There was no déjà vu for the Duxbury girls’ basketball team at UMass Boston Saturday afternoon — just pure joy.
Last year, the Dragons coughed up a late lead to lose in the South Sectional finals, but on Saturday they never let the Sharon Eagles come close in the fourth quarter winning their first South Sectional Championship with a 41-26 victory.
The closest the Eagles came in the fourth quarter was nine points with 5 minutes and 27 seconds left in the game, but captain Catherine Harrison’s free throws sent the Dragons lead back to 11, and a rebound and putback by captain Jackie Sullivan with 2:51 left lifted Duxbury to a 39-26 lead that put the nail in the coffin.
“That’s who we are,” head coach Bob Sullivan said. “We don’t always win pretty, but over the regular season we only gave up 28 points a game. That’s the key to winning.”
The Dragon starters and captains headed to the bench to count down the final half minute before mobbing the floor and celebrating their championship and redemption from a season ago.
“We’ve all wanted this for two years now,” captain Maddie Foote said after the game. “This proves we were meant to be there.”
Foul trouble doomed the Dragons in the championship last year, and appeared to be a problem again early in the fourth quarter when Harrison picked up her fourth foul and had to head to the bench. However, fellow captain Haley McLaughlin came in for Harrison to guard Sharon star Karlie O’Driscoll and shut her down for the whole quarter.
“She was a really good player because she could drive, shoot 3’s and post,” McLaughlin said. “We knew we needed to get out on her on threes. I just tried my hardest to front her and steal the ball.”
“[Haley is] an unbelievably special kid,” Sullivan said. “She got deflections, she go a steal, and we actually finished the game with her because she did the best job on her.”
The Dragons’ defense gave the Eagles fits from the opening tip-off. Duxbury held Sharon to only four points in the first and fourth quarters while Harrison and Molly Quilty combined to six blocks and 22 rebounds.
The Eagles tried to neutralize Harrison early with physical double-teams in the post, which allowed Quilty to roam free for a pair of easy baskets in the first quarter while also opening up driving lanes for Foote. Foote opened the game with a three-pointer, but spent the rest of the game cutting hard to the basket to 13 points.
“The strength of our team is getting to the rim,” Sullivan said. “We run a high post pick-and-roll, and when [Maddie] sees daylight, she gets to the rim.”
While Foote was slicing to the basket, Sullivan took over the shooting from beyond the arc. Her 3-pointer in the second quarter gave the Dragons their first double-digit lead of the game, and she set the tone for Duxbury in the second half by draining another three 23 seconds into the third quarter.
“Obviously we try to go inside, but [Jackie hit a couple of big, big shots],” Sullivan said.
Sullivan’s first three-pointer was crucial as it put the exclamation point on Duxbury’s 9-0 run in the second quarter that put the game firmly in their control. After the Dragons kept the Eagles in check for most of the first quarter, 10 led the Eagles back within two less than two minutes into the second. That was the last time Sharon would come within two possessions of the Dragons as Duxbury responded with their big run to push the lead to 10 at halftime.
The Dragons will now get set to play North Sectional Champions Arlington in the State Championship semifinals at the TD Garden Tuesday afternoon. Though the Dragons were savoring finally winning the South Sectional on Saturday, Harrison said they would have no problem putting their emotions behind them to prepare for the next game.
“Right now, we’re so excited but tomorrow we’ll go to the gym and put work in like we always do,” she said. “We’ll be ready for Tuesday.”