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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Following a hard-fought comeback that resulted in a mere one-point overtime loss to rival Holliston on Friday, the Westwood High School girls varsity basketball team returned home to square off against non-league foe, Needham, on Sunday evening as part of the Riley Winter Classic.
Sunday’s game also happened to be Westwood’s senior night, as the Wolverines (7-12, 5-5) sent their five seniors (Caroline Bean, Ali Fleischer, Gabriella Heaney-Secord, Elizabeth Kelly, and Amanda Nocera) off in style. A late Wolverine comeback ended with a positive result with a 45-40 victory.
Points were at a premium early on as each side remained in single digits at the end of one, tied at five apiece. The second quarter saw more of the same, as stellar defensive play and missed opportunities on both sides kept this low-scoring stalemate knotted at 17 at halftime.
The third quarter saw a resurgence in each team’s shooting abilities, but it was especially the case with Needham’s Julia Evans - the junior forward sank 10 straight points. The offensive contribution by Evans, along with five points by junior guard Rachel McCarthy, helped the Rockets (12-7, 5-5) to a 32-24 lead with a little over four minutes remaining in the quarter, and forced Westwood to call a timeout.
Following the 15-7 run by Needham to begin the second half, Westwood made several key adjustments, one of which was to get the ball to their freshman sensation, Elizabeth Gill (eight points).
Thanks to these adjustments, the Wolverines were able to claw their way back in it, as a pair of layups by Gill and a three-pointer by Caitlin Curtin (six points) just before the buzzer finished off a 9-1 run by the Wolverines to end the quarter. The game entered the final quarter tied at 33.
A pair of free throws by junior forward Fiona McGowan gave Westwood back the lead at 35-33. A three-pointer by Nocera after a possession-saving play by Alexandra Finn (six points) extended the Westwood lead to five with a little over five minutes remaining in regulation.
A three-pointer by Caroline Bean (nine points, eight rebounds) extended Westwood’s lead to eight points at 43-35 with 2:30 to play. However, junior guard Marianna Jantzen (six points) answered right back for the Rockets with a swish from beyond the arc to cut the deficit back to 43-38 with 2:08 remaining.
Each team traded multiple missed free throw opportunities during the game’s final two minutes, but ultimately, Gill knocked home a pair for the Wolverines with 36 seconds to play. A missed three-pointer by Jantzen with under 10 seconds to play was rebounded by Bean under the Westwood hoop. Bean held onto the ball and allowed the remaining seconds on the clock to wind down and Westwood prevailed with the five-point victory.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.