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In a 13-2 start, grit, defense, and chemistry has been the difference for Lincoln-Sudbury girls’ basketball

“A lot of [the players] have played together since they were 6 or 7 years old, so it’s really cool to see their chemistry and the way they’re bringing along the younger kids.” Howie Landau, Lincoln-Sudbury girls' basketball coach.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

In a season full of signature victories, the most impressive performance to date for the Lincoln-Sudbury girls’ basketball team may have come in an agonizing loss.

After allowing 19 points to Brookline in the first quarter, 16 in the second, and 13 in the third, Lincoln-Sudbury held a high-octane Brookline offense scoreless for seven-plus minutes in the fourth quarter. L-S stormed back, erasing a 13-point deficit, before falling, 54-51, on Margo Mattes’s banked-in 3-pointer at the buzzer last Thursday.

“I think it really shows our grit,” said senior captain Katie Rapisarda. “No matter what the situation is, we’re able to fight back. We want to fight back.”


The 14th-ranked Warriors (13-2, 8-0) have relied on their mental toughness, balance, and defense to piece together one of the best seasons in program history. They are pursuing their first Dual County League (Thorpe) regular-season title since 2008. After winning their first MIAA tournament game in 10 years last season, a deeper run is very much attainable this year.

This group has a chance to be the best L-S team since 2007, when future Boston College star Carolyn Swords lifted the Warriors to the lone state title in program history.

‘We’ve been playing with each other for a while, so our chemistry is unmatched.’

Abby Cushing, a senior captain on the Lincoln-Sudbury girls' basketball team

With eight seniors, and many athletes who have extensive postseason experience in other sports, the Warriors are allowing just 35.8 points per game and have established themselves as a team in which the sum of the team’s parts is stronger than those individual strong suits.

“We’ve been playing with each other for a while,” said senior captain Abby Cushing, “so our chemistry is unmatched.”

Lincoln-Sudbury senior captain Abby Cushing, a Holy Cross soccer commit, is averaging 10.8 points, 4.5 rebounds. 3.6 assists, 4 steals per game for the Warriors.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Cushing , a Holy Cross soccer commit, is an ultra-quick point guard with a knack for getting to the rim. She is averaging 10.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 4 steals per game. Rapisarda (9.7 points, 3.7 rebounds) is a sharpshooter who wants the ball in her hands with the game on the line. Senior captain Frankie Liu (5.5 points, 12.8 rebounds) runs the floor well, is a versatile defender, and uses her length effectively at the rim.


Sophomore Evie Schwartz (7 points, 4.5 rebounds) combines power and finesse and is a highly-skilled shooter. Senior captain Lauren Blanchette, senior Bella Levy, and freshman Sarah Poland all contribute as well.

Lincoln-Sudbury’s commitment to defense is reflected in Frankie Liu's (right) relentless on-ball pressure of Peabody's Logan Lomasney (left) during the Warriors' recent 53-42 nonleague road win.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Liu, Rapisarda, and Cushing were all starters on the soccer team that advanced to the state quarterfinals last fall. Blanchette is an all-star on the softball team. Charlotte Huck is an all-star cross country runner. Poland was on the state runner-up volleyball team.

Regardless of the season, it’s a group of athletes that knows how to deliver in big games. The Warriors have already beaten strong teams such as Newton South, North Andover, Wayland, and Framingham by single digits.

Coach Howie Landau believes games like last Thursday’s setback vs. Brookline, showed the Warriors’ tremendous resilience and will help set them apart. Landau, who took over when these seniors were freshmen, loves his team’s ability to battle in tight games.

“I think it’s a sign of a really good team with leadership that will hopefully propel us moving forward into March,” Landau said.

Lincoln-Sudbury girls' basketball coach Howie Landau (right) believes his team has the right combination of strong leadership and commitment to defense to make a deep run in the MIAA state tournament.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

In Tuesday’s matchup with Bedford, Lincoln-Sudbury trailed by 2 at halftime, built a 4-point lead through three, and hit its stride late to earn a 46-31 win. The shorthanded Warriors, who had three girls sidelined, allowed just 7 points in the fourth to pull away.


Landau highlighted his team’s commitment to defense, noting its style is predicated on playing at a deliberate pace and locking down defensively. The Warriors have allowed more than 50 points just twice this season and have held four opponents to less than 30 points.

They’re also averaging more than a charge per game, which Landau believes exemplifies his team’s toughness. Rapisarda said practices are intense, but also fun, because they all love buying in on defense.

It is a mind-set that begins with the seniors and trickles down to the underclassmen.

“A lot of them have played together since they were 6 or 7 years old,” Landau said, “so it’s really cool to see their chemistry and the way they’re bringing along the younger kids.”

Courtside chatter

▪ The state tournaments won’t be the only major high school basketball events in March. Deondre Starling, a former Cambridge basketball player (Class of 2011), is arranging an MIAA vs. NEPSAC showcase tournament on March 25 at Cambridge Rindge & Latin.

Starling plans to have 32 top MIAA boys and 32 top NEPSAC boys (16 and 16 for girls) make up the teams, which will be drafted and entered into the one-day event.

“A lot of guys are like, ‘Oh, I’m better than guys in NEPSAC; I’m better than guys in MIAA.’ Give them the time to get on the floor,” he said.

The participants are still being finalized, but they’re shaping up to be stacked. AJ Dybantsa (St. Sebastian’s) and Marius Canery (Lawrence) are among the boys’ stars confirmed as entrants on Instagram, while Oluchi Okananwa (Worcester Academy) and Yirsy Queliz (St. Mary’s) headline the girls so far.


“It’s going to be very intense,” Starling said. “A lot of college coaches reached out to me to come out.”

▪ In Niki Devereaux’s nine years coaching at Minuteman, the Revolution have never hosted nor won a tournament game. That could change this year.

Minuteman is 13-0, off to its best start in program history, and already has locked up a berth in the Division 5 bracket. The Revolution are No. 12 in the latest MIAA power rankings, with the top 16 squads hosting a playoff game. Senior captain Annie Brosnan leads a team bouncing back after skipping the COVID-19 shortened 2020-21 season.

“They’ll just go to battle for each other, really, which I think makes it kind of a special team.” Devereaux said. “We’re not always the most skilled, but they just have so much heart and desire and fight for each other that it’s pretty awesome to watch.”

▪ Burlington senior Alyvia Peña became the program’s all-time leading scorer Tuesday with 887 points, surpassing Karen Grutchfield (Class of 1981) . . . Five seniors, Hannah Martin (North Andover), Kate Olenik (Medfield), Grace McNamara (Scituate), Niya Morgen (St. Mary’s) and Abigail Wright (Newton North) hit 1,000 career points.

Games to watch

Friday, No. 13 Brookline at No. 6 Newton North, 6 p.m. — The Tigers edged the Warriors, 54-49, on Jan. 6; this should be another close battle.


Friday, No. 2 Medfield at No. 16 Westwood, 6:30 p.m. — The Warriors are the measuring stick for the Tri-Valley League, but Westwood has reeled off nine straight wins.

Tuesday, Winchester at No. 7 Woburn, 5 p.m. — The Tanners swiped a 44-38 victory at Winchester on Jan. 13. Expect another gritty defensive contest.

Tuesday, No. 15 Rockland at Mashpee, 6:30 p.m. — The Bulldogs receive a quality South Shore League test in traveling to the 10-3 Falcons.

Tuesday, No. 3 Bishop Feehan at No. 11 Cathedral, 6:30 p.m. — The Shamrocks cruised, 60-42, in the first matchup, but the Panthers have home court this time.

Correspondent Ethan Fuller contributed to this story.

Trevor Hass can be reached at trevor.hass@globe.com.