sports 4 days ago

Coyle-Cassidy girls move on to state finals after beating Fenway in D4 state semifinal

Taunton Daily Gazette, Mass. — Steve Sanchez Taunton Daily Gazette, Mass.

March 12--BOSTON -- Next stop for the Coyle-Cassidy girls basketball, Springfield.

The South champion Warriors punched their ticket to the big dance on Monday, beating North champion Fenway -- 55-47 -- in the Division IV state semifinal game at TD Garden.

With the victory, C-C (22-3) will take on West champion Monson on Saturday (TBA) in Springfield.

It's the first state final appearance for the Warriors since 1987.

"This a dream that all of us wanted," C-C co-captain Samantha Hourihan said. "I'm so proud of all of us. It was such an amazing experience for us [today]. I just wanted to win for my team because we wanted it so badly. I can't wipe the smile off my face ... I'm so happy."

Juniors Rachael Johnson and Kaylee Haynes led the way for C-C with 12 points each. Hourihan and Kassidy Fields each chipped with nine points while Warrior co-captain Jenna Piatelli and senior Abbie Kurtzer combined for 11 points off the bench.

Colby Upchurch and Dasiah Thornton each contributed 12 each for the Panthers, who ends their season at 21-3.

"Here we are, getting to do something that many people don't ever get to do," said C-C head coach Mike O'Brien about making it to the state finals. "I have never done it either. For guys like my dad, and other coaches in the fraternity that has struggled to get in the tournament, this is why it's really important to me. It's a very special and I think the girls know how special it is to do this thing."

Fenway may have been a little jittery to begin the contest, missing its first nine shots. In fact, nine of the Panthers points came from the free-throw stripe. Fenway was limited to just four field goals in the first half alone.

The Warriors seemed to feel right at home, especially with a strong following that accompany them to the Garden.

"When we walked in and we knew it was the Garden," Fields said. "It's big but I think we all just knew it was another basketball court and we have to just keep playing our game. And we did."

C-C had leads of upward to 14 points or more in the contest, but the Panthers refused to die throughout the game.

"We had a good enough cushion the whole game," O'Brien said. "I just thought in the second half, we really got away what we were trying to do with the game plan. But comes with the pressure. Fenway put great pressure on us. I thought at times we settled down and got some nice easy shots. It was just about surviving and advance."

Piatelli and Kurtzer were each key off the bench. Both senior players played critical roles when key starters picked up early fouls.

"Jenna [Piatelli] made big, big shots down the stretch that we needed to lift us up," Hourihan said. "Her defense against Me"ara Carter, who is a great player, was really good. She just went in there, boxed out and got all the rebounds we needed. She was a big lift off the bench."

For the second straight game, the Warriors got off to a fast start in the first quarter.

Johnson hit a pair of free throws and Hourihan drained a three-pointer to give the Warriors a 5-0 lead. Baskets by Haynes and Fields pushed the margin to 9-0 before the Panthers called a timeout.

The Panthers scored the five points before the Warriors closed the first quarter on a 7-2 run to lead 17-7 at the end of the first quarter.

C-C opened the second quarter with two baskets by Johnson to go up 21-10.

But Fenway went on a 7-2 run to get within six at 23-17. Johnson knocked down a big three-pointer with 20 seconds left before halftime to give the Warrior a 26-17 lead going into the locker room.

In the third, C-C continued to hold the lead. Haynes kissed a running shot off the window to help give the Warriors a 40-26 lead, entering the final quarter.

"The shot clock was winding down and I just took it to them and found the glass," Haynes said. "I think everyone on my team played great out there. It was a total team effort. I love my team."

Stacie Leonard gave strong minutes for the Warriors. Kyla Cunningham, Chika Oyigbo, Kelsey Towle and Mina Pabst each saw time on the Garden parquet floor.

Now it all comes down this, the state championship.

One more step in a long journey all season for C-C.

"Now we have to punch the hole in it and win a state championship," Haynes said.


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