Although Braintree High School has won the South Division 1 Championship two times in the past, it has been a first for every member of this year’s girls’ basketball team.
To claim the this year's title, It was a wild ride for Braintree (22-2), with the young team making overcoming a six-point deficit in the third to pull ahead for a 51-46 win.
“It was a battle, from start to finish, and at the end it came down to who got the most breaks, and we happened to,” McDonnell said.
More than breaks, however, or the two foul shots Molly Reagan sank in the last seven seconds that clinched the win, McDonnell again emphasized the defensive line.
“For us it does always come down to defense. If we can stop other teams, we can always put ourselves in a position to win,” she said.
The senior captains also contributed greatly to the win. Paige Marshall came out on fire on Saturday, scoring a game-high 15 points. Classmate and senior co-captain Annie Kate Joyce had seven points, and helped close the gap in the tumultuous third quarter.
“They worked very hard to win a game like that,” McDonnell said.
McDonnell said the girls have battled for the win before, and learned a lot from losing to Division 2 Scituate High School at the end of their regular season, where the Wamps let go of a 14-point lead in the last four minutes of the third quarter.
Those experiences helped them adjust to the well-matched Franklin to draw out the win.
The team now moves on to the State Division 1 semifinals versus defending state champion Andover. Tip off is at the TD Garden tonight at 7:45 p.m.
Defense will continue to be the team’s biggest asset moving forward, McDonnell said, and the players have some good competition on their hands.
Boston College-bound senior Nicole Boudreau is one. Scoring a game-high of 29 points in Andover's division game against Masconomet on Saturday, she will be one the team’s main focuses defensively.
“We have to keep them to low numbers to put ourselves in a position to win. But these kids worked hard and they are excited to play with that same intensity tonight,” McDonnell said.
Andover girls basketball coach Jim Tildsley said that his team had a lot of respect for Braintree, and that anything could happen come tonight.
"They only have two losses, they are on a roll, beat a great Franklin team. They are playing very well," Tildsley said. "[And McDonnell] is a young, energetic coach, and the team plays like their coach. They are well coached, motivated to play, and we have a lot of respect for them.
Tildsley said his team's experience in the Garden might be a benefit, but nothing is for certain.
"We take one game at a time and w’ere fortunate to get here for three straight years. I'm excited the kids are excited and we’ll have to go out and play," he said.
The top-seeded Golden Warriors (25-0) have won the Division 1 title three years in a row, and have a much more experienced team than Braintree.
Unlike Braintree, which started three freshmen and have only two seniors on the team, Andover will be playing all five of its seniors.
The winner of the Andover-Braintree game will square off against the winner of Wachusett-Holyoke for the State Division 1 Championship.