SPRINGFIELD — Repeat titles aren’t easy. But this year’s Cathedral girls’ basketball team certainly made it look that way. In yet another dominant win, the Panthers punctuated their season with an exclamation point by defeating Quaboag, 61-32, on Saturday in the Division 4 title game at Springfield College’s Blake Arena to bring home their second straight title.
From the tip, Cathedral was able to use its size and athleticism to its advantage. The Panthers used their full-court trap to create opportunities on the break, and got a combined 10 first-quarter offensive rebounds from Mackenzie Daleba, who scored 14 points, and senior Masseny Kaba, who had 17 points and 10 overall rebounds.
“Back-to-back, two-time champs. It’s really amazing, actually,” said Kaba, reflecting on the crowning achievement of her high school career. “I think this one feels more special because it’s back-to-back and this is my last year with my team. So it’s a little sad, but I’m not going to get emotional.”
Cathedral coach Clinton Lassiter helped instill discipline into a squad he said was often content to coast on its raw talent. Though the Panthers preyed on less athletic teams over the course of their season-ending, 14-game winning streak, Lassiter said early on his team’s athleticism was almost a curse.
“At the beginning of the year we were giving up 26 offensive rebounds a game, so we focused on rebounding the ball, boxing out and just not being lazy,” he said. “We were so athletic we thought we could outjump everyone, so teams were sneaking in front of us and stealing the ball.
“We got more disciplined, boxed out and we’ve seen success.”
The Panthers’ combination of paint presence and perimeter agility wore down Quaboag early in the game, helping lead to 13 steals and almost three dozen fast-break points. Quaboag was lifted by a spirited performance from Alexia Paquette (13 points), but it just wasn’t enough. The Panthers took a 38-15 lead by halftime, and extended it to 33 midway through the third quarter.
“At that point you look and you know any chance we had at getting back in the game was gone,” said Quaboag coach Cliff Lanier about his thoughts once Cathedral extended its lead in the second half. “So at that point my feeling was, ‘OK, I’m going to get everyone in the game and we’re gonna play hard.’ . . . Cathedral is just such a good team. You just can’t get down to teams like that and come back.”