It had been 12 long years in the making, but the Chelsea High girls basketball team finally can hoist a championship banner in the CHS gym.
Coach Matt LaBranche’s Lady Red Devils clinched an outright Commonwealth Athletic Conference Small Division title with a 63-36 triumph over Essex Agricultural School last Thursday.
“We knew coming into the game that if we won, an outright championship would be ours,” said CHS LaBranche. “We played with intensity right from the start and never let up.”
The Lady Red Devils got off and running with a 17-12 edge after the first period and continued to build their lead in the second frame to walk off at the half with a 35-22 advantage. Chelsea then put the game away with an early spurt right after the intermission and cruised to a 63-36 triumph.
The Lady Red Devils’ victory featured a balanced scoring attack. Victoria Perez topped the scoring chart with 16 points and Madeleine Vielmann reached double figures with 11. Also making key contributions were Aneka Beqo with eight points, Shuly Sejour with seven, Khiana Binford and Lindsay Fuentes with six each, Tatiana Fontes with four, Anisia Santiago with three, and Bahiya Nasuuna with two.
Although Chelsea already had claimed the CAC Small crown with a 9-0 mark when they stepped onto the floor Tuesday at Presentation of Mary, which was 7-2, the Lady Red Devils’ desire to ice their championship cake by capping their CAC schedule with a perfect record produced a tremendous battle with PMA.
The contest was a hard fought affair from the outset. Chelsea held a 14-13 lead after one period, and though the Lady Red Devils never were headed, they never were able to pull away from a PMA squad that itself was intent on spoiling Chelsea’s perfect league mark in front of its hometown fans.
Chelsea seemed to have some breathing room with a 64-60 lead in the waning seconds, but a PMA bucket with 6.6 seconds to go made it a two point affair. However, the Lady Red Devils perfectly executed the inbounds play from under their basket in the face of a PMA full court press, with Fuentes tossing a nice pass to a streaking Vielmann who drove in for a layup to seal the deal for a final score of 66-62 and end their divisional season in style.
“It was a great game by both teams,” said LaBranche. “I was very proud of the poise our girls showed in a hostile environment to hold on for the victory.”
Fontes and Perez shared scoring honors with 14 points each. Fuentes turned in a splendid double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds, despite playing with three fouls to start the second half. Vielmann also hit for double figures with 11 points. Sejour was immense under the boards, grabbing 12 caroms to go with her seven points. Carolyn Moni added six and Binford had four.
The Lady Red Devils, who are 13-2 overall, will host Greater Lowell Friday evening in a contest that will be highlighted by Senior Night festivities. Chelsea also is scheduled to host Pope John next Tuesday to close out their regular season.
Boys drop heartbreaker to Everett, 49-48
The Chelsea High boys basketball team almost pulled out a dramatic come from behind victory over Everett Tuesday night, but a Crimson Tide three point shot with 20 seconds to play proved the difference in a 49-48 loss for the Red Devils.
Chelsea trailed for almost the entire game, including by as many as 11 in the third period, but hung close enough to be in position to make a run in the final frame that eventually lifted the Red Devils into a 48-46 lead.
“Even though we lost, this was a great game for us against a strong Division 1 opponent as we look ahead to the state tourney,” said CHS head coach Jay Seigal, who played all nine of his seniors at the outset of the game in two shifts as part of Senior Night festivities. “We played well at both ends of the floor, but it was our defense that kept us in the game,” added the coach, who noted the fine play of Jordan Virella, who hit for 12 points on the night.
The loss to the Crimson Tide marked the third tight setback for the Red Devils in as many outings, being preceded by defeats of 63-60 to Whittier on Monday and 64-61 to North Shore Tech on Friday.
Felix Crespo pumped in 20 points in the Whittier contest, which ruined Chelsea’s bid for a perfect record in the Commonwealth Athletic Conference, while Joe Rivera poured in 27 points against No. Shore Vocational, which is undefeated this season.
“We were flat against No. Shore,” said Seigal. “I think we had a letdown after having clinched the league title a few nights earlier against Lynn Tech.”
The Red Devils, who stand at 13-6 overall, were set to close out their regular season at Revere last night (Wednesday).