Junior guard Olivia Matela swished a three-pointer with eight seconds left to give the St. Mary’s High School girls basketball team a thrilling 62-59 victory over Archbishop Williams in the Division 3 state semifinals Wednesday at the TD Garden.
Matela received a pass from Pamela Gonzalez before launching the successful three-point shot from the corner to the right of the cylinder.
On Williams’ ensuing possession, the St. Mary’s players, notably Matela, Gonzalez, and Torres helped deny Williams from getting a shot off for the game-tying bucket. The buzzer sounded, setting off the Spartans’ celebration.
It was matchup that lived up to the expectations befitting two of the best girls basketball programs in Massachusetts. Williams was the two-time defending state champion and had defeated St. Mary’s twice this season. But head coach Jeff Newhall and his staff devised a game plan that slowed down the Warriors’ offense at crucial points in the hard-fought contest. Meanwhile, St. Mary’s executed their offense with precision as the entire contingent, from eighth-grader Yirsy Queliz to sophomores Van Nguyen, Nicolette D’Itria, and Alyssa Grossi, to juniors Gabby Torres and Olivia Matela, to seniors Pamela Gonzalez, Jannise Avellino and Ashley Sullivan played well – on the biggest stage in high school basketball.
“It was unbelievable,” said Newhall. “We were down 10-1 and just played unbelievably.”
Gonzalez scored 23 points in another sterling post-season performance. Torres netted 14 points while Matela contributed 12 points. Queliz had seven points. Nguyen had a huge three-point play late in the game while D’Itria had three points.
St. Mary’s had arrived at the Garden party as a result of a 62-51 victory over Amesbury in the Division 3 North final Saturday at the Tsongas Center.
Pamela Gonzalez had 20 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Spartans. Olivia Matela had four 3-pointers and 15 points. Jannise Avelino had 12 points, highlighted by a clutch 6-for-6 effort at the free throw line. Gabby Torres had two 3-pointers for six pointers. Nicolette D’Itria had three free throws. Sophomore Van Nguyen hit a big three-pointer.
Newhall said he was impressed by Matela’s long-range shooting in the pre-game warmups and felt she would continue that accuracy during the game.
“Before the game, the high school 3-point line was in front of the college line and Olivia was shooting from behind the college line,” said Newhall. “She looked good shooting the basketball, so I didn’t tell her it was the college line. Most of her threes were from the college line. I’m going to tell her now, that she’s ready for college, even know she has to stay for another year.”
Gonzalez also stepped up for the Spartans at both ends of the court. Newhall talked about his senior guard’s composure.
“In general, Pam is one of the best kids I’ve ever come across,” said Newhall. “If anything, I wish there were injections of urgency from time to time because she is by nature a little bit laid back, a little bit too nice. When she took charge of the basketball in the final minutes, we got four free throws and a hoop from Jannise in transition.”
Newhall said Avelino was a defensive star in the game, in addition to a solid 12-point effort on offense. “It’s a credit to Jannise that Amesbury that they stopped posting up the Cape Ann League Player of the Year (Flannery O’Connor) to stay away from Avelino,” said Newhall. “I think they showed the respect that they had for her.”