Lee girls hoops back in D-III state final: Wildcats rout Main South in semis
WORCESTER -- A big game in a big venue can bring nervous energy.
The Lee girls basketball team found a way to unleash it in typical ferocious fashion on Monday.
"I think we just had a lot of energy going out," Eileen Dooley said. "We were really excited. Our plan was to run and all of our energy just went with us and we just ran with it."
The Wildcats blew past Main South 69-37 in the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association's Division III state semifinals. Lee had a 20-point lead after a quarter and it only got worse for the Central Mass. champions after that inside the DCU Center.
"We just play our game. We never stop playing our game," said Wildcat senior Stephanie Young. "The run game, fast-breaking, getting the rebound, pushing it down the floor."
Young had 30 points and nine rebounds while Dooley had 24 points, 10 assists and eight boards herself.
The win sends Lee (19-5) back to the state final for the third time in the last four years. This may be one of the more unlikely Wildcat journeys coming off an up-and-down, five-loss season. Lee didn't even make it to the Western Mass. final last year, but here they are again.
"I think the five losses pushed us," Dooley said. "It was like, ‘OK, we're not the top team, so we have no pressure on us.' It was just like, ‘Give it everything. We have nothing to lose.' "
The Wildcats, veterans of all those previous games in Worcester, looked more comfortable on the big stage. Main South (23-1) had never made it this far in the postseason before.
Lee didn't have to spend all that much time in its set offense, running down the floor off turnovers and making easy layups. The Cougars committed five straight turnovers over one stretch in the first, helping Lee to a 10-0 run. The Wildcats led 27-7 by the time the first quarter horn blew.
"I think we were nervous," said Main South's Sam O'Gara. "We weren't really used to playing in such a big court, big environment. Once we got started we started playing Main South basketball. I think it just fell apart and got out of hand in the first quarter."
O'Gara had 20 points and fellow guard Aretha Sullivan had 13. The pair combined for just five points in that dreadful first quarter.
Even in the second half, Main South couldn't find any stretch of momentum. Sullivan had an athletic interception at one end before missing a layup at the other in the third. By then, the lead was 30.
"We knew that that's a good team there," said Wildcats coach Gary Wellington. "They just got caught with the travels and didn't hit their shots. It kind of took the rest of their kids out of sync."