Sunday, March 18, 2018

Dingle Propels Archbishop Williams to D3 Girls' Hoops Crown

By Brendan Hall (@BHallUFA)

Springfield, Mass. - Archbishop Williams head coach Matt Mahoney prefaced what was a bold declaration with some of his trademark modesty, warning reporters that he might seem a little biased, and might be a little too in the now. Forgive him, for he just watched his star point guard take the Bishops to yet another MIAA Division 3 state title, their fourth in six seasons.

But this is also one of the most dominant programs in Massachusetts over the last decade, regularly making deep March runs in the state tournament, and churning out Division 1-caliber talents over and over, regularly sending players to schools from the Big Ten to the ACC to the Big East and a slew in between.

And so, there's considerable magnitude to consider.

“She may be the best,” he said of senior Asiah Dingle (20 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, five steals), after she dominated Hampshire Regional every which way, filling up the stat sheet en route to a 77-42 win at Blake Arena on the campus of Springfield College.

“She may be the best, because over four years she’s done it consistently. She never takes a night off. She brings so much joy to the team. She may be the best overall. But I’m kinda biased, because I’m living in the present.”

For the Bishops (21-3), it’s their sixth D3 state title in 12 seasons, dating back to a back-to-back run in 2007 and 2008, and their seventh D3 title overall, tying Western Mass power Lee for most such titles.

Despite being grossly out-rebounded to start the game, Hampshire (22-3) clawed its way through the first quarter and half to make a game of it, thanks to timely put-backs and feathery three-point shooting. Late in the first quarter, Kyleen Labrecque found Katelyn Pickunka going to the post to set up a three-point play that, after the free throw failed, cut the lead to eight. The next trip down, Pickunka slipped one in off an inbounds pass to cut it down to 18-12.

Then early in the second quarter, a triple by Labrecque from the right wing cut the Bishops’ lead down to 24-19. But all that seemed to do was awaken a beast, as that was the closest the Raiders would come the rest of the way.

The Bishops finished the second on a 16-4 run to take a 40-25 halftime lead. For much of the first half, the Kent State-bound Dingle was operating at a different speed than the other nine players on the floor, doing whatever she wanted seemingly whenever she wanted. Arguably her prettiest play came with the Bishops already holding a double-digit lead late in the second quarter, when she dribbled around a defender around the elbow, circled back to the wing, then took a sharp cut back to the basket and finishing between two defenders.

If it wasn’t countering Hampshire baskets with a quick coast-to-coast drive, Dingle was having a blast finding post players Monica Spain (14 points, nine rebounds) and Jessica Knight (20, eight) with fluid entry passes for easy lay-ins. At times she emphatically seemed to enjoy herself, flashing an ear-to-ear smile -- as if this wasn’t a state final, but simply her backyard.

“I definitely got my teammates involved,” said Dingle. “That was the key. My passes were just on point – I don’t know how, but everyone was just open.”

Archies held a 26-15 advantage on the glass through three quarters, including a 12-6 mark in the opening frame.

Perhaps most incredibly, the Bishops blew out the Red Raiders despite not converting a three-pointer all game. They shot a blistering 61.2 percent from the floor in the first half, compared to just 36 percent from Hampshire over the same time frame.

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