined to win this loose ball from Springfield Central’s Madison Coleman.
Braintree senior Rachel Tutkus was determined to win this loose ball from Springfield Central’s Madison Coleman.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Rachel Tutkus said she was ecstatic to capture her first title. As a freshman in 2015, she was a member of the junior varsity squad.

“It feels great,” Tutkus said. “I’ve never been on the team when we’ve won one. It’s awesome.”

Braintree 59, Springfield Central 56

at MassMutual Center, Springfield

BRAINTREE (23-3) — Adriana Timberlake 8 2 19, Jenna Roche 5 2 14, Rachel Tutkus 4 2 10, Barbara Ronca 1 6 8, Mackenzie Moore 0 4 4, Margaret Hester 1 0 2, Jeniyah Jones 1 0 2. Totals 20 16 59.

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SPRINGFIELD CENTRAL (21-3) — Makayla Thompson 7 0 19, MaKayla Rudder 6 0 14, Selenya Gonzalez 5 0 13, Jaliena Sanchez 3 2 8, Jada Murray-Gee 0 2 2. Totals 21 4 56.

Halftime: Braintree, 30-27. 3-pt. goals: Adriana Timberlake, Jenna Roche 2; Makayla Thompson 5, MaKayla Rudder 2, Selenya Gonzalez 3.

Braintree's Jeniyah Jones (11) ) and teammate Rachel Tutkus (11) battle Springfield Central's Jada Murray-Gee for a loose ball in the third quarter.
Braintree's Jeniyah Jones (11) ) and teammate Rachel Tutkus (11) battle Springfield Central's Jada Murray-Gee for a loose ball in the third quarter.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Braintree’s Mackenzie Moore (left) was not about to give in to Springfield's Jada Murray-Gee (right) for a loose-ball possession in the third.
Braintree’s Mackenzie Moore (left) was not about to give in to Springfield's Jada Murray-Gee (right) for a loose-ball possession in the third.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Braintree’s Rachel Tutkus (right) engaged Springfield Central’s MaKayla Thompson (left) in some strong-armed tactics to corral this loose ball.
Braintree’s Rachel Tutkus (right) engaged Springfield Central’s MaKayla Thompson (left) in some strong-armed tactics to corral this loose ball.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
The Braintree girls basketball team celebrates its third Division 1 state title in the last five years under coach Kristen McDonnell.
The Braintree girls basketball team celebrates its third Division 1 state title in the last five years under coach Kristen McDonnell.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
On the flipside of Braintree’s euphoria was the stinging disappointment felt by Springfield Central’s emotional Jada Murray-Gee during the awards ceremony.
On the flipside of Braintree’s euphoria was the stinging disappointment felt by Springfield Central’s emotional Jada Murray-Gee during the awards ceremony.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Greg Levinsky can be reached at greg.levinsky@globe.com.