BOSTON -– The first half of Monday’s Division 4 Eastern Mass. Final didn’t go the way New Mission had planned.
Their lack of aggressiveness on defense didn’t allow the Titans to get easy transition baskets and allowing six offensive rebounds led to easy hoops for Greater New Bedford, giving them a five-point half time lead.
Things changed immediately in the second half as the Titans went on a 12-3 run to open the third quarter and ran away with a convincing 72-62 win over Greater New Bedford to send them to the D4 state championship next weekend.
“I think we got off to a really slow first half,” New Mission coach Brianna Forde said. “We are a fairly slow team in terms of how we start, we definitely aren’t a first quarter team. I think just coming out and being aggressive and really tenacious on defense I thought changed the pace of the game for us. We needed to do a better job of guarding their big’s and getting our transition game going. Once we started to do those things we saw a lot to open up for us.”
Things certainly opened up for them as they outscored the Lady Bears 40-25 in the second half, primarily because of their aggressive defense leading to lay-ups in transition. In total, New Mission forced 24 turnovers, leading to 30 points.
“We kind of expected that in the second half, that’s what we talked about – they would probably pressure of man-to-man, full court and we got double teamed and threw the ball away quite a bit,” New Bedford coach David Harrison said.
The Lady Bears controlled the play in the first half, primarily in the paint as junior forward Nakira Examond had 18 points and nine rebounds, which allowed Greater New Bedford to build their five-point halftime lead. Even though she still had a monster game, finishing with a game-high 27 points and 17 rebounds, New Mission did a better job controlling the glass in the second half.
Sophomore Iris Rivera also had a tremendous game for Greater New Bedford in a losing effort posting 16 points and 15 rebounds.
New Mission was paced by their stars, seniors De’Andra Humphires and Jaszala Laracuente, who had 24 and 20 points respectively.
With the Titans leading 59-51 in the final quarter, Humphries picked up her fifth foul, forcing her from the game, which could have came back to haunt New Mission as she was their leading point scorer.
“I was nervous because the game was so close,” she said. “It was a little bit depressing, but I got back into it.”
New Mission didn’t panic and never allowed the Lady Bears to get any closer than seven points the rest of the way primarily because of their free throw shooting as they shot 9-of-14 (64 percent) in the final eight minutes.
“That is what we prepare for,” Forde said. “Those role players that we have that may not be starters, every minute counts. Their contributions never change, from their efforts on the floor and in the classroom, it’s a team effort.”
For the first time there will be a D4 state final between an East and Central/West champion, which will take place next weekend.
BRIGHT FUTURE FOR LADY BEARS
For Greater New Bedford, this was their third trip to the Garden in as many years, falling to Fenway the previous two times, ending pretty much the same way with the City League’s teams aggressiveness eventually getting to them.
“It seemed like the same scenario as the past two years, we couldn’t handle the pressure when we got double teamed and we turned the ball over,” Harrison said.
Fortunately for the Lady Bears they will return four starters next season and will be as hungry as ever to make it a fourth straight trip to the Garden and this time come away with a win.
“We have four starters. I thought we were going to get them today,” said Harrison “We’re closing the gap. I know these kids, like I said we’re one year away from a couple of things. If we keep going the way we are going I expect big things next year.”
STATE FINAL AHEAD
Looking ahead to this weekend’s state championship, the Titans will take on either Millis or Quaboag. They know they will need to clean a few things up between now and then as getting off to a sluggish start could hurt them.
“Run, run and run,” Laracuente said. “We need to play our game and work hard throughout the game. First quarter, put them away in the first quarter and play hard. Defense wins games.”
New Mission reached Monday’s EMass final by upsetting No. 1 Fenway last Friday night, 43-36.