BROCKTON, Mass. -- It is not often that a sectional semifinal is as one-sided as Monday night’s meeting of top seed Braintree (21-1) and No. 4 Bishop Feehan (18-5) at Massasoit Community College.
The Wamps went on a 22-0 run between the first and second quarters and held Feehan scoreless for more than 10 minutes of the first half to build a 31-6 lead en route to a dominating 51-19 victory that sends Braintree to its third consecutive sectional final at UMass Boston.
The opening four minutes of the game were even with Feehan getting a tough basket by senior forward Brenna LeGacy to make it 6-4 with 3:49 left to go in the first. The Shamrocks would not score again until Maddie Jolin knocked down a jump shot with 1:32 remaining in the half.
“We wanted to keep our intensity up because we know that Bishop Feehan is such a great team and we knew that if we let up in the slightest bit that they would be able to get right back into the game because they’re good at pushing the ball. So, we knew that we had to strap down and play good fundamental defense,” said junior guard Ashley Russell about the Braintree focus on defense in the first half.
According to Braintree coach Kristen McDonnell, the build-up to the game focused on Feehan’s ability to get out in transition.
“It took about a week of practice to get that down,” she explained. “But, they get up [the floor] better than any team in the state. We were as prepared as we were going to be and I thought the girls did a nice job with that.”
McDonnell added, “Every game for us it’s always about defense and rebounding and we felt that if we can win the rebounding battle then we’ll win the game. We don’t do anything surprising, but I think they’ve gotten all the little things in that, like getting over ball screens, hedging and it all came together tonight.”
The Wamps dominated on the boards and in the paint throughout with Mary Reagan (eight points, seven rebounds), Bridget Herlihy (nine points, eight rebounds), and Brianna Herlihy (team-high 14 points and nine rebounds) limiting the Shamrocks to one shot per possession and challenging Feehan at the rim to limit its ability to leak out on the break.
Surprisingly, with the size that Braintree has on the block, it was the point guard that would lead the way with 12 rebounds. Russell, who was recently named the Bay State Conference MVP, also added 10 points and solid defense on Jolin and Feehan’s leading scorer Katherine Nelson, who went scoreless on the night.
“The kid is really just the Energizer bunny -- she never stops and she does all those little things,” said McDonnell about her junior captain. “To her credit, I think she’s finally getting noticed for it. Usually, hustle doesn’t go on paper but I think it’s starting to go on paper what she does for us.”
The lead was never in doubt in the second half with Feehan never getting any closer than 24 points after halftime. Lauren Manis tried to make it closer with all five of her points in the third and Jolin led the team with eight, but Feehan was held to just four points in the fourth quarter as the Wamps closed out the game.
Feehan coach Mike Deady took full responsibility for the defeat. He said, “We came out flat and we had some looks early and didn’t make them and it just snowballed and that’s my responsibility -- that’s my fault. It’s not on them...This is my responsibility and obviously we weren’t ready to play tonight.
Deady also looked to the future knowing that he brings back a strong core of younger players, but that Braintree will also be just as strong next season.
“I’m confident that we’ll be back,” he said. “That’s a very good team, but I am of the belief, as silly as it may sound, that we can play with them. We did not tonight and it wasn’t even remotely close.”
Braintree will head back to UMass Boston looking for its third consecutive South sectional title and Russell said that the Wamps are doing their best not to think about what lies beyond but focusing on Saturday and a third meeting with league rival Newton North.
She remarked, “Thinking about a state championship is really big but we’re trying to go one game at a time and we don’t want to think too far ahead because of our past at the Garden. We have to win one game at a time and hopefully Saturday we can continue with that.”