BOSTON -– Even on a bad shooting night, Ashley Russell managed to get it done for Braintree.
The Wamps junior guard picked up three fouls early in the first half that put her to the bench, and shot just 1-for-10 from the field. Yet she was integral in running the Braintree offense, and helped lead a second half run to put a scrappy Lynn English (25-1) team away. Behind Russell’s 11 assists and 13 rebounds, the Wamps (22-1) punched their ticket to the state final since 2006, knocking off the previously-undefeated North champion Bulldogs 59-41.
“Ashley is always somewhere on a stat sheet, and if she’s not, then she’s on a hustle stat sheet somewhere,” Braintree coach Kristen McDonnell said. “But she really does make something happen every time she’s out there. Whether it’s just slowing the team down and getting everybody gelled back together, or getting 13 rebounds.”
Russell got plenty of assistance from her teammates as well, finishing with just two points. The Herlihy sisters, Bridget (14 points, 16 rebounds) and Brianna (21 points, 8 rebounds), and forward Molly Reagan (12 points, 5 rebounds) combined to outscore Lynn English on their own – the trio finished with 45 points. In addition, Braintree outrebounded the Lady Bulldogs 51-19.
Seeing double-digits all over the stat sheet is nothing new for McDonnell though, Braintree boasts three of the best forwards in the state all on one team.
“We usually have three kids over ten rebounds almost every game. The points come and go, we have kids who do a lot better against zone and certain kids that thrive against man-to-man. It’s just finding those pieces and putting them together,” McDonnell said.
Catherine Stinson and Deidra Newson each scored 13 points for Lynn English, who finished the season at 25-1. English made quite a comeback after being down 17-6 and getting merely dominated in the first quarter. Stinson, Newson, and Dionda Woumn (11 points) led a 14-0 run by the Bulldogs to start off the second quarter. Just minutes after it appeared that Braintree was in the driver’s seat, Lynn English had a 20-19 lead. Braintree regained a 25-23 lead before halftime.
“They’re a really talented, very scrappy, tough team that we knew was never going to go away. And you could see that in the first half, I think we went up by 10, 11 points right away and they came fighting back,” McDonnell said of English’s second quarter comeback, “They did a really good job, Lynn English, of packing it in and making us bomb threes. We were trying to get back to pounding it inside, and dishing out and diving down.”
The Wamps got right back to work in the third quarter though, using their size on the glass to dominate the Bulldogs inside and get good shots around the rim. After five straight points to start the third quarter, Braintree never looked back.
“Braintree was unbelievable. We scouted them three times and we thought we could make a run at them –- we did in the first half we just couldn’t hang in there. We used a lot energy in that run right there...They just got so many rebounds and they’re a special team,” English coach Fred Hogan said. “At halftime we could see the kids were exhausted, and I asked a lot of them tonight…but there’s no excuses in basketball, tonight Braintree was the better basketball team.”
The win gets Braintree the victory that they finally have been looking for late in the tournament. A traditional power and often among the most talented teams in the state, Braintree lost back-to-back Eastern Mass. finals in 2012 and 2013 before finally getting over the hump and advancing to the DCU Center for the state championship
“It feels good, I’m not going to lie,” McDonnell said, “I don’t think it’s any monkey off my back, I just think for these kids to be able to experience this, it’s so well-deserved. Sometimes you just need the stars to align and the shots to fall when you need them to –- and they did tonight.”