D2 South: Duxbury 41, Sharon 26

BOSTON -- The undefeated season continues for the Duxbury Dragons, who took a step further than last season by claiming the Division 2 South sectional title with a 41-26 victory over Hockomock League Davenport division champion Sharon in Saturday’s early game at UMass Boston.

Duxbury (24-0), which lost in the sectional final to Medfield in 2013, is not hiding what has made it so successful over the first 24 games of the season. It is all about the defense.

“Over 20 (regular season) games we gave up 28 points a game,” said Duxbury coach Bob Sullivan. “Today we gave up 26. If we play defense, we’ll be OK.”

That defense is centered on 6-foot-4 Molly Quilty and 6-foot forward Catherine Harrison, who protect the lane and, on Saturday, limited the scoring opportunities for Hockomock MVP Karlie O’Driscoll. Sharon’s senior forward was held to 11 points, six below her season average.

Sullivan noted, “I think O’Driscoll may have gotten a three, but other than that I don’t think we gave up any uncontested shots. We rebound well so we should be in games.”

Duxbury never trailed in the game and jumped out to an 11-4 lead after the first quarter. O’Driscoll finally got going with the first five points of the second on a drive and deep three-pointer and cut the lead to just two points, but the Dragons answered with a 9-0 run capped by a three from Jaqueline Sullivan to take back control.

Sharon would not get closer than eight points for the rest of the game.

Madeline Foote led Duxbury with nine of her 11 points in the first half. In the second half, it was Harrison that would take over. The junior forward had a pair of layups in the third quarter and a big three-point play that built the lead back to 11 early in the fourth as Sharon was still hanging around. She finished with 11 for the game.

The Eagles hung around in the second half and had several opportunities down by single digits late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, but just could not make the shots that they needed. The closest was an O’Driscoll jumper that rimmed out at 29-21.

With the score 35-26 and time winding down, Sharon had a handful of possessions to try and cut into the lead and get momentum, but again the shots would not fall from the outside and O’Driscoll -- whom Sharon coach Kate Horsmann called the “most talented player on the court" -- could not finish over the long arms of Quilty (nine points) on a pair of drives.

Sullivan remarked, “We get out and contest shots. A contested shot, not a blocked shot, a contested shot changes by 20 percentage points and it might it even be more with our length.”

Senior Haley McLaughlin (eight points) had a rebound and layup that made it 37-26 and effectively ended the resistance from the Eagles, who in addition to O’Driscoll got eight points from forward Alyssa Piazza.

There was disappointment in the Sharon locker room at the inability to knock down the big shots in the second half, but Horsmann was far more proud at the Eagles unexpected run to the sectional final than upset at the result.

“We were the seventh seed, we’re at UMass Boston. We just had some shots that didn’t fall. We held a good team to 41 points, I thought we were going to have to score 55 to beat them,” said Horsmann.

She added, “They were here last year and we weren't. No one thought we could do this and I’m proud of the girls.”

Duxbury advances to the Eastern Mass. final on Tuesday at the Boston Garden to take on North sectional winner Watertown.