By Jean DePlacido
---- — It was the perfect way to cap an unbelievable season.
The St. Adelaide’s eighth grade girls CYO Cadet basketball team completed an unbeaten season by winning the New England Region championship at Roxbury Latin last weekend.
In marked the second New England title in three years; the core group won it at the Bantam level in 2011.
The three-year record for the team that is coached by Joy Wallace and assistant Bill Gulla is an incredible 58-3, with perfect 21-0 records in both 2011 and 2013.
“It’s so bittersweet for me,” said Wallace after the team’s season ended with the championship. Now, the girls will go on to play at the high school level next season. “This team has a certain magic that will not soon be duplicated. They were completely unselfish and played for the common goal. I look forward to seeing them excel in high school sports.”
The final was a rematch from two years ago when St. Adelaide’s beat St. Pius of Providence. Once again the West Peabody girls prevailed, 50-32, in a game that was much closer than the final score might indicate.
“It was a battle from the tip off,” said Wallace. “The Rhode Island team had some great outside shooters and they moved the ball quickly.”
St. Adelaide’s answered with excellent shooting from 3-point land by Melissa Gray, who had four trifectas and led the team with 18 points.
In the second quarter St. Pius came out in a box-and-one to try to stop Gray, but Alyssa Alperen (6 points) made two 3-pointers and Sam Gulla (5 points) had one.
At halftime Rhode Island held a slim 26-25 lead, but the St. Adelaide coaches made a slight adjustment at intermission that made a big difference. They opened the second half by pressing, which caused many turnovers and led to steals. Temi Falayi made a big block in the early going that inspired her teammates.
“That was the big turning point,” said Wallace. “We went on a run and led, 39-29, going into the fourth quarter.”
The only points St. Pius could muster in that final frame came on a 3-pointer in the final seconds.
Falayi finished with 11 points for St. Adelaide, Katie Wallace had six, and cousins Marisa Tisi and Gianna Capo chipped in with two apiece. Lauren Wolff, Kelly Crotty, Carla Patania, and Alia Campagnone all contributed to the big win.
In the quarterfinals St. Adelaide’s pulled out a close win over four-time Vermont state champ St. Francis of Burlington. Gray had 12 points with two treys while Gulla had 7 points and went 3-for-4 at the line. Falayi (6), Tisi (4) and Wallace (3) also helped lead the Peabody squad to victory.
In the semifinals against a very tall St. Theresa’s of Bridgeport, Conn. club, the locals won, 36-26, by using their speed and athleticism. Gray again led the way with 15 points, including a pair of treys, while Wallace made all three bombs she attempted in an 11-point, 3-steal performance. Gulla finished with six points while Falayi had four points and 10 rebounds. Alperen also was strong on the boards with eight while Tisi had three steals, and Wolff added four assists.
St. Adelaide’s won its league, then took the state championship before finishing up with a great performance at New Englands.