DORCHESTER, Mass. -- Down 11 with six minutes to go in the girls' final of the Comcast IAABO Board 27 Tournament, all the usual cliches starting coming out of the Central Catholic huddle -- all that talk of digging deep, all that sermonizing about gut checks.
But to pull off the comeback over previously-unbeaten No. 2 Newton South, it took a little D.I.Y. from the No. 5 Raiders' rock in the backcourt. St. Rose-bound forward Gabie Polce pulled up for a game-tying three-pointer, only to watch it take a high bounce off the front side of the rim. But the 5-foot-9 combo guard came up with her own rebound, flicked it up again, and watched as her bench went into a frenzy with a minute to go and a tie score.
She then put the Raiders ahead for good with a breakaway layup with 80 seconds left in the extra period, as Central completed the comeback with a 73-70 win over the high-octane Lions in overtime.
"I think consciously, all of us were like, 'We don't want to lose to this team'," said Polce, who finished with 20 points (six in overtime) and seven rebounds, and was named to the All-Tournament team. "We heard they were so good, they hadn't lost, and we kinda wanted to prove to everyone we could beat them, and prove it to ourselves. We pulled each other together at one point and said, 'We've still got plenty of time'."
On the possession following Polce's shot, Central forward Melissa Miller got fouled as she came down with a rebound, giving the ball back to the Raiders (17-2). Polce's go-ahead three came up short, and Newton South sophomore point guard Kayle Burton came down with the rebound, prompting Lions head coach Sam Doner to immediately call for a timeout.
The Lions (19-1) had two chances in the last 32 seconds, the last one a three-ball from Brown-bound guard Sophie Bikofsky that clanked as the seconds counted off. Quite a change from the first half, when the 5-foot-11 senior hit 5 of 7 three-pointers, including 4 of 5 in the first quarter.
That early success prompted a more diligent attention to the hot-handed Bikofsky, and to an extent it worked. Bikofsky didn't hit another three until the Lions' first possession of overtime, a walk-up trey that gave Newton South its final lead of the game at 65-64.
"I think we learned that we needed to face-guard (Bikofsky)," said sophomore forward Casey McLaughlin, who took Tournament MVP honors with 19 points this afternoon. "And no helping on anyone else. Just always have a hand up in her face when she shot a three, they won't make it every time."
Said Polce, "She can shoot it, she's got a quick release, and that was killing us. Coach (Sue Downer) said, 'She's going to make them no matter what, you've just got to play her as hard as you can. And she (McLaughlin) did that."
Meanwhile, the Merrimack-bound Miller made up for some mighty struggles in regulation (a pedestrian 4 for 14 from the field) with arguably the biggest play of overtime. Battling her way to the rebound of an errant perimeter shot, the 6-foot senior heaved a 50-foot outlet pass to Polce, who glided in all alone to an easy layup and 69-65 lead with 1:20 left.
"Oh my...if we did not have that, we would not have won," Polce said. "She pushed the ball, that's exactly what coach told her to do. We needed her to rebound, and we needed a long throw. That was a big play. I think that's what determined it."
In all, Newton South made 12 of 26 three-pointers.
Briana Hunt, Sr., Newton North
Emma Robinson, Jr., Arlington Catholic
Sophie Bikofsky, Sr., Newton South
Kendall Burton, Sr., Newton South
Gabie Polce, Sr., Central Catholic
MVP: Casey McLaughlin, Soph., Central Catholic