Any matchup between a pair of defending state champions is rare. The opportunity to see those team teams square off twice in the same season is just as unlikely.
But if their mid-January showdown was any indicator, defending Division 4 champ Cathedral (13-2 overall, 10-0 Catholic Central Large) and reigning D3 champion Archbishop Williams (14-1, 9-1 CCL) are guaranteed to put on another show on Friday night in Braintree.
The matchup will likely determine the league champion.
Cathedral, ranked second in this week’s Globe Top 20, escaped with a narrow 71-68 overtime win on Jan. 12 Dejah Jenkins sank a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to force OT and sophomore Ariana Vanderhoop converted a layup with 30 seconds left to lock up the win.
Cathedral coach Clinton Lassiter said his team must play better in the rematch to have a shot at a sweep.
“We can’t play in waves,” said Lassiter, noting that the Panthers have been plagued by fits of lackadaiscal play this season.
[Last game] we got down big in the first quarter, then we went up big, then we let them come back,” he said. “So we’ve just got to stay consistent and play defense the whole way through.”
The keys to a steady attack, both offensive and defensive, are in the hands of Jenkins and sophomore forward Mackenzie Daleba. Jenkins (17 points, 4 assists, 2 steals per game) and Daleba (16 points, 9 rebounds per game) form a potent inside-outside attack.
Archbishop Williams forward Jess Knight (10 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks per game), who will likely be tasked with guarding Daleba, acknowledged the challenge ahead.
“I just have to keep her off the boards and keep her from getting the ball so she can’t post up or anything,” she said. “It’s going to be tough competition. But we want to get them back.”
The Bishops have been dominant since the loss to Cathedral, winning their last six games by 20-plus points per game.
Senior guard Asiah Dingle (18 points, 5 assists, 6 steals per game) said the Bishops are pumped for the rematch.
The Kent State-bound Dingle thrives in the open court — her court vision and dazzling array of dribble moves make her nearly impossible to stop. But Cathedral’s dominance on the offensive glass in the first meeting, however, limited the Bishops’ fastbreak opportunities.
“Last game they outrebounded us, they got way too many offensive rebounds,” said Archies coach Matt Mahoney .
“We have got to keep them off the boards and get the ball down the floor. If we get the offensive rebounds then we should be sprinting down the floor and looking to attack the basket,” Mahoney said.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun. [The players[ say they were looking ahead to it, but I try and teach them not to. But they have been, and I know they have been. So it should be fun playing on Friday night.”
■ Pentucket Regional (16-1), ranked 19th in this week’s Globe Top 20, has won 12 straight since a 45-42 setback to Westford Academy on Dec. 28.
Winners of 12 straight, the Sachems also knocked off 14-1 Masconomet by 15 points, 36-21, on Jan. 8 and will stage the rematch in Pentucket on Feb. 16.
“Every time we play each other it’s a battle, both teams are ready to go and the intensity will be high, that will be a battle and potentially it could for the [Cape Ann League] championship,” said Pentucket coach John McNamara.
“That will be a fun one.”
The Sachems start one senior, three juniors and a sophomore. And no player is averaging more than 10 points per game.
“We’re pretty balanced, we play 12 to 14 girls each game,” McNamara said. “We were young last year [in an 18-6 season] with a lot of kids returning, it took us a while to get going.
“So far in the league, we’ve been undefeated and we’re focused on playing aggressive and defensive basketball.”
Sophomore Casey Hunt is a returning CAL All-Star. Her numbers (8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists per game) are modest, but she has been stellar. Junior center Olivia Cross is averaging a team-leading 9 points per game.’
Senior captains Bella Doyle and Sarah Kern have been crucial in the development of the younger players.The top nine players in the rotation return next year.
“Our captains have been great bringing the kids along with the way we do things here at the Pentucket girls’ program and we wouldn’t be where we are without them.
Pentucket secured a postseason berth in mid-January. Now the focus is on preparing for the game-to-game grind of the tourney.
“We have high expectations, we also know it’s really tough in the tournament, one game can decide your fate,” McNamara said.
“We have potential to do well in the [Division 2] tournament, but you’ve got to be a little lucky to go deep in the tournament.”
■ St. Mary’s of Lynn senior Pam Gonzalez eclipsed 1,000 career points with her 22-point effort in a 61-58 Catholic Central loss at Cathedral on Monday night. A transfer from Revere High, where she scored 710 points in three seasons, she has helped propel the Spartans to an 11-5 record in her first season with the team.
■ The Bay State Conference and Hockomock League appear to have a number of contenders to advance in the tournament. Braintree, Walpole, Natick, Wellesley and Needham all pose serious threats in the BSC. In the Hock, Foxborough, Franklin, Mansfield, Oliver Ames and Milford all have potential to go deep into March.
Players of the week:
Liz Arnold, Westford Academy – The senior wing poured in 23 points to lead the fourth ranked Grey Ghosts (12-3) to a 56-41 Dual County League win over Lincoln-Sudbury
Emma Fenton, Bourne – The junior center delivered her 10th double-double of the season with 20 points and 14 rebounds in a 49-45 victory over Fairhaven. She added 16 points and nine rebounds in a 48-39 win over Wareham.
Yasmeen Guerrier, Everett – In a 63-58 win over Beverley, the senior netted her 1,000th career point. She followed with 25 points in a 61-37 nod over Marblehead on Tuesday for the Crimson Tide (10-4).
Hannah Jerrier, Canton – The senior forward erupted for 41 points and 25 rebounds as the Bulldogs (8-8) passed North Attleborough on Friday night 68-52.
Kelsey Qualey, Woburn – With 8.5 seconds left, the senior guard hit a corner 3-pointer to lift the No. 11 Tanners (12-1) to a 58-55 win over Bellmont (11-2).
Games to watch:
Thursday, Westford Academy at Billerica, 7 p.m: The fourth ranked Grey Ghosts (12-3) travel to face a strong Billerica team (10-5).
Friday, Mansfield at Franklin, 6:30 p.m: Seven points shy of 1,000 for her career, Mansfield senior center Meg Hill will have to earn her points against sophomore Ali Brigham in a Hockomock League tilt as the 11th-ranked Hornets (14-2) face the Panthers (10-6).
Friday, Coyle & Cassidy at Bishop Stang, 7 p.m: Sam Hourihan and the sixth-ranked Warriors (15-2) take on the Eastern Athletic Conference foe Spartans (11-5).
Friday, Cathedral at Archbishop Williams, 5:30 p.m: The second-ranked Panthers (13-2) are undefeated in MIAA play and look to sweep the third-ranked Bishops (14-1) after squeaking out a 71-68 win on Jan. 12.
Tuesday, Natick at Wellesley, 5 p.m: Heady point guard Kelcie Zarle and No. 14 Raiders (11-4) take on No. 13 Natick (12-3). The Redhawks earned a 49-40 win in the first meeting on Jan. 26.Correspondent Greg Levinsky also contributed to this story. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tyler Blint-Welsh can be reached at email@example.com.