LOWELL — It was no surprise that Olivia Healy played great. What was surprising was how she showed it.
Facing a rarely seen box-and-one defense that put North Andover’s Mackenzie Mello square in the Reading captain’s face, Healy turned facilitator with amazing effectiveness yesterday.
Finding junior Sarah Haase for repeated open looks, the pair powered the Rockets to their 48th straight victory, 50-33, continuing their quest to repeat as state Division 2 champion.
As a result, the sixth-seeded Knights saw their Cinderella season end at 15-9.
Healy (18 points including 10 for 10 from the free throw line) wasn’t fazed by the quirky defense or Mello’s attention, simply diverting her scoring and garnering dimes on Reading’s first four baskets.
“Assists are as important as they can be,” said the University of Richmond-bound Healy, who netted five of her team-high seven assists on dishes to Haage. “Sarah has really stepped up — she was big in the Comcast Tourney (at the end of the season) – and she has made my senior season.”
“We keep telling Sarah that when Olivia has the ball down low, she has to dive because (Healy’s) going to see her,” said Rockets head coach Kim Penney.
Healy and Haase were as complementary as they could be, combining for 37 points, 20 rebounds, 12 assists and 7 steals. This allowed Reading to hold a double-digit lead for much of the middle portion of the contest.
“I thought Mackenzie did an awesome job on Olivia,” said North Andover head coach Sue Breen. “Most teams don’t have a player that quick and long. We just didn’t want her to score 45 points and Mackenzie did great.”
Clawing their way back into the contest behind Leah Chittick (five points) and Morgan Lumb (team-high 17 points and 6 rebounds), the Knights had a shot to close within four points early in the final period. However, two misses, two turnovers and a blocked shot hurt, and Reading only made things worse by responding with an 11-0 blitz over that three-minute span to lock up the victory.