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By Ed Niser

eniser@nashobavalleyvoice.com

WORCESTER — Tenacious defense has been Groton-Dunstable’s calling card all season. The Crusaders forced 15 turnovers in Wednesday night’s Division 2 Central Mass semifinal with Medfield.

But it was the offense that was the issue.

Groton-Dunstable led for much of the game but sputtered down the stretch. Medfield outscored the Crusaders 22-4 in the fourth on route to a 43-30 victory at Clark University’s George Kneller Athletic Center.

The Warriors were led by Margaret McCarthy (11 points, 5 rebounds) and Lauren Casieri (10 points, 6 rebounds). McCarthy and Casieri both converted old-fashioned three-point plays in the fourth quarter to create separation for Medfield.

Medfield advances to Saturday afternoon’s semifinal at Fitchburg State University against top-seeded Notre Dame of Worcester.

Freshman Rachel Romich led the Crusaders with 10 points, while sophomore Ellie Eisenklam added four points and four blocks.

Groton-Dunstable concludes the season with an overall record of 17-5.

“We always play hard,” said Groton-Dunstable head coach Mark Hennelly. “Our biggest heel throughout the year is our offensive inconsistency at times. (Medfield) did a nice job mixing up their man and zone press in the second half. I think we panicked a little bit late. Medfield plays great defense and deserved to win tonight because they stayed consistent all the way through.”

Neither side could get it going in the first quarter. Groton-Dunstable took the lead on a three-pointer from Chloe McDonald, but the Warriors claimed it right back. Medfield’s Megan Zona knocked down a three late in the quarter to give the Warriors a 5-2 lead after a dreadful quarter of offense for both teams.

The Crusaders cobbled a 7-2 run behind a Romich jumper and baskets from Jenna Plausse and Hanna Van Pelt to make it 15-10 with 2:30 remaining in the half.

McCarthy knocked down the front end of two shots at the line and Casieri hit a lay-up late to bring the Warriors within two at the half, 15-13.

Groton-Dunstable opened the third quarter with a quick 5-2 run following a three-pointer by Romich to make it 20-14 — the biggest Groton-Dunstable lead of the night.

“Something turned about three to four weeks ago in practice,” said Hennelly. “The skill-set was there from the very beginning, but something with her confidence changed. Me and the rest of the coaching staff are very impressed with her. Boy, does that feel good for the future.”

Medfield burned a time-out with 3:26 left in the third in an attempt to stop the Crusaders’ momentum.

The Warriors switched into an aggressive man-to-man defense that caused the Crusaders’ offense fits. Medfield cut the Groton-Dunstable advantage to one following a strong drive and finish from Zona, who was fouled on the play. Zona converted the free throw to make the score 21-20.

Romich and Eisenklam scored the final two baskets of the third to make it a five point game at 26-21.

Back-to-back baskets by Plausse extended the Groton-Dunstable lead to six. But the wheels came off the Crusaders’ offense in the final five minutes.

“Defense has been our thing all year,” Hennelly said. “We do a phenomenal job defending. We have done that to good teams all year long. The question is: Is the offense going to be there? On nights when we are shooting well — we are just as good as anybody. If you don’t shoot well against the top teams, you are going to have a rough night.”

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