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By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
On Saturday afternoon, the varsity girls’ basketball game between Needham and King Philip High School was delayed by almost an hour due to an intense JV game between the two teams, which culminated in a double overtime King Philip victory. Hopefully the varsity fans that wanted to see an intense, tight game of basketball caught the end of that game, because the varsity edition of the matchup wasn’t especially dramatic. The Needham Rockets dominated the game from start to finish, ultimately winning, 69-43, to move to 5-1 on the year.
While the JV matchup wasn’t over until the final minute of the second overtime period, the varsity game was pretty much decided after the first quarter. With Needham up 4-0, King Philip’s Elizabeth Molla hit a deep three to make the game 4-3. That three would be the only field goal the Warriors made in the entire first quarter, as Needham stepped up their defense and went on a run soon after.
Back-to-back steals that led to layups from Caroline Klemm and Lucy Dorion, combined with strong offensive rebounding and free throw shooting from Klemm, led the Rockets on a 12-0 run. A King Philip free throw made the game 18-4, but after a Kiara McIntyre layup and a corner three from Madison Shaker, one more free throw was all the Warriors could respond with. The Rockets led, 23-5, after one.
After the game, Coach Amanda Sheehy noted that her team is more balanced on offense this year, with points coming from many different players, and argued that the key to the game was the Rocket’s ability to focus on fundamentals in the face of the Warriors pressing and trapping defense. Both of these were on full display in a dominant first quarter, which set the tone for the game.
In the second quarter, King Philip’s three-point shooting almost made it a contest. After Needham looked sloppy on offense, back-to-back threes had the Warriors within twelve points, at 23-11. This would be as close as they’d get for the remainder of the game, however, as coming out of a timeout Needham scored on back-to-back Kiara McIntyre layups. Then, a nice drive and crosscourt pass from McIntyre led to an Avery Johnson three. After another McIntyre steal, she missed the layup in transition, only for her own team to hustle after the rebound and score an easy put-back. This made the score 32-14, and after some fouls, the half ended at 34-17.
The third quarter was more of the same, with Klemm getting rebounds and McIntyre getting steals that led to easy layups. Bree James deserves credit for keeping the Warriors from getting completely blown out with her shooting, but she didn’t get enough help to close the gap. At the end of the third quarter, the score was 50-34.
While they could have taken the air out of the ball and cruised with such a big lead, Needham kept their intensity throughout the fourth quarter, even when they had their bench players in. Scores from Lila Coffman and Alina Ouligian had the Needham bench excited, but it was Caroline Klemm who shut the door on the game, forcing a backcourt violation with her defense and hitting her free throws until the final buzzer sounded at 69-43.
While the JV game provided all the drama for the night, the Needham crowd was just as excited to see their varsity team score an easy, if not especially exciting, win.