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    MIAA D1 GIRLS’ BASKETBALL SEMIFINALS | BRAINTREE 65, CENTRAL CATHOLIC 41

    Braintree headed back to Div. 1 girls’ basketball state championship

    Boston, MA: 3/12/2018: Braintree players erupt as the final buzzer sounds in their victory over Central Catholic. Braintree met Central Catholic in the girl's division one state semi final high school basketball game at theTD Garden. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
    Jim Davis/Globe Staff
    The Braintree girls’ basketball team celebrates its 65-41 victory over Central Catholic, sending the Wamps (22-3) back to the Div. 1 state championship game.

    Late in the third quarter of Braintree’s state semifinal victory over Central Catholic at TD Garden, junior Adriana Timberlake, the Wamps’ leading scorer, could not get anything to go.

    Nearing the end of the third, she had gone scoreless.

    But with 2:18 to play in the third quarter, Timberlake buried a top-of-the-key 3-pointer for her first bucket of the night. Senior Mackenzie Moore followed with a triple of her own from Timberlake to halt a Central Catholic run, as they halved a 12-point deficit to six. Timberlake added a Euro-step layup for a 42-28 lead to completely alter the game’s direction in Braintree’s 65-41 victory.

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    “I was pretty frustrated in the beginning, I know I was getting face-guarded,” said Timberlake who finished with 11 points. “I knew I wanted to win for the team today, so I just wanted to step it up and I finally got that.”

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    On a night where the final score was not indicative of the offensive struggles both teams experienced, it was defense that won it for the Wamps (22-3).

    Senior Rachel Tutkus ceded her starting position to junior Jeniyah Jones, only for a moment as she headed to the scorer’s table before the tip. When they shared the court, however, the Wamps were at their best.

    Braintree's Jenna Roche (center) battles Central Catholic's Adrianna Niles (left) and Maura Smith (right) for a loose ball in Monday night’s Div. 1 girls’ semifinal at TD Garden.
    Jim Davis/Globe Staff
    Braintree's Jenna Roche (center) battles Central Catholic's Adrianna Niles (left) and Maura Smith (right) for a loose ball in Monday night’s Div. 1 girls’ semifinal at TD Garden.

    Jones finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 7 steals while Tutkus added 6 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Central Catholic (21-3) committed 26 turnovers, including 18 in the first half.

    “When they’re out there together, they play well, our whole team does,” Braintree coach Kristen McDonnell, who briefly resigned in early April before making a surprise return in July, said of Jones and Tutkus.

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    “Our team defense hopefully speaks for itself at this point,” McDonnell added. “These kids just dig, they grind. They do it the tough way, every time.”

    Central Catholic senior Katie Kirsch scored all 10 of her team’s first quarter points, but did not score the rest of the half as Braintree continued its menacing defense. Kirsch finished with a game-high 18 points.

    Up next for Braintree, a championship tilt against Springfield Central on Saturday in Springfield. The Wamps will attempt to avenge a 61-45 loss to Springfield Central in last year’s Div. 1 state championship.

    Timberlake summed up Braintree’s keys to victory — in its semifinal triumph as well as its state title matchup — rather succinctly.

    “Quickness, defense, work as a team, that’s pretty much it,” she said.

    In the end, a tearful Emily Downer (right) could not console her emotional Central Catholic teammate, Nadeshka Bridewater, as they watched Braintree move on to the Div. 1 state championship.
    Jim Davis/Globe Staff
    In the end, a tearful Emily Downer (right) could not console her emotional Central Catholic teammate, Nadeshka Bridewater, as they watched Braintree move on to the Div. 1 state championship.

    Greg Levinsky can be reached at greg.levinsky@globe.com.