“There’s nothing better than winning your last game,” said Andover head coach Jim Tildsley after his Warriors left the DCU Center in Worcester with their second consecutive state championship.
“We have a tradition now… DCU Center, playing at the Garden,” said senior point guard Natalie Gomez-Martinez (10 points).
It looked bleak at times, but the resilient Warriors overcame a fourth quarter deficit to beat the Amherst Hurricanes 61-51.
“We just told each other that we’re not going to lose this game,” said Nicole Boudreau, who led the team in scoring once again with 18 points.
“This was a very hard fought game,” said Tildsley. Neither team proved to be superior until the final minutes when Andover simply outworked Amherst down the stretch.
“Both teams were exhausted at the end, you could see it,” said Tildsley. “I think they [Amherst] got a little tired,” he said.
Out of the gate, the teams were tied at 13 after one quarter of play.
The second quarter was equally as competitive though the Warriors came away with a two point lead at halftime.
Early in the third quarter, Amherst’s junior center Forbasaw Nkambo gave Amherst a two point lead with a strong move in the paint. The Hurricanes ended up running out of gas, but it was Nkambo who almost willed them to victory.
The six-foot tall center scored 15 points and created many matchup problems for Andover.
“She killed us,” said Nicole Boudreau. “We just had to limit her as much as we could,” she said. Boudreau, Andover’s tallest player, did what she could against the talented Amherst junior.
In the end it was junior Brianna Leonard who led Amherst in scoring with 16 points. Twelve of them came in the third quarter when Amherst put quite a scare into the Warriors.
The teams went into the fourth quarter tied at 45. With eight minutes to decide a state champion, the Warriors defense clamped down and allowed only six points in the final frame.
Sophomore Devon Caveney (14 points) emerged as one of Andover’s heroes after scoring five consecutive Warrior points in the fourth.
Caveney hit a baseline three-pointer with five minutes left in the game. That shot put an ear-splitting surge into Andover’s home crowd.
“Devon hit a huge three,” said Tildsley.
On Andover’s next possession she hit a layup with 3:37 left in the season. The two baskets were imperative to Andover’s success.
“We needed them [baskets] and I knew we needed them so I shot them and they went in,” said Caveney.
She refused to take all the credit. “We all contributed and we all played great,” Caveney said.
In the final moments, it was Jackie Alois (12 points) whose layup all but clinched the title for the Warriors. She took a perfect pass from Nicole Boudreau to give Andover a 59-51 lead in the final minute.
Natalie Gomez-Martinez drained a pair of free throws to set the final score at 61-51.
Gomez-Martinez, the team’s emotional and on-the-court court leader, played in her last game for Andover High School.
The soon-to-be graduate reflected on her team’s chances for next year.
Is a three-peat in the cards?
“I think they can do it,” she said.
One thing is for sure, the Warriors will miss Gomez-Martinez, her skills, and her leadership.
“I know they’ll be fine next year,” she said.
Check out our from last night to get a recap of the game's play by play action.