LOWELL, Mass. –- Arlington Catholic could not have asked for a better first half. The Cougars dominated Watertown in every phase of the game, but as is the case with any good team, Watertown made a strong push in the second half.
Luckily for Arlington Catholic (20-4), junior Emma Lutz was there halting seemingly every run Watertown (21-2) made with 12 of her game-high 16 points coming in the second half, leading AC to a 42-35 win over Watertown in the MIAA Division 2 North final.
“Once you get a good stop it pumps you up for offense,” Lutz said. “Defense makes offense, offense doesn’t make defense.”
Arlington Catholic led 19-9 at the half, but even then long-time Cougars coach Dave Brady knew the first few minutes of the second half were the biggest of the game.
As any good team does, they followed their coach’s orders and started the second half with a 5-0 run within the first minute to extend their lead to 24-9.
“If you want to say we won the game, I felt it was the first three minutes of the third quarter,” Brady said. “We needed to come out hard to set the pace and they came back. I thought pushing it up to 15, or whatever we did was a good way to start. The first few minutes of the second half was so important in such a low scoring game.”
After the Cougars run, Watertown went on one of its own –- a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 24-16, but Lutz responded with a three, pushing Arlington Catholic’s lead back up to double digits.
Trailing 29-18 going into the fourth, Watertown scored the first four points, but it was Lutz again, scoring a big hoop and the foul to stop all of Watertown’s momentum.
The Red Raiders didn’t go down quietly, but they couldn’t get the spread any less than five and that was in the closing minute as Arlington Catholic hit 7-of-10 free throws in the final quarter to keep Watertown at bay.
Lutz, who missed her confirmation for the game, pointed to defense as the major key in the Cougars upset win.
“We knew defense was going to win the game,” she said. “We didn’t care about our offense, we focused a lot more on our defense. Honestly, we didn’t look at the score once. It was a very low scoring game. Our coach kept saying ‘everyone doesn’t think you’re a good defensive team, they think they are going to walk all over you,’ and that was our main goal. We wanted to win with defense.”
Watertown, who was held to just 35 points on 10 field goals, was led by sophomore Katelyn Rourke who finished with 13 points.
After reaching the EMass Final in 2011 and 2012, not many people predicted the Couagrs would make it back this season, but it’s been the team-unity and team-first attitude which has gotten them this far.
“Nobody expected us to get this far at the beginning of the season,” Lutz said. “We keep coming, I actually missed my confirmation for this, it takes a bunch of dedicated people.”
CONTROLLING THE GLASS
Although sophomore forward Demi Fogarty fouled out of the game and finished with just four points, she controlled the glass finishing with 12 rebounds to keep the powerful Watertown forwards off the boards and the score sheet.
Also having a solid game was senior forward Presley Silva, who did her part in the paint as well finishing with 11 rebounds.
“Our size did help, absolutely,” Brady said. “Demi is so big. I don’t know how many blocked shots she had, but she had quite a few.”
A SECOND COACH
Senior forward Maura Buckley finished with 10 points and has been a steady force for the Cougars since she returned from being sidelined recovering from an ACL injury, but it was what she did in those ten games she missed, which impressed Brady the most.
“The biggest part about (Maura) is she didn’t even play in the first ten games. She was more valuable the ten games she didn’t play than she has been on the court this year and I’m not kidding you,” he said. “What she did for this team, that was a delicate time. What she did for that team, just talked to them. I didn’t have to coach those games and then she came back and I felt like I had too again. Just a tremendous job.”
Having the experience of already played at the Garden, the team will once again rely on Buckley’s leadership as the Cougars prepare for Tuesday’s EMass D2 final, where they will face South champion Duxbury.