EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 15, 2013

Prime-time player

Central's Courtney Walsh usually comes through in the clutch

By Christopher Smith

---- — Central Catholic junior Courtney Walsh has been known to step up big in big games.

Don’t forgot: as a freshman she scored the game-winning goal in the Raiders’ 2-1 victory over Shrewsbury in the Division 1 state soccer championship game.

Tomorrow, Walsh will attempt to win her second state high school title — this time in basketball, the sport she plans to play in college.

She definitely has stepped up big lately, scoring 16 points in a Division 1 North final victory over Westford Academy and a game-high 19 points in a state semifinal win over Braintree on Monday at the TD Garden.

Walsh and Central play Holy Name at 5:45 p.m. tomorrow at the DCU Center in Worcester.

“There’s a reason Stonehill has offered her (a basketball scholarship) already,” Central coach Sue Downer said about Walsh. “I thought she played great (against Braintree). She provided that other offensive option that we need.”

Walsh is averaging 9.6 points per game. That is down from her 12.0 ppg last year when she was named all-MVC and an Eagle-Tribune Super Teamer.

But last year was different as Downer asked Walsh to assume more of a scoring role during the second half because both Casey McLaughlin (knee) and Caitlin Dell-Orfano (ACL) were sidelined.

Walsh did just as her coach asked, averaging 16.0 points per game in February after averaging 9.0 points a game earlier that year. Then in the 2012 playoffs, she poured in 16 points in win over Billerica and 19 points in win over Westford before scoring nine in a loss to Andover.

With both Stonehill-bound McLaughlin and Dell’Orfano back this year, Walsh has taken a backseat to McLaughlin as the top scorer. The junior has been more of a ball-handler who has looked to distribute first and shoot second.

“Obviously Casey has been unbelievable down low and she’s been getting a lot of our points,” Walsh said. “I shoot when I have an open shot but look down low, too, because our bigs (McLaughlin and Amanda Williams) have been playing really well lately.”

As was written in a Feb. 21, 2012 Eagle-Tribune story, “With a recovered McLaughlin, Walsh being such a prolific scorer, and a great deal of young talent surrounding the pair, Central should emerge from this tough season and be one of the best programs in the state next winter.”

Central has done just that. This year has been a little bit of an up-and-down ride for the Raiders. But right now the Central is putting everything together and is in the state title game as many expected it would be when this season began.

That said, Central seems to be at its best when both McLaughlin and Walsh both are scoring in double-digits.

As McLaughlin said about Walsh: “She’s one of the best ball handlers on this team and one of the best scorers.”

Walsh definitely has stepped up big in big games. Check out her varsity soccer and basketball resumes thus far. In addition to scoring the winner in the 2010 Division 1 soccer championship, she also netted the game-winner against Masconoment in the Division 1 North semifinals that year.

Walsh is looking at other Northeast-10 schools in addition to Stonehill. She originally considered playing both soccer and basketball at a Division 3 college.

“But I am getting more looks when it comes to basketball,” said the junior who plays with the New England Crusaders, an AAU basketball team, during the high school offseason.

Walsh added about receiving her offer from Stonehill, “It motivates me to work harder.”

Walsh’s brother Cam Walsh, a former football tri-captain at Central who attends UNH, has helped her a great deal in basketball.

“Cam played a lot and he helps me out and works with me, especially in the summer when he comes home,” Walsh said.

Walsh has averaged 12.75 ppg in the playoffs over the past two seasons. In four of her eight postseason games during that span, she has scored 16 or more points.

If she can keep that up tomorrow, Central likely will be the Division 1 champ.

“Courtney is an amazing, amazing young lady,” Downer said. “In these situations, in this point of the season, it takes everybody stepping up and doing their job.”

Coming Tomorrow Eagle-Tribune executive sports editor Bill Burt will profile Central Catholic coach Sue Downer, who after 17 years, is beginning to carve out a legacy that puts her among some of the area's top girls basketball coaches. Also, Chris Smith will have a preview of Central's Div. 1 state final game with Chicopee at the DCU Center in Worcester. He will have key stats and the lineups for both teams.