Maroon streamers lined the inside of the bus used to transport the Gloucester girls basketball team to Monday's game. Inside the gym, the Fishermen student section was rowdy all night, willing their team to a massive comeback.
But thanks to the Wildcats, when the bus pulled out of the Wilmington High School parking lot, Gloucester players and fans weren't in a very festive mood.
Wilmington built up an 20-point lead and fought off a strong Fishermen charge, earning a 50-47 win in the North Division 2 quarterfinal round. With the victory, the Wildcats advanced to face defending champion Arlington Catholic with a berth in the sectional final on the line.
"We talked about playing with the lead. They made a real conscious effort to slow things down and run some offense," said Keane. "Like it's been all season, these girls found a way to win."
Emily Crannell led the way offensively for Wilmington as she dumped in 17 points. Jen Stewart chipped in 12 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out late in the game, and Michelle Woods contributed 13 markers of her own.
"Everyone stepped up, and I think we all played a big role in the team win tonight," said senior Meaghan Stinson, who added five points of her own.
Midway through the third quarter, a Wilmington field goal pushed the team's lead to 38-18. But slowly the Fishermen chipped away at the deficit and pulled within two points with 1:28 to play.
But having , the Wildcats stayed composed and help on for the victory.
Keane said his charges are gaining confidence with each victory, and are prepared for a daunting task on Wednesday at Whittier Regional Technical School in Haverhill. Tip off against Arlington Catholic comes at 7 p.m.
"These girls, any time they walk in the gym they have a feeling that they can win," said Keane. "And that's important."