BOSTON -- When a team averages a margin of victory of nearly 20 points per game, you would expect there to occasionally be a close one and there was in the Division 1 South final at the TD Garden tonight. The undefeated New Bedford Whalers faced the underdog Mansfield Hornets and squeezed out a 47-46 victory, despite going 5-of-18 from the free throw line and a late half-court shot by Mansfield’s Michaela Bowes.
"It was a little concern because we were missing free-throws. We are not that bad at the free throw line, “said New Bedford coach Michael Gonsalves. “That young lady hit that half court shot and if we did not get that last free throw, we'd still be out there in overtime."
“Last game, we shot well from the free-throw line. I don’t know what it was today,” said New Bedford senior Alyssa Roach.
The game started off with Kathryn Campbell attacking the rim and getting good looks for her teammates. Campbell, who finished with 15 points, helped Mansfield go on a 6-0 run to end the half with her great court vision for teammates streaming down the court. Mansfield’s 3-2 zone got them many steals and good looks in transition.
"I thought they were outstanding. We were trying to figure them out. We were doing our weave at the top, which we are famous for.
They were just switching people off and we have routines where we have kids cut through and it seems the kid in the back was picking up the cut, so we told our wings to stay a little wider.
Going into the fourth quarter, the with the wings spread out, Allexia Barros -- who finished with a team high 23 points -- hit a three-point with 3:01 remaining and Roach hit a three-pointer from NBA range with 2:05 to go, New Bedford put the game to 45-40.
After Campbell hit a three-pointer a few plays later to put it to 45-43, Barros got fouled, went to the line, missed the free throw, and Arielle Gomes grabbed the offensive rebound and got fouled. Barros hit one of two free throws to put it at 46-43.
The play of the game was made by Roach after she got a steal in the press from Michaela Bowes and got fouled. While Roach missed both free throws, Gomes came up with another clutch offensive rebound, got fouled, and hit one of two free throws.
"I thought our defense stepped up with the intensity,” said Gonsalves. “I thought we had of good looks for most of the evening. I don't think we shot a good percentage. But we spread the floor, opened up the gaps and were lucky to get open for a couple of threes down the stretch which gave us some breathing space."
The key to the game came down to which team made the adjustments and stayed focused. While New Bedford’s free throw shooting almost cost them the game, they broke the 3-2 zone well and adjusted their defense to force many key turnovers.
Said Gonsalves, "What we did was take someone off the ball. When we had someone on the ball and they were double-screening away and it gave them numbers on the way back. So we took somebody off the ball and they had to get through our pressure and get all the way down the court."
It wasn’t one of New Bedford’s typical high scoring game and Gonsalves gave credit where credit was due.
"We played one hell of a Mansfield team."
Quiet But Effective
While she was not her team’s high scorer, Gomes was just as important as any of her other teammates. Gomes had 13 points, 18 rebounds, and five blocks against Mansfield’s Colleen Copley, who finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds. The two were battling on the boards all night long, but one thing that made Gomes happy with was her shot blocking.
“I’m getting back from an injury, so I haven’t been jumping a lot. I’m just getting back into the swing of things and getting the side that I usually had back.”
With New Bedford headed to the semifinals, it certainly is a good time to be getting back into the swing of things.