By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The third time turned out to be the charm for Oliver Ames High School girls basketball. Despite competing in separate conferences, OA and the Medfield High girls met twice during the regular season, both resulting in nail-biting victories for the Warriors on February 22 and 24.
Once the Division II state tournament bracket was released, the possibility of the No. 2 Warriors and No. 3 Tigers meeting again in the the state semifinals immediately caught the eye. First, Medfield needed to take care of business, which they did with wins against Duxbury, Wakefield and Canton. Meanwhile, Oliver Ames took out North Middlesex, Foxboro and Dracut to advance to the Final Four.
On Monday, the Warriors and Tigers met for a third and final time in 2021-2022 at Quincy High School to decide who would advance to play No. 1 Norwood for the state championship.
Medfield began the game hot, snagging a 12-6 lead at the end of one quarter behind a pair of 3-pointers by senior captain and guard Annie McCarthy (28 points). The Warriors built their lead to as many as eight at 16-8 early in the second quarter, forcing Oliver Ames to a timeout. Following the break, the Tigers switched up their strategy from banging bodies in the paint to letting shots fly from beyond the arc. The move paid off as Caroline Peper (26 points) sank consecutive 3-pointers to help OA on an 8-1 run to trim the lead down to one at 17-16. OA later tied the game at 22, but a nice drive into the paint and finish at the rim by junior guard Kate Olenik (14 points) reclaimed the lead for Medfield at halftime at 24-22.
With the game tied at 28 midway through the third quarter, Peper caught fire and drilled three consecutive 3-pointers to help the Tigers to a 10-2 run that gave them a 38-30 lead. In the final two minutes of the quarter, however, Olenik scored seven consecutive points; laying a ball in at the rim, followed by a 3-pointer, steal and another layup to make it a one-point game at the end of three quarters, 38-37.
Similarly to the third quarter, OA strung together a strong opening five minutes to begin the fourth, muscling their way to a 51-43 lead with a little under three minutes remaining. With her team down and in desperate need of a response, McCarthy stepped up big for the Warriors and put together the quarter of her life. A pair of free throws with 1:28 to play trimmed the deficit to 51-45. Hannah Sampson laid one in on Medfield’s next trip down the floor to make it a four-point game, followed by a steal and finish at the rim by McCarthy off a fast break to make it 51-49. Off the ensuing inbound by OA, Olenik forced a steal and found McCarthy, who drilled the go-ahead 3-pointer with 35.8 seconds left.
Oliver Ames turned the ball over on their next possession, but Medfield would do the same on the ensuing inbound, leading to the go-ahead basket by Peper with 22 seconds remaining. Medfield turned the ball over on their next trip down the floor, but McCarthy again saved Medfield’s season, this time with a steal at mid-court and getting fouled at the rim with .2 seconds to play. McCarthy sank one of two free throws to force overtime.
In the extra period, Oliver Ames’ Jasmyn Cooper took over, scoring six of her 16 points on the night and helping force two critical turnovers late to help the Tigers to the 62-59 victory. On Saturday, Oliver Ames capped its season with a 53-48 upset victory over Norwood to win the Division II state championship.
For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram handles @flano0.