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By Josh Perry
Hometown Weekly Staff
Heading into the fourth quarter of Tuesday night’s Div. 2 South semifinal at Massasoit Community College, the season looked over for the Westwood High girls’ basketball team.
The Wolverines, the top seed in the sectional, trailed No. 4 seed Hingham 42-30 and had only scored three points in the third quarter. The Harborwomen seemed completely in control of the game and looked ready to cruise to the final.
Behind seniors Cailin Harrington, Olivia Ware and Andrea Meincke, who combined for 13 points in the fourth, Westwood went on an 18-6 run that improbably tied the game in the final seconds.
The comeback was completed by a pair of clutch free throws by Harrington (13 points) to level the score at 48-48, but Hingham had one more possession and with 1.1 on the clock sophomore Haley Blasetti drove to the baseline and flipped up a shot that slipped past the front of the rim for a 50-48 upset victory.
“I thought after the third quarter we called the girls out on looking like they had lost,” said Westwood coach Katherine Clifford. “We challenged them to come back and to fight all the way back down 11 going into the fourth of a big sectional semifinal game was great and I am so proud of those kids for that.”
“It’s what they’ve done all year; they battled.”
Westwood had to battle back in the first half as well. Hingham jumped out to an early seven-point lead in the first quarter, but a three-pointer from Carly Sugrue cut it to 14-10 after the first.
The Harborwomen built the lead back up to nine points in the second but again Westwood came back with Meincke (12 points) scoring on a lay-up and Allison Morin knocking down a straightaway three off a Meincke assist. After a Hingham basket Haley Connaughton and Harrington buried threes to the game at 27-27.
“We turned the ball over, missed a couple of shots, that’s happened a couple times to us over the course of the year,” said Clifford, “but they fought through it. That’s what they do; they’re fighters.”
Hingham scored the final basket of the half to lead going into the break and then pulled away in the third quarter. Abigail Landry scored six points in the third, as the lead extended to 12 by the start of the fourth.
Challenged by their coaches, the Wolverines stormed out of the break and climbed back into the game. Ware started it with a lay-up, followed by a hoop from Meincke. Junior Christine Bonfiglio scored Westwood’s next five points and cut the lead down to just seven.
The comeback started to feel possible when Harrington stepped up and knocked down a three that made it 46-42. Ware followed that with a jumper to cut the lead to two with 1:40 remaining.
“The turnaround in the program, when I look back on it, the class of 2016 will have a big piece of that,” said Clifford about the contributions of the seniors. “The four of them have worked so hard. Their freshman year we won six games in the league and we’re wrapping things up at 22-3.”
After a pair of Hingham free throws, Meincke answered with a pair of her own. With the ball and a chance to tie or take the lead, Harrington was bumped and sent to the line for two shots. She made the first and Clifford called timeout before the second.
She explained, “I told her that I wouldn’t have iced any other kid. There was no doubt in my mind that was going in. I talked for 55 [seconds] of the timeout about what happens when she does make it and five about if she missed because she’s got ice water in her veins.”
Harrington did make the second, but there was just enough time left for Hingham to make the play it needed to finish the Wolverines and advance to the final.
“It came down to the end,” said Clifford. “They just made a play. It’s a good player making a play for them and our comeback just ran out of time.”
In the hallway outside the gym, moments after speaking with her team, Clifford reflected on Westwood’s season, which included 22 wins and a Tri-Valley League title.
“We kind of put that stuff aside to make a tournament run and we did,” she said. “Our first goal was to get out of our own gym and get through those first two rounds and we did.”
“It’s an unbelievable season to look back on…I’m really proud of what we accomplished.”
Josh Perry is an Editor at Hometown Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.