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Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Proud HC coach Maureen Magarity excited about her team taking in NCAA experience

By Jennifer Toland, Telegram & Gazette,


WORCESTER — As a senior at Marist College, Maureen Magarity helped the Red Foxes to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2004. The births of her daughters, Charlotte and Caroline, are tops, but playing in the Big Dance is one of the highlights of Magarity’s life.

On Sunday, Magarity, Holy Cross’ third-year coach, had another most memorable moment when the Crusaders won at Boston University to capture the Patriot League Tournament championship and an automatic NCAA bid.

In the fourth quarter, top-seeded BU stormed back to cut what was a 22-point HC lead to one with 2:21 left, but the Crusaders, behind junior Bronagh Power-Cassidy, who scored HC’s final five points, defeated the Terriers, 66-61.

“Things got tough at the end of that game,” Magarity said Tuesday, “but they were not going to lose that game. I want nothing more than for them just to experience this because they are such a special group, and they did it. It was all them. They figured it out, and now this is one of my most proud moments of my life as a coach, and I really mean that.”

The Crusaders took the celebration from the Case Gymnasium court to the Doran Auditorium in the Luth Athletic Complex Sunday night for the NCAA Selection Show and rejoiced some more when their first-round pairing came on the big screen.

No. 15 Holy Cross (24-8) will play at No. 2 seed Maryland (25-6) at 2:30 p.m. Friday (ESPNEWS) at the Xfinity Center in College Park.

“Seeing our work pay off is such a rewarding experience,” guard Addisyn Cross, HC’s only senior, said. “We’re so excited to be able to keep playing in March.”

HC, which is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2007, is the only team from Massachusetts in this year’s NCAA tourney (women’s or men’s).

“We’ve been really excited about the win (at BU) and experiencing that and celebrating as a team,” HC junior guard Cara McCormack said. “Now, it’s time to get ready for Maryland.”

Maryland, which fell to Iowa in the Big Ten semifinals, has earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last 13 seasons. The Terrapins were a No. 2 seed in 2021, 2016, 2012, 2007 and 2006, when they won the national championship at TD Garden in Boston.

Under coach Brenda Frese, Maryland is 17-0 in first-round NCAA games.

“She’s a Hall of Fame coach,” Magarity said, “and it will be an honor to coach against her.”

Senior Diamond Miller, a unanimous All-Big Ten first-team honoree, is Maryland’s leading scorer (19.7 ppg) and rebounder (6.5 rpg).

“They’re a heck of a team,” Magarity said, “and we know we have our hands full, but they’re a little bit different from the teams in Brenda Frese’s past. They’re a little bit smaller, and they really spread the floor out. Just like all of her teams, they are very athletic, and they will pressure the ball and really get up into us. We’re going to have to take care of the ball, be prepared for a lot of full-court pressure and keep turnovers down.

“Defensively,” Magarity said, “I think we’ve done a really good job, especially over this last month or so, sticking to a game plan, believing in the game plan, and believing in each other.”

HC ranks 14th nationally in scoring defense, holding opponents to 54.6 points per game.

“It’s a high level,” Magarity said, “but we have to go in there and stick to the game plan, and just taking care of the ball is going to be the biggest thing.”

The 1991 Holy Cross team, which beat Maryland, 81-74, in the first round, still has the only NCAA Tournament win in Patriot League women’s history.

Last year’s Crusaders captured the regular-season PL title and graduated four seniors, including standouts Avery LaBarbera and Oluchi Ezemma.

“Coming into this year,” sophomore forward Lindsay Berger said, “we didn’t really know who that star player was going to be for us.”

During the Crusaders’ current six-game winning streak, they have had four leading scorers.

“I think we’re all stars in the end,” Berger said. “Everyone can have a big play, and no one is ever mad if they don’t score. We’re hyping up players who do score, and no one is ever jealous.”

The Crusaders will practice Wednesday 12:30-2:30 p.m., then bus to College Park. The ride is about 7-8 hours.

The NCAA pays for a team’s charter flight to the NCAA Tournament if it is 400 miles (it was previously 350) from the site of the game. Worcester is 393 miles from College Park.

Magarity said Holy Cross looked into commercial flights, but because of this week’s nor’easter, there were airline backups, and they were unable to get the whole travel party on one flight.

“I’m really frustrated and disappointed in the NCAA that’s what’s happening for my players,” Magarity said. “They deserve to experience what the NCAA is really like. At the end of the day, we’re missing (a charter flight) by seven miles, but rules are rules, and as disappointing as it is, we’re not going to take anything away from it. We’re still playing in the NCAAs. It’s still going to be amazing, and it’s still going to be so special.”

After Sunday’s game, Magarity’s phone blew up with congratulatory text messages on her college teammate group chat.

“Being able to experience (the NCAAs) with my best friends,” Magarity said, “that was really the message I gave our players, and now for them to experience it together, and knowing how much they love each other.

“I haven’t been there since,” Magarity added, “and I said to our younger kids, ‘Hopefully this is going to be a precedent,’ but in reality, in a one-bid league, it’s really hard to do. You have to live in the moment and cherish it, and when it’s right in front of you, you have to go get it. I can’t say enough how proud I am of them.”

—Contact Jennifer Toland at Follow her on Twitter @JenTolandTG.

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