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Big 3 of Big Blue too much for Cougars.

Byline: Craig Holt

WORCESTER - Once the Swampscott girls' basketball team got it going in yesterday's state Division 3 final against Quaboag Regional, one thing was certain. The Big Blue, sparked by their big three of Allie Beaulieu, Tara Nimkar and Kara Gilberg, would be hard to catch.

Hot-shooting Swampscott proved to be a tough matchup at both ends of the floor, building a 15-point lead by the half and forcing the cold-shooting Cougars into an uncharacteristic 14 turnovers. Quaboag was forced to play catch-up in the second half, but the deficit was too big, enabling the Big Blue to claim a 72-38 victory at the DCU Center.

The championship was the first for Swampscott, which finished 23-2. The Cougars, who saw their 25-game winning streak snapped, concluded their season with a 25-1 record. Quaboag had not lost since falling to Archbishop Williams in last year's state final at the DCU Center.

"It's really tough losing here again, but we had a great season," Cougars senior center Meaghan O'Keefe said. "This is definitely the toughest team that we faced this year. But we didn't give up, even when we fell behind. They just played great."

"This was sort of a fairy-tale season for us, and even though we weren't victorious at the end, it was still a successful year," Quaboag senior captain Kayla Sokol said. "This was my last game today, but these girls and this team will always have a special place in my heart."

The Big Blue emerged victorious despite an eye-catching lack of offensive balance. The trio of Beaulieu, Nimkar and Gilberg, soft-shooting and athletic, combined to score their team's first 65 points, a remarkable feat against a defensively sound opponent on a neutral gym in the state final.

Beaulieu, a senior forward, finished with a game-high 27 points. She sank five 3-pointers, including three in the game-breaking first half. Nimkar, a senior forward, drained 12 field goals and finished with 24 points. Gilberg added 16 points.

"They had great shooters - we really didn't have a defense that could stop their shooting," junior guard Meaghan Burns said. "Also, their press worked really well and gave us a lot of trouble. But we had a great season. We've won seven straight district championships and 25 in a row this year. We have nothing to be ashamed of."

The Cougars got an outstanding game from the soft-shooting O'Keefe, who tossed in 17 points. O'Keefe, who finished her high school career with more than 1,000 points, knocked down three 3-pointers. Sophomore forward Samantha McCann added nine points.

Swampscott took control with two big spurts in the first half.

The first came in the form of a 9-0 blitz that wiped out an early 4-0 Quaboag advantage. Beaulieu kicked off the run with a trey and Nimkar followed with a layup, giving the Big Blue the lead for good, 5-4. A 3-pointer by O'Keefe in the final minute enabled the Cougars to close to 11-8 at the end of the quarter.

Swampscott began the second period with an 18-5 burst, taking advantage of Quaboag turnovers and its own hot shooting to pad its lead to 29-13 with 3:41 to play in the half.

Nimkar ignited the run, hitting consecutive medium-range jumpers, the second after a Quaboag turnover. Key hoops were also contributed by Beaulieu, who sandwiched back-to-back 3-pointers around a Burns drive, increasing the Big Blue lead to 26-13. Moments later, a layup and long 3-pointer by O'Keefe enabled Quaboag to close to 29-18. Two buckets by Beaulieu and one by Nimkar gave the victors a 35-18 lead with less than a minute left in the half.

"I don't know what their shooting percentage was, but it was pretty darn high," Quaboag coach John Vayda said. "And we dug ourselves a deep hole by halftime. It was difficult to come back."

Swampscott outscored Quaboag, 21-6, in the third quarter. The Cougars were plagued by poor shooting, hitting just three field goals.

NAME: QUABOAG REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL

ART: PHOTOS

CUTLINE: (1) Swampscott's Allie Beaulieu blocks a shot by Quaboag's Meaghan O'Keefe. (2) Quaboag's Samantha McCann, Meaghan O'Keefe, Olivia Jankins and Meaghan Burns watch the final seconds of the Cougars' loss in the Division 3 state championship. (3) At left, Quaboag's Kayla Sokol moves around Swampscott's Tara Gallagher. (4) Above, Quaboag's Jillian Lavallee loses the ball to Swampscott's Jen Cleary.

PHOTOG: T&G Staff Photos/RICK CINCLAIR
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 15, 2009
Words:735
Previous Article:Confidence still peeking through.
Next Article:Quaboag turning to Jankins.


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