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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Powers from the TVL and Bay State Conference met on Sunday afternoon as the Westwood Wolverines (13-6, 11-5) hosted the Needham Rockets (14-5, 10-4) in the semifinals of the Reilly Winter Classic.
Behind a game-high 10 points from senior captain and guard Marianna Jantzen, Needham was able to fight off Westwood for a 41-28 victory to advance to Monday’s championship contest against rival Wellesley.
Points were at a premium early on, as Needham took a 9-4 lead into the second quarter. A pair of free throws by Jantzen allowed the Rockets to extend their lead to 11-4 early in the second, but a 6-0 run by the Wolverines, headlined by a pair of layups from senior captain Riley Murray (eight points) cut the deficit to just one for Westwood at 11-10.
Senior captain Maeve Barker (five points) put home a layup to make it a 13-10 game, but a layup by Murray cut the deficit back to one at 13-12. Jantzen drilled a 3-pointer to extend Needham’s lead to 16-12, and the Lady-Rockets entered the half with a 3-point lead at 18-15.
With Needham leading 20-19 midway through the third quarter, Barker nailed a 3-pointer to begin a 14-2 run for the Rockets, which included a 3-pointer from Jantzen, a pair of free throws from sophomore forward Caroline Klemm (eight points), and a 2-point jumper at the buzzer by senior captain Julia Evans (nine points). When the dust had settled, Needham took a commanding 34-22 lead into the final quarter.
Senior captain and guard Alex Finn responded Westwood early in the fourth, swishing home a 3-pointer as well as converting a layup and one to cut the deficit in half to 34-28. Needham called a timeout following the quick run by Finn and adjusted their defensive scheme. The change worked to a tee, as the Rockets held the Wolverines to zero points the rest of the way. Needham was able to ice the win at the free throw line along with an athletic drive and finish by sophomore guard Kiki McIntyre (eight points) with under two minutes to play, prevailing by the 13-point final.
Needham and Westwood will now wait to find out where they’ll be seeded in the upcoming state tournament.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0.