When the Scituate and Reading girls’ basketball teams began the season, the players set small goals for themselves, but with the ultimate goal of the state championship. On Tuesday night, they will have the chance to get one step closer to that goal, but not before they fulfill their dream of playing at TD Garden.
After winning the South Division 2 sectionals against Natick Saturday, 55-38, Scituate is headed to the Garden for the state Division 2 semifinal against Reading Memorial High School, which won the North Division 2 final against Arlington Catholic, 49-46.
“It’s always been my dream to play at the Garden ever since I started playing,” Scituate junior guard Kelly Martin said. “It’s always been our [team’s] dream to play state.”
Reading also dreamed of gracing the same court as the Boston Celtics. "Playing there has been a goal of the program for a while," Reading coach Kim Penney said. "It's a big event for the history of the school and the program, and we're very excited."
The players and their coaches feel nervous, but mostly excited, to play at the iconic venue. “It’s a great opportunity for the girls,” Coach Brian Buckley said. “But we’re not going to let the arena take away from our game plan of staying level-headed.”
That level-headedness and good relationships between the players has taken the Lady Sailors into an undefeated (24-0) season. Scituate senior forward Megan Otto attributes her team’s success to their chemistry.
“We know our strengths and we always stay positive,” she said. “Overall, I think we have the whole package.”
Tuesday's game matches up two undefeated teams, with Reading coming in with a 23-0 record.
Both teams also share the experience of bitter losses at the end of last season. Scituate overcame a big deficit late in the South Division 2 finals before losing in the final seconds to Hopkinton.
Reading, meanwhile, earned the top seed in the Division 2 North bracket last season at 19-1, but lost to Gloucester in the semifinals.
Both coaches are not concerned with their perfect season records going into the tournament.
"We don't focus on not having a loss this season," Penney said. "It's not something we hang our hats on, and we take it one game at a time."
But both teams are expecting a well-played game from their players.
“We are going to play this game like we would any other,” Buckley said. “We are going to throw the records out the window and expect a hard-fought battle.”
Both Martin and Otto plan on sticking to their game. “We have to play just like we would if we were playing at Scituate,” Otto said.
Scituate's coaches assured the players this week that the Garden court has the same dimensions as their high school gym nestled in the South Shore, Martin said. It just holds roughly 20,000 more people.
“I’m most looking forward to playing at the Garden,” Otto said. “Not a lot of people can say they played at the Garden with an undefeated season their senior year.”
Penney also knows what a once-in-a-lifetime honor it is to play at the Garden.
"I'm proud of the girls to get this far," she said. "But it's not over. There is one more game for the taking."
Whoever wins Tuesday game will play on Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester against Tyngsboro or Palmer for the state championship.
“We are glad we have the opportunity to continue to play,” Buckley said. “We love to play basketball, and we hope to be the last team standing.”
Tip-off is Tuesday at 6 p.m.