BOSTON, Mass. – In 2018, on its way to a state title, a snowstorm kept Foxboro from playing the state semifinal at TD Garden. Instead, a dramatic comeback against Pentucket took place at Woburn High. On Wednesday night, the Warriors had another opportunity to reach the final and this time got to play under the Garden’s bright lights.
This time, there was none of the drama from 2018. Foxboro allowed only two points in the first quarter, led by double digits at halftime, and rolled to a 52-35 victory over North champion North Reading to reach the state championship game for the second time in three years.
“Honestly, for the most part, I was like these lights are really bright,” senior Shakirah Ketant joked about the experience of playing at the Garden. “There were a couple times where I went up for a rebound and was like, I can’t see anything, but overall it was a really good experience. The court was amazing and all our fans coming out, just a great feeling.”
While the lighting may have been different, it didn’t slow down Ketant, who recorded another double-double and dominated the paint on both ends of the floor. She finished with a game-high 16 points and 17 rebounds and added a pair of blocks, two assists, and two steals.
When asked about her strong play this postseason, Ketant replied with a smile, “How hard we work in practice and Coach [Brian] Brown just constantly being on us to be big, be big and us giving it our all going up strong for a board and going to the basket. We work on it every single day in practice, clearly it’s paying off.”
Foxboro got off to a perfect start, as Yara Fawaz (six points, three assists, and three steals), Katelyn Mollica (nine points) knocked down a jumper, and Ketant got two from an offensive rebound for a 6-0 lead. On the other end, the Warriors held North Reading scoreless for nearly six minutes.
“They have some quick guards, but we were able to keep some different girls, different legs on [Alexandria Grasso],” Foxboro coach Lisa Downs explained. “So many turnovers in that first quarter. I think it was just so much anxiety, get the kinks out a little bit on the Boston Garden floor. It all came back to defense because our shots were not going in tonight.”
After the Hornets finally got on the board, Lizzy Davis (five points, seven rebounds, and five assists) got to the rim for a pair and Ketant added two more with a basket off a Davis pass.
Leading 10-2, Foxboro got its offense going in the second quarter to build the lead to 12 by halftime. Mollica answered a North Reading three with one of her own and then found Fawaz for a bucket off an inbounds play. Ketant scored four points in the second and also assisted on a couple of mid-range jumpers for Abby Hassman (10 points and 12 rebounds).
“If it’s not falling on the outside, then we have to work inside then out and as we started working it inside they started doubling us down, packing the middle, and then we started kicking it out and started getting some open looks,” said Ketant.
It really felt like the Warriors could score at will in the post. “That was the plan,” said Downs. “Their guards were very aggressive, scrappy, so if we were able to get it in then we would try to use our size and our athleticism in the paint.”
The lead grew to as many as 21 points in the third quarter, as Foxboro continued to find holes in the North Reading defense. Hassman scored the first six points of the third for the Warriors, including a jumper after Fawaz grabbed an offensive rebound to keep a possession alive.
“That’s what she is so good at and I think she was just questioning herself in the first quarter,” Downs said of Hassman. “She wasn’t quite as smooth as she usually is. Once she got one in, I knew she’d find her rhythm.”
Davis buried a straightaway three, Jordyn Collins (six points) knocked down a short jumper, and Ketant added four more points (both baskets coming off Fawaz assists) to close out the quarter.
Foxboro led 44-24 heading into the fourth, but the Hornets wouldn’t go away easily. Lauren Sullivan (team-high 14 points) went on a personal 8-2 run, burying a pair of deep threes, and pulled North Reading within 14.
That would be as close as the North champs could get. Collins scored with a drive to the basket, Ketant grabbed yet another offensive rebound for two more, and Mollica capped the win with a layup in transition.
“I think it was such a team effort,” Mollica said. “Everyone contributed on defense and offense and that’s huge. It helped us win the game.”
She added, “This whole season we’ve been saying make it to the Garden and let’s see what happens. We finally got here. It feels amazing to be back to have another shot at a state championship.”
Foxboro (24-2) will face Taconic, the West champion, in the state championship game on Saturday in Worcester at a time and location yet to be announced.
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