The old sports cliché says that offense wins games but defense wins championships. The Duxbury girls basketball team brought their trademark defense that won them the South Sectional Championship with them to the TD Garden to play the North champion Arlington Catholic Cougars on March 11, but they couldn’t muster enough offense to keep their season alive.
The Dragons could never overcome a two-point first quarter and suffered their first and only defeat of the season, 40-27, to bow out of the Division II state championship tournament.
“I’m actually very happy with giving up 40 points,” head coach Bob Sullivan said. “To hold them to 40 points was a great effort by my ladies, but we did struggle offensively and you can’t make excuses for that… You’re not going to win many games scoring only 27 points.”
Duxbury was off their game offensive from the opening tip-off. The Dragons committed seven turnovers in the first quarter with Jackie Sullivan’s basket two minutes and 12 seconds into the game accounting for their only points of the quarter. Duxbury also shot poorly from behind the three-point line, hitting only one of 10 threes attempted.
22 got the Cougars off to a fast start with a pair of three-pointers in the first quarter as Arlington Catholic jumped in front 11-2 at the end of one. The Dragons came out of the second quarter determined to get star center Catherine Harrison established offensively, which she did with her pair of baskets in the first minute of the quarter to cut the Cougars’ lead to six. Maddie Foote then made a pair of free throws to pull the Dragons to within four exactly one minute into the quarter, but the Dragons then went cold again. Duxbury missed its next five shots, all three-point attempts, but held the Cougars scoreless long enough to cut the lead to 13-11 with less than two minutes before halftime.
However 22, made a pair of free throws and then hit a buzzer-beating basket to put the Cougars back up by six heading into the half, and then widened the Cougars’ lead to 10 at early in the third. Harrison and Emma Gill brought the Dragons back within five points with 2:13 left in the third, but another strong finish by Arlington Catholic put Duxbury in a 12-point hole heading into the fourth and the Cougars never looked back.
10 put the Cougars up by 14 points 30 seconds into the fourth, and the Dragons never came closer than 10 points for the rest of the game. Sullivan pulled his starters with 2:17 left to give his bench players some playing time at on the Garden floor before ending the game with his two seniors, Bella McGoldrick and captain Haley McLaughlin on the floor.
McLaughlin banked in a shot for the Dragon’s final points of the season, which Sullivan said was a fitting end to the year. Both McLaughlin and McGoldrick sacrificed playing time in their final season of high school basketball for the good of the team, and both seniors said it was worth it to make the run to the Sectional championship.
“It was an experience I’ll probably never have again,” McLaughlin said. “I couldn’t ask for a better season.”
“We a lot more to be proud about than to be sad about,” added McGoldrick. “I guarantee that they’ll be back here next year and we’ll be supporting them all the way.”
Sullivan added that the sacrifice by his two seniors set the tone for the team-first basketball that won the Dragons their championship and said both will leave a lasting impression on the program.
“[When Haley scored,] the entire bench was up and that chemistry is how we got to be 24-0,” Sullivan said. “Haley sacrificed her starting job so we could start [more height with Harrison and Molly Quilty]. She’s a great student and a great athlete. And Bella McGoldrick is a wonderful, wonderful young lady. She didn’t play a lot this year and she knew that going in. All she wanted to be was a great teammate, and I think that’s a wonderful thing when an 18-year old can sacrifice for the team. I’m sure they’ll both go on to do great things in life.”
The Dragons have a strong chance of returning to the state championships next year with all five starters returning. According to Sullivan, if his team follows their recent pattern, another, more successful trip to the Garden is in the cards for next winter.
“Last year, this is what happened to us at UMass Boston [in the South Sectional final],” he said. “I just told them, our starting five is all coming back. We’ll be missing two special seniors, but if we work hard, we have a chance to come back here again… I think our future is bright.”