GROTON -- It would have been tough for someone to draw up a night with more plot lines than Monday night for the Groton-Dunstable girls' basketball team. A good writer always tries to give you "will they, won't they" moments, and there were two big ones on this mid-February evening.
Rachel McCarron entered the contest needing just four points to become only the second female in school history to reach 1,000 points. Also on the line for the Lady Crusaders were their post-season hopes as at 8-10 they had to win their last two games to get into the Districts.
History was made at roughly 7:15 p.m., as McCarron calmly sank a free-throw for her 382nd point of the season and 1,000th point of her career. The freebie set off a wild celebration as the senior forward was mobbed by teammates, presented flowers and a plaque and posed for pictures with family and Coach Mark Hennelly.
The perfect ending would have been for Groton-Dunstable to go on and win the game. But endings aren't always perfect. St. Bernard's used a balanced attack with all five starters, scoring eight or more points to take a 59-49 lead and eliminate the Lady Crusaders from post-season contention.
"I would have loved if we could have the best of both worlds with Rachel getting to 1,000 and to have us win and stay alive, but things don't always work out the way you hope," said Hennelly. "It is tough because I am disappointed because we won't have a chance to move on, but I am just so proud of Rachel. There is no one I could think of that is more deserving of the achievements she has accomplished. Just watching the way her teammates celebrated with her shows how respected she is. While a win would have been great, it doesn't take away from what was done tonight by Rachel."
After falling behind 12-4, Groton-Dunstable made a small run that included a grand moment. Lindsey Werner got things started with a layup off a Riley Rogers feed followed up by McCarron's free-throws for points 999 and 1,000. After the celebration settled down, McCarron added her first field goal of the night on a layup off a Cate Cullen feed that drew the Lady Crusaders within two at 12-10 after a quarter of play.
The Lady Bernardians extended the lead back to seven at 18-11, but Groton-Dunstable reeled off 11 of the next 14 points to take their only lead of the night. Werner got things started with a 15-foot jumper and driving layup while McCarron closed things out with a banked in 14-foot jumper and a three-point play off a Rogers look that gave the Lady Crusaders a 22-21 lead. It was short lived, as St. Bernard's closed out the first half with four free-throws to take a 25-22 advantage into the locker rooms.
It took just a minute and a half of play in the third quarter for the Lady Bernardians lead to hit double digits. Tarah Crowe and Mikala Malboeuf scored on layups while Rachel Pelletier knocked down a try off a Samantha Battaini pass that made it 32-22.
With the game slipping away, Groton-Dunstable fought back as McCarron took over. A layup off a great pass from Werner, an offensive rebound and put-back followed by another layup off a Cullen feed cut the lead to five at 34-29 and forced a St. Bernard's time-out.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Lady Bernardians threatened to put the game out of reach as Crowe hit a pull-up 16-foot jumper and then set up Pelletier for a layup that made it 43-35 with 6:26 to play. With the season on the line, the Lady Crusaders made one more effort to try to get back in front.
Leanne Mueller made a great drive down the line for a layup and was fouled, hitting the free-throw for a conventional three-point play. McCarron followed with a layup off a Werner feed that made it 43-40. Just as it seemed momentum was slipping away, St. Bernard's got a quick transition layup from Crowe and never let the game get closer. Crowe scored six points down the stretch while Allyson Esielionis added five as the Lady Bernardians held on for the 10-point victory.
"Tonight the kids gave me everything they had, which is all I can ask for, really," said Hennelly. "We played hard. We didn't turn the ball over a lot, but we had issues on the boards again. We gave up a lot of second and third chances, which hurt. It was still a great night to be a part of and now we move forward to senior night and trying to send the girls out on a high note."
McCarron was brilliant once again, finishing with 27 points, 16 rebounds and three assists. Mueller had a solid night with 11 points and four boards. Werner added seven points, seven rebounds and four assists while Rogers chipped in two points and five assists.
Crowe led the way for St. Bernard's with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Pelletier contributed 13 points, seven boards and four assists. Esielionis finished with 11 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots while Malboeuf (nine points and 12 boards) and Battaini (eight points, six rebounds and eight assists) also played well.