WAKEFIELD — You get the feeling with the Bishop Fenwick girls basketball team that, year in and year out, no matter who comes and goes, the Crusaders are always going to be around at the end competing for a North championship title.
Thursday night at Wakefield High, Fenwick, behind its best shooting game of the season, balanced scoring and a stifling defense that gave up only three hoops the whole game, did it again, routing Stoneham 57-19 to cruise to its fourth North final in four years.
With the win, the No. 8 Crusaders will play No. 7 Bedford in the sectional championship at Tsongas Center (Saturday morning, 10:30).
“No doubt that was the best shooting we have had all year long,” said Fenwick coach Adam DeBaggis. “We started out a little slowly defensively and gave them some open shots early, but I was proud of the way they picked it up and started to play defense.”
Ten Crusaders factored in the scoring, with Olivia DiPietro leading the way with a game-high 10 points to go along with a game-high seven rebounds. Jennie Meagher scored eight points, all of them from the low post in the third quarter when the Crusaders put the game out of reach, outscoring the Spartans 21-5 to take a comfortable 48-11 lead into the final eight minutes.
The game started slowly with neither team finding the basket until the third minute. Fenwick trailed 5-4 after Stoneham’s Jennifer Overlan drained a floater with three minutes left. After that, it was all Fenwick. Courtney Norton swished a jumper, then canned a 3-pointer from the corner to make it 9-5, then Mary O’Brien (4 points, 5 boards) and Liz Gonzalez (3 points) closed out the opening stanza with a pair of hoops to make it 13-7, Fenwick, after one.
Fenwick went on a 14-0 run to start the second quarter and stretch the lead to 20, 27-7 with four minutes to go. O’Brien started things off with a steal and foul shot, then DiPietro grabbed a defensive rebound and saved it, dribbling on her knees, and fed Fredi DiGuglielmo (7 points) who dished it back to DiPietro for a jumper. On Fenwick’s next possession, DiGuglielmo knocked down a 3-pointer. A Sammi Gallant free throw and highlight reel layup scoop by Jaxson Nadeau (8 points, 3 steals) completed the run. The Crusaders closed out the half with a 5-1 run to go into halftime leading 27-6.
On its first possession of the third quarter, Stoneham cut the lead to under 20 with a hoop by Kelly Powers, but after that it was all Fenwick, as the Crusaders simply overpowered Stoneham with a 16-0 run, capped by a long three and steal and coast-to-coast layup by Nadeau that made it 43-8 with 1:40 to go.
The rest of the way was pretty much bench time for both teams.
In a classy move Stoneham coach Lynley DeAmato left her four seniors on the court for their final minutes representing their school.
“I’m so proud of what they did this year, taking a team into the quarterfinals of this tournament, but we knew coming into this that Bishop Fenwick is just a great team,” she said. “We do play in a tough Middlesex League, but tonight none of our shots fell but we just couldn’t stop them. Tonight just wasn’t our night.”
Considering the Crusaders have been to the finals for four straight years, compared to Bedford, which is making its first tournament appearance in three years, the edge in big game experience would appear to belong to Fenwick.
But DeBaggis said he expects a battle.
“They’re a hard nosed team and very talented with lost of size and speed,” he said. “I mean we have a girl like Olivia DiPietro, who at 5-09 or 5-10 has that too, but they have two, maybe three girls like that. They are a good team that likes to set picks and screens and they play in a tough league.
“But we play in a tough league too, and if we have five girls who are on their game, as opposed to just three or four, we are a very hard team to defend. If we do that, other teams need five good defenders to keep us off the board, and that’s what makes us hard to scout at times. Our biggest asset is these kids love to play defense and take pride in playing as a team that wants to be the best in our region.”