The TD Garden has been the main goal for every player on the Masconomet girls basketball team this season. While the Chieftains are only one game away from fulfilling their goal — a chance to play at the Garden in a state semi-final on Tuesday — a single, powerful, opponent stands in their way: Andover.
This afternoon, Masco will go head to head with the Golden Warriors in the Division 1 North final at the Tsongas Center (3:45 p.m.).
"The fact that we get to go play Andover on a big court, it's amazing and we're ready," said Masconomet senior Brooke Stewart.
The Golden Warriors (24-0 overall) have won the MIAA Div. 1 state title two years running and don't seem to be letting up anytime soon. With the No. 1 seed in this year's tournament, Andover has already knocked off worthy competition such as Central Catholic and Acton-Boxboro and has own 64 of their last 65.
The last time Masco and Andover did battle was two years ago in the North quarterfinals. The Warriors handled Masco, winning by a 40-point margin, 62-22.
"We got demolished when this (Masco) group was young," said coach Bob Romeo. "We said 'Hey, we're young. Let's see what we can do in a couple years when we're all grown up'— we're going to get our second chance (today).
"(Andover coach) Jimmy (Tildsley) is a great coach, he's the best coach around. His team is phenomenal. We're very good friends, we could probably coach each others teams we know our personnel so well, so it will be interesting."
The Chieftains have had time to mature and develop the core of their rotation. This time around the Warriors have been on Masco's radar all season long. The Chieftains have been well aware that if the goal of the Garden was an option, they'd have to go through Andover to get there.
"If anyone's going to beat Andover this year it's definitely going to be us," said Danielle Davis. "I think it's a great opportunity and we've been excited not only to get to the Garden, but to knock Andover off. They've been at the top for a while and it's our turn."
Andover's main go-to player, senior co-captain Nicole Boudreau, has scored over 2,100 career points and was just recently named the Gatorade Massachusetts Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
"There's no stopping her and hopefully you can slow her down," said Romoe. "What people don't understand about Nicole is she's a complete player. You can focus on her offense but she regularly has a quadruple-double — she can have 7-10 assists, steals and rebounds."
Boudreau has speed and creativity, but so does the entire Masco team. Size wise, the Chieftains have the edge with both Davis and Stewart listed at 5-foot-11.
Andover isn't just a one player-team and there were several other players that stood out for Romeo.
"Devon Caveney has impressed me since she was a freshman — she scored 19 at the Garden as a freshman," said Romeo. "Their whole team can play defense. Jackie Alois is a very good defenser."
Romeo also hopes Masco could limit its turnovers, saying "Andover is the best team I've seen in terms of turning a turnover into two points."
This is the furthest that the Chieftains have gone since moving up to Div. 1 back in 2010.
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The other CAL team vying for a sectional title tomorrow is Ipswich (18-4). The fourth-seeded Tigers are up against some tough competition against Pentucket in the Div. 3 North final at 10:30 this morning.
After knocking off top-seeded Bedford on Wednesday night, the Tigers have made a solid run in the postseason thus far.
Ipswich is no stranger to playing the Sachems, having done battle in the regular season. Pentucket was too much for the Tigers to handle in a 42-27 decision.
"Pentucket has been pretty consistent with how they play," said Ipswich head coach Mandy Zegarowski. "They're very aggressive defensively, relentless. They make it extremely difficult to score. You are rushed when you do get open looks.
"We shot ten percent the last time we played them. They clogged up the middle and gave us outside looks and we didn't hit them. Pentucket is tough physically and mentally."
Junior Julia Davis has a monster game against Bedford with 22 points and 24 rebounds. Freshman Masey Zegarowski has looked solid at the point and senior Shannon McFayden has been hot from 3-point territory.
"This is a unique group of girls in terms of dynamics," added Zegarowski. "We have very unselfish players who do a good job taking what the defense gives us. The players that don't see a lot of minutes push the starters very hard in practice and I give them a lot of credit."
Team chemistry earned the Tigers the CAL small title and has pushed them throughout the playoffs.