WORCESTER — Take your time machine back about a month ago and you’ll find a Central Catholic team that looked dead in the water.
On Feb. 18, the Raiders lost by 10 points to Division 3 Pentucket to end the regular season with a rather unimpressive 16-5 record for a team that many thought would be dominant when the year started.
Now, hop back in that time machine of yours and travel to yesterday. You’ll find the Raiders celebrating a 53-48 victory over Holy Name in the Division 1 state title game at the DCU Center.
Wow, what a difference 26 days can make!
These girls said they believed in themselves all along despite the five speed bumps.
The Raiders — led by Stonehill-bound star Casey McLaughlin — stepped their game up a whole other level this postseason, hustling for basketballs, rebounding, fighting for jump balls and willing themselves to victory.
This team refused to lose.
A perfect example came in the second quarter yesterday when Holy Name was storming back after being down 22-8.
With Central’s lead narrowed to 28-22 with less than 10 seconds left before halftime, 5-foot-2 Raiders guard Alex Nagri stole the basketball — purely out of hustle — and passed ahead to forward Amanda Williams who was fouled while scoring a lay-up.
Williams converted her foul shot to cap off the three-point play, which gave Central a 31-22 halftime lead and took some wind out of Holy Name’s sail.
“She’s as feisty as they come,” Central coach Sue Downer said about Nagri. “I think she kind of epitomizes what Central Catholic basketball is all about — that nitty, gritty, get-in-there, be tough, be physical (style).”
Yes, that is exactly the type of style Central used to win this championship, starting in the Division 1 North quarterfinals against Woburn.
McLaughlin was front and center the entire ride. It’s quite possible that nobody in the state hustled more than her over the past two weeks.