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By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Braintree has served as Needham’s kryptonite in girls basketball over the last two seasons. In 2018-2019, the Needham girls dropped both regular season contests to Braintree as the Wamps took the Herget Division title. In the postseason, Needham and Braintree met in the Division I South finals, with Braintree winning 50-34 en route to the state championship.
On Friday, Needham hosted Braintree for the first of two scheduled regular season meetings between the divisional rivals. Behind a game-high 20 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks by junior forward Caroline Klemm, as well as 17 points by senior captain and guard Kiki McIntyre, the Rockets (7-1, 4-0) cruised their way to a 64-44 victory.
Needham jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead following a three-pointer by McIntyre, a pair of layups from Klemm and a two-point jumper from sophomore guard Avery Johnson (seven points). A two-point floater by Klemm was followed up by a three-point play and a layup by Braintree as the Wamps trimmed the deficit down to 12-9 at the end of one.
The Rockets began the second quarter hot, going on a 13-3 run highlighted by a three-pointer by sophomore forward Alina Ouligian (seven points), a two-point floater by Klemm and a layup from McIntyre. The run gave Needham a 25-12 lead and forced Braintree to a timeout. A pair of free throws by Klemm following the break gave Needham a 27-14 lead, but Braintree would respond with an 8-2 run to close out the quarter, cutting Needham’s lead to 29-22 at halftime.
Just like the majority of the first half, Needham’s dynamic duo of McIntyre and Klemm continued to roll throughout the third quarter. A three-pointer by junior guard Madison Shaker, followed by a layup from Klemm, quickly gave Needham a double-digit lead at 34-22. A steal and quick two-point jumper by Klemm moments later made it a 36-23 game. Braintree was able to get to within 11 at 40-29 late in the quarter, but McIntyre delivered a dagger of a buzzer-beating three-pointer off an inbound pass from Shaker, bringing Needham’s lead to 14 at 43-29 at the end of three quarters.
A pair of three-pointers by Lucy Dorion and Johnson, as well as back-to-back layups by Klemm to begin the third quarter, gave the Rockets a two-point lead at 56-34. Needham bulked its lead to as many as 24 at 60-36 before subbing out their starters and rolling to the 64-44 victory.
Needham will look to stay on a winning note when the Rockets travel to face Newton North on January 17, followed by a match against rival Walpole on January 21, where Needham will look to avenge their lone defeat of the season against the Rebels in the Rivard Holiday Classic.
For funny and insightful sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram @flano0.