D1 South Girls: Braintree 51, Franklin 46

BOSTON -- When it mattered most, the Braintree girls’ basketball team used what they have all tournament to win games: defense. The second-seeded Wamps rallied in the third quarter and shut the door in the fourth to upend top-seeded Franklin High, 51-46, in the D1 South Sectional Championship at UMass-Boston's Clark Athletic Center.

The Wamps clamped down on defense in the second half, and even more so in the fourth quarter, to rally back from a six-point third quarter deficit en route to earning the MIAA Division 1 South Championship.

“This is huge for us and for our program,” Braintree head coach Kristen McDonnell said. “For these kids, they’ve worked so hard all year in every practice. Sometimes it comes down to who’s on and who’s off. The ball fell for us when we needed it to and these kids really dug deep. I’m really proud of them.”

Despite only having two seniors on the team, the Wamps (22-2) relied heavily on their leadership. Paige Marshall poured in a game-high 15 points, including the first two in the fourth quarter that set the tone for the Wamps, while classmate Annie Kate Joyce had seven. Joyce had five straight points to close the third quarter and give Braintree a lead heading into the final frame.

“It’s been fantastic,” freshman forward Molly Reagan said. “They’ve been such role models and the best examples.”

Reagan, who’s size drew the attention of the Franklin (21-3) defense, found herself in a spot not many freshman do. With seven seconds left in the game and her team up by three, she grabbed the rebound and was fouled. Her foul shots could potentially ice the game.

“It was an out of body experience,” she said.

She then calmly sank both free throws, putting her team up five and seconds away from a D1 South Final Championship.

“[It’s tough for] anyone in that position, but let alone a freshman,” McDonnell said. “She has a lot of confidence in herself, we have a lot of confidence in her. She was able to step up big time.”

Defensive State of Mind: Braintree has prided themselves on defense during this playoff run, only allowing their opponents to score 22.6 points per game on average. They knew Franklin was going to score more than that, but shut them down when it counted most.

“We thought if we came out and went at them a little bit, it’d put a little pressure on them,” added McDonnell. “I thought we did good job even more in help defense and team defense overall. When we had to, we were able to get it done.”

Braintree only allowed eight points, two of which came on a late drive that the Wamps didn’t want to foul on. They also kept Franklin’s leading scorer Alicia Wilde off the score sheet in the final frame.

“It’s all about the breaks,” McDonnell added as her team started to chant ‘Coach.’ “They gave us a big test tonight.”

A bright future: When three freshman are announced as part of the starting line up, one would think that team would be a couple years away from being in serious contention. Not Braintree.

The 6-foot-1 Reagan started alongside classmates Bridget Herilhy (seven points, five blocks, two steals) and Ashley Russell. The possibilities for this team over the next couple of years are endless.

“I can’t believe it,” Reagan added. “I’m so excited.”