BOSTON -– It has been two years and two straight state titles for Fenway girls' basketball with coach John Rice at the helm.
The coach who switched an offensively-focused Panthers squad to a defensive and press-heavy team last year has shown strong immediate results in his short tenure. Fenway (15-7) rolled Greater New Bedford Voke (20-5), 56-47, to win its second straight state title in a rematch of last years' Division 4 championship at TD Garden yesterday afternoon.
“It's the second year and they were (originally) just a wide open run and gun offense minded team,” said Fenway coach John Rice. “Boston Public League basketball is up and down defense (and) pressure and that's what our strength is. Be patient on offense, get into sets, [and] just add a lot more structure and fundamentals.”
The Panthers were lead with 15 points from junior Cadeija Mathews, 13 from senior Tajanay Veiga-Lee, and 12 from sophomore Jalissa Ross.
Leading since the first minute Fenway really began to roll when it adjusted to a 2-1-2 look headed into the second half with a 26-20 lead. The Panthers outscored GNB 30 to 10 in the third quarter starting with an assist from Takora McIntyre to fellow freshman Jaquelah Holliman at 7:40.
A deep center-court tre by Mathews and a pair of free throws by McIntyre and Holliman helped finish the quarter with a five point run and a 56-30 advantage.
“They scouted us really well; in fact they scouted us so much that we changed our defense,” said Rice. “It was almost a guess (and) we really did not know what would happen. It was a full-court matchup that looks like a zone, but is a man.”
Pressed To Action: GNB coach Dave Harrison originally believed Fenway was too quick for a full-court press, but switched to the defense from a 1-3-1 after trailing by 26 points going into the final quarter. The adjustment helped the South champs outscore Fenway 17 to zero in the fourth.
Grabbing a missed counter-attack attempt, freshman Irisneida Rivera drew a foul on the rebound and nail a pair of charity shots to start the run at 56-32 after 35 seconds in the fourth. A sideline three-pointer by junior Mandy Carneiro in the last few seconds brought the final to 56-47.
“If they had any type of press break we would be lost, because you see how fast they are,” said Harrison. “Our concern was their press and their constant pressure. We could never get into a set offense half the time.”
Rivera and senior Brittney Marshell tallied 12 points for the Bears.
GNB, who has struggled from the line all season, went three-of-nine from the free throw line.
Examond Stepping Up Big: The Bears worked senior center Stephanie Antoine for 16 points and 10 rebounds in last years' 58-49 loss to Fenway. Nakira Examond, whose coach described her as "Energizer Bunny", stepped in to fill that role on a
team with few 'Bigs'.
The five-foot-eight sophomore bodied 16 rebounds and downed 12 points against a squad with five girls at least as tall as her.
“She was the only returning big person we had,” said Harrison. “(Nakira) is a basketball junkie (who) plays AAU all year round. She
probably should have started last year so she is ready.”