DANVERS, Mass. –- The Raiders of Central Catholic couldn’t be flying any higher heading into the MIAA state tournament.
Not only did Central (19-1) take the championship of the IAABO Board 130 Classic, but their 52-38 victory over Boston Latin (7-10) also extended their win streak to 16 consecutive games, with their last loss coming in late December against Westford Academy.
The most difficult part of Monday may have been preparing for Latin’s UMass-bound senior forward Maggie Mulligan. A towering presence on both ends of the floor, Mulligan has made a living this year off of inside scoring, rebounding, and blocking shots.
“We played yesterday and we didn’t have a practice, but we did the best we could. [Mulligan] is a very, very good player, so I thought Amanda [Williams] did a great job on her though –- she stayed out of foul trouble and boxed her out well,” Central Catholic coach Sue Downer said. “I thought we contained her, our goal was to push her out of the paint a little bit – I think it was effective."
Mulligan totaled 14 points and 13 rebounds, as well as six blocks, but the Raiders were able to slow her down in the first half and build a lead thanks to their high-pressure defense. The lead did not last long, however, as Latin fought back to tie the game at 30 midway through the third quarter. The Raiders scored just one field goal over a ten minute span from the end of the first to the beginning of the third –- and at least momentarily it looked as if Latin might be able to take advantage.
“I think it’s great to play in tournaments like this. We enjoy it, and it certainly prepares us mentally and physically for what’s ahead,” Downer said. “There’s always room for improvement, we had some turnovers and I think there were points where we fouled when we need to be more disciplined. We need to make better decisions with the basketball on the offensive end of the floor as well.”
Williams, who led the Raiders in scoring with 16 points, teamed up with Caitlin Dell’Orfano to put Latin away in the fourth quarter. Dell’Orfano (12 points) scored eight points in the stanza to lift Central to the double-digit victory.
“That’s what she’s good at: hitting clutch shots,” Downer said. “We hit some big shots, and they’re seniors they’ve been on this team for four years. They did what we expect them to do, and that was awesome.”
The offensive outburst in the fourth quarter was likely a result of Central’s full-court press, which especially effected Boston Latin in the fourth quarter when they were so desperately looking for a way to stay in the game and keep it close.
“It’s what won us the game at the end. I think our full court press wore them down and they were tired in the fourth quarter. We were able to transition that into scoring, getting fouled, and finishing shots and everything,” Downer said.
Now at 19-1, the Red Raiders will be out of action until the beginning of the state tournament.