Courtney Norton (right) scored 12 points in Saturday's Division 3 North final win over Bedford. (Item File Photo)

Fenwick faces a tough task in Wednesday’s semifinal

PEABODY -- The bigger the game, the better the defensive effort for the Bishop Fenwick girls basketball team. Crusaders coach Adam DeBaggis has preached defense to his players through their Division 3 North tournament run and the message has resonated.

Last Saturday, Fenwick claimed the Division 3 North sectional crown with another stellar defensive effort as the No. 8 Crusaders held No. 7 Bedford to 22 points in a 45-22 victory. Fenwick held Bedford to just 7-of-40 shooting from the floor (17.5%) and forced 21 turnovers.

They'll need a similar defensive effort Wednesday evening (5:30) when they take on South sectional champion and Catholic Central League powerhouse Archbishop Williams in the Division 3 state semifinal at Woburn. The game was originally scheduled for this afternoon (2:15) at TD Garden but the MIAA postponed it due to weather.

The Crusaders played against Williams twice during the regular season, both victories for the Bishops.

"We watched film together," Crusaders coach Adam DeBaggis said. "You kind of have to make no mistakes. The last time we played Williams we led at halftime but we made too many mistakes. They came out and made a bunch of shots in the second half. They're a team that can score in bunches and they have the best point guard in the state. It's going to take a tough defensive effort."

Working to the Bishops favor is their depth, as they carry a handful of reserves who can come into a game without missing a beat. One of the keys for Fenwick will be winning the battle on the glass, in an attempt at limiting Williams opportunities.

"They're all extremely good players," DeBaggis said. "Their bottom five girls would start on a lot of teams in Massachusetts. It starts with their point guard. We always talk about limiting teams to one shot and we'll have to do that with Williams, especially. We can't give them second or third-chance opportunities. We have to rebound."

Working to Fenwick's favor is that the Crusaders have done a better job knocking down their shots throughout the tournament. In Saturday's win, Courtney Norton scored a game-high 12 points, while Jennie Meagher added eight points and nine blocks. Olivia DiPietro scored 10 points.

"The first time we played against them, we shot 17 percent from the field," DeBaggis said. "That's astronomically low. We've been shooting the ball a bit better lately so I'm hoping that continues."

On offense, DeBaggis will looks for his Crusaders to finish their opportunities and cash in on their open looks.

"We have to be tough on offense, that's been key for us," DeBaggis said. "It was a key against St. Mary's (in the quarterfinal). We can't miss easy shots. That can't happen in these games. We have to finish free throws and layups. Being strong with the ball is huge because they're a team that has a nose for the ball."

DeBaggis is confident that Fenwick can right its wrongs from its two prior meetings with the Bishops. He noted that this season's Crusaders team has done a good job in recognizing its mistakes and correcting them throughout the year.

"I think it helps that we've played Williams twice because we're a smart team," DeBaggis said. "The girls are really good at recognizing what they do wrong and improving their mistakes. It's one of the best teams I've coached in terms of fixing mistakes. That helps us a little bit. When you know a team it's a little better because you study what you need to study, and then you go out there when it's time to play. This team's great about improving so we feel positive about it."

Both teams are no strangers to the the big stage that comes with playing in a state semifinal. The Crusaders, who've been to four consecutive Division 3 North finals, won the state championship two seasons ago and defeated the Bishops along the way. Williams is making its sixth trip to the state semifinal in as many seasons.

"The girls understand the message and they do a pretty good job of just playing the game," DeBaggis said. "When it comes down to it, it's just playing basketball. It all comes down to who's playing the best on any given night."

The winner of Wednesday's game advances to the Division 3 state championship for a clash against the winner between Sutton and Hampshire.

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