WAKEFIELD -- This was no ordinary ambush. It was a well-calculated plan of attack by a basketball team that is playing its best ball of the season when it matters most.
Middies 63, St. Mary's 59
Dracut may have entered the Division 3 North Sectional as the 12th seed while sporting a 10-10 record that stood out like a bad tattoo. But to a man, the Middies felt they could beat any team in the field after going through the rigors of playing in the MVC during the regular season.
So Dracut wasn't the least bit intimidated heading into a semifinal matchup against No. 1 seed St. Mary's of Lynn, which won 20 games during the regular season and was considered by many to be one of the top teams in Massachusetts, regardless of division. The record would indicate otherwise, but Dracut felt it was the better team.
And the Middies went out and proved it on the court.
Senior Mitchell Monette hit a three-point shot that gave the Middies a two-point lead with 15 seconds to play and sophomore JC Santiago then hit a pair of free throws with 4.2 seconds remaining to seal a 63-59 victory over St. Mary's that is sure to become part of Dracut's rich athletic folklore.
Dracut (13-10) will play 10th-seeded Weston (13-10) in the Division 3 North final Saturday at the Tsongas Center at 12:15 p.m. St. Mary's finished 22-3.
"David against Goliath," said Dracut coach Brian Myers. "Call it what you want. We were ready. We knew we could do this.
After winning only one game last season, Dracut is now a win away from a sectional title.
This game ball needs to be carved up since everyone played a role in this victory. Santiago and freshman Adrian Torres paced Dracut's balanced offense with 13 points each. Monette tallied 12 points to go along with five assists and four steals, while Cam McCullough and Will Peters (6 rebounds) tossed in 10 points apiece.
"From 1-19 last year to this," said Myers. "These kids bought in and they believed."
Middie magic will continue thanks to Monette draining a big-time clutch trey that is the latest shot heard throughout Dracut. In Dracut's win over Newburyport in the quarterfinals, Torres hit a game-winning trey in the final seconds.
Dracut was trailing 59-58 when Monette calmly sank his game-winning three-pointer.
"I just trusted my teammates to get me the ball," said Monette. "I've been trusting them all year. Once I got it, I just let it go. It was just my turn tonight. We play as a team. Everyone eats (when it comes to scoring on this team).
"Coming into this game we were the only ones who felt we could win this game. And that's what we did."
St. Mary's had a big-time height advantage on the Middies. But Dracut played big, never backing down even after falling behind by as many as 11 points in the first half.
Thanks to the shooting of Torres, who excelled offensively and defensively, and Santiago the Middies only trailed by a point, 34-33, at halftime.
St. Mary's extended its lead to 46-38 with 3:21 left in the third quarter. But the Middies simply refused to fold. Key baskets by Peters, Farai Zuvaradoka (5 points) and McCullough helped Dracut build a 55-50 advantage with 5:42 to go in the game. But St. Mary's rallied to take a 59-58 lead on a three-pointer by Sammy Batista with time winding down. The Middies, however, weren't ready to call it a season.
"We're not fazed (by a team like St. Mary's)," said Myers. "They're an excellent team, don't get me wrong. But we knew they had some weaknesses that we could exploit with our speed and athleticism. This is a great win."
Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi