LYNN, Mass. -– As a coach, there are good wins and then there are special wins.
Wednesday night was one of those special wins for No. 9 St. Mary’s coach Jeff Newhall and the Spartans program as they topped undefeated and No. 2 ranked Medfield 64-56. It was Medfield’s first loss in 24 games, a streak that started Feb. 19, 2013.
“It’s a great opponent, they are a great team, a championship team,” Newhall said. “They haven’t lost a game in a year. I think tonight is more about the St. Mary’s basketball program and what we’ve built here over the number of years our players have been here. To be able to have a team like Medfield want to travel and come here and play us non-league and then be able to beat them.
“I think we are a very good basketball team, we’ve only lost four times in the last two years. We’re coming off a loss Friday night, and we played with a real sense of urgency tonight that we didn’t have Friday.”
It was that sense of urgency that carried the Spartans to a 13-4 run midway through the third quarter to open up what was a three-point game at the break. Medfield did close the gap at the end of the third, but St. Mary’s built a 46-37 lead entering the fourth quarter.
“We said at the half we should have been ahead by more than three,” Newhall said. “We thought we missed a lot of easy shots. We allowed them to get a lot of second chance points so at the half we said this is a matter of finishing our shots and not allowing second chance points. We basically said this quarter is a three-point game, they are either going to tie you or take the lead, or you guys are going to get it to ten and we got it to ten.”
As expected, Medfield didn’t go down without a fight. Trailing 56-43 with just under four minutes remaining, they went on a 11-2 run to cut the deficit to four, 58-54 with less than a minute remaining. But a clutch runner in the lane from senior Brianna Rudolph, with the shot clock winding down, gave the home team a six-point lead with 30 seconds left, sealing the win.
Rudolph led the Spartans with a game-high 26 points, followed by senior Sharell Sanders who had 16, while senior Jennie Mucciarone added nine.
“I know [Rudolph] had 26 points, but we were more concerned with [Mucciarone] coming in and they both are outstanding players. Their point guard is very good too,” Medfield coach Mark Nickerson said.
Medfield was led by junior forward Payton Ouimette who also posted 26 points, while senior forward Kristin Fechtelkotter and senior guard Lauren Petit added 14 and 13 points respectively.
Even though the Warriors suffered their first loss in just about a year, it is a game they can learn from and potentially turn into a positive come tournament time.
“It’s good experience for us because we need to compete with teams like this, but I was proud of the way we battled back in the fourth quarter and made a game of it,” Nickerson said. “To their credit, very well coached and very well prepared.”
St. Mary’s will now look to wrap up the league crown with a win over Austin Prep later this week.
Playing short-handed: St. Mary’s was forced to only play seven players and dress only eight because of an injury to sophomore forward Gianna Moschella, but the Spartans showed no signs of being a tired team, especially with three senior guards playing the entire game.
“We didn’t go very deep tonight,” Newhall said. “You have three senior guards (Sanders, Rudolph and Mucciarone) and they have a history of winning. You use your timeouts sparingly and in a game like this they want to be on the floor and we need them on the floor. Quite frankly there is no reason for me to take them out.”