WELLESLEY, Mass. -- When a team has a winning streak of a magnitude like Reading’s there are going to be games that come down to the wire where players are needed to step up and sometimes put their team on their backs -- even more so when that game is against an opponent who can compete at the same level.
For Reading, that once again fell unto Olivia Healy in the championship game of the IAABO 27 Comcast Tournament, where she scored 40 points, including 27 in the second half to lead the No. 1 Rockets (20-0) to a come-from-behind, 73-69 thriller over No. 2 Archies (17-5) at Babson College, increasing their state-best active win streak to 45 dating back to March 2011.
“Olivia making those plays at the end and playing with so much heart all game, all the kids. I’m so proud of them,” Reading coach Kim Penney said.
With the game tied at 67 and 1:47 on the clock, Healy scored her teams' final six points, including a game-clinching hoop and the foul with 14.8 seconds left to seal the victory for the Rockets.
Archies had possession of the ball with just under a minute left trailing 70-69, but a Healy steal gave the ball back to the Rockets and set up the nail in the coffin.
Reading was down virtually the entire game, including trailing 11-0 to start. Their first lead of the game came with just 2:25 left following a clutch three by junior Bridget Clements.
The fourth quarter saw two other clutch three’s by the Rockets –- another from Clements and the other from senior Katie Starble.
Healy was the focus of Archies defense, but she was able to overcome it, not without some help from her teammates.
“Alana Gilmer played me hard, so did No. 34 (Ednaija Lassiter), said Healy, who is headed to the University of Richmond next fall. “We knew that coming into it, but again if we have Katie (Starble) hitting three’s on the baseline and Bridget Clements hitting three’s as a team we can do anything."
Archies exploded out of the gates to 11-0 and 16-6 leads, ending the first quarter ahead 22-14.
The second quarter saw a series of runs by both teams, with Archies responding to everything Reading threw at them. Reading could not get the deficit under eight points at any point in the quarter and Archies led by as many as 14.
The teams entered the locker room with Archies leading 40-28, but everyone knows an undefeated team would not go down quietly.
“We came back and had that run to start the second half, which I think Archies knew we weren’t going to go away easy,” Penney said. “We kept going back and forth and it just worked out for us.”
Reading opened the second half on a 9-2 run over the first three minutes of the third quarter as Healy scored all nine of those points.
"We noticed they were in man, so we really had to push it and attack them and not settle for outside shots, but really attack the rim and stay together,” Healy said. “We were kinda back and forth talking, and we need to show everyone we were five as one, instead of 12 individuals."
A three-pointer by Clements with just under two minutes remaining in the third tied the game at 48. The two teams then traded baskets to end the quarter sending it into the fourth all knotted at 53.
The game was once again tied at 57 with 6:10 to go, but Archies went on a 8-0 run in less than a two minute span to take a 65-57 lead with just under four minutes left.
Following a Reading timeout, they took the game over as the Rockets outscored Archies 16-4 in the games final 4:30. Healy (10) and Clements (six) scored all 16 of the final Rocket points.
Reading was led by Healy’s 40, where she truly willed her team to victory. Clements added 15 off the bench, all from three-point range. Katie Starble and Sarah Haase added seven apiece.
Southern New Hampshire-bound Sara Ryan led Archies with 22 points, as she did her best to go toe-to-toe with Healy. Sophomore Alana Gilmer finished with 18, while junior Leah Spencer added 12.
The loss capped the end of a brutal stretch for Archies, as this was their fourth game in five days (they won the previous three). The team showed no effects of fatigue as they were still pushing the tempo in the games’ final minutes.
Having finished the regular season with an unblemished record, this is the kind of game Reading will use to their advantage going into the upcoming Division 2 MIAA state tournament.
“Individually, on paper we may not be as talented as other teams, but we play together as a team on defense especially,” Penney said. “ I am so proud of them and hopefully we can use this as a spring board going into the tournament.”
Healy was named MVP of the tournament for a second straight season. Healy scored 30 points in Sunday’s win over Billerica to go along with her 40 points in the final.
Other members of the All-Tournament team included: Bridget Clements (Reading), Alana Gilmer (Archies), Sara Ryan (Archies), Katie Anderson (Natick) and Brittany Lomanno (Billerica).
In the early game Billerica defeated Natick 70-65 in the consolation game.