Wilmington sophomore Carli Brent slashed to the rim and dumped in a layup that brought the Wildcats within one point early in the second quarter. Then Arlington Catholic took over, and never looked back.
The Cougars went on an 18-4 run to close out the first half following Brent’s basket with 6:35 left in the frame. The defending champions went on to a 57-34 win in the North Division 2 semifinal at Whittier Tech in Haverhill on Wednesday night.
“My hat’s off to them. That’s why they’re the defending state champs,” said Wilmington head coach Jay Keane. “They’re an outstanding basketball team that’s well coached. Once their three-point shooter started hitting, we knew we were in trouble.”
Following the Brent layup that made the score 17-16, Maura Buckley put in a pair of buckets in less than 20 seconds. In the ensuing minutes, Nicole Catizone drilled two shots from long distance and Buckley added a three of her own to put the game out of reach.
Thanks to the victory, Arlington Catholic earned a spot in the North final, where they’ll face unbeaten Reading at the Tsongas Center on Saturday.
“I’m pretty sure it all came together as the game went on a little bit,” said AC head coach Dave Brady. “Wilmington is a good team. They were 18-4. I was nervous about them.”
Buckley led a balanced Cougar attack with 18 points, Emma Roberson racked up 16 markers of her own and Catizone was next with 15 points. The Arlington Catholic defense smothered Wilmington standout Emily Crannell, limiting the senior to just seven points. Alex Derian led the Wildcats with eight points and Michelle Woods had six in the loss.
“It’s a tough match up for us,” said Keane. “We went to a little bit of a zone and they made us pay. That was a little bit of a gamble on my part.”
The Cougars fell to Reading, 58-32, on February 19 as they played their second game in as many days. Brady said he expects his team to be ready for the rematch, especially with a core group of veteran players.
“We’ve won two of three (at Tsongas), and every time we’ve been there we haven’t been predicted to win,” said Brady. “They’re not intimidated at all; they’re looking forward to it actually. Anything can happen, absolutely.”
One of the lone highlights from Wednesday’s game for Wilmington came with 2:06 left to play in the fourth quarter. Keane had all of his seniors on the floor, and subbed all of them out at once for one final bit of recognition.
The Wildcat fateful in attendance acknowledged the moment with a lengthy and audible standing ovation as a host of younger players took to the floor.
“They’ve been with me for four years and have been a big part of our success. They’re certainly going to be missed,” said Keane. “It’s been a great year. I wouldn’t change any of it."