Barrington trailed 8-2 at the start of the semifinal against Exeter, a team that knocked off the Eagles earlier this year. But with about seven minutes remaining in the first half, Middleton caught fire. The speedy guard dropped in fast-break layups, knocked down three-pointers and helped her team build a commanding 17-point lead at halftime.
“I was feeling it,” she said of her strong first-half. “In the beginning we got all fast-breaks.”
The Eagles played tough defense against the Scarlet Knights, forcing a number of turnovers. And Barrington made their opponent pay for the miscues, pushing the ball up the court for a series of layups. Maura Kelty and Magdalene O’Hayer each scored fast-break baskets while Grecia Restituyo blocked some key shots.
Exeter’s Taylor Buckley hit a few baskets, but with 2:30 seconds remaining in the first half Barrington went on a 9-2 run and finished the half up 17.
Exeter-West Greenwich wasted no time fighting back at the start of the second half, as Buckley dropped in a few key baskets and her teammate Jessica Patalano added two free throws, cutting the Eagles’ lead to single digits, 36-27, with 10 minutes left in the game. The Scarlet Knights continued to chip away at the lead, aided by a series of Barrington turnovers.
With five minutes remaining, O’Hayer hit a key basket for Barrington, and Restituyo blocked another shot. With the crowd rallying behind them, Barrington pushed the ball to senior guard Caitlyn Nolan, who hoisted a three-pointer from the corner. The shot rimmed out, but one trip later Kelty scored on a hard drive to the glass, giving Barrington a 41-35 lead.
Exeter’s Patalano hit two free throws to cut the edge to four with 1:26 remaining, and Buckley knocked down two more free throws with 32 seconds left to cut it 41-39.
With 25 seconds left, Middleton took an inbounds pass, went coast-to-coast and was fouled while trying to hit a layup. She missed the first and hit the second of two free throws, giving Barrington a 42-39 edge.
With 14 seconds left, Jacelyn Harrington hit a free throw for the Scarlet Knights, pushing the score to 42-40.
The Eagles’ defense then came up with a few key stops, including a nice steal by senior Caroline Coleman, who was then fouled. She missed the front end of a one-and-one, and then bumped Patalano as she drove down the court with just 1.3 seconds.
Patalano had the chance to tie the game, but missed her first free throw. She sunk the second, but Barrington held on to the lead and earned a trip to the state finals on Sunday afternoon.
“In the second half, I think we played not to lose,” said Barrington coach Steve Lenz. “We played so hard in that first half … I think we were gassed in the second half. But we dug in and defended.
“I’m just so happy for the kids. I’m happy I can keep coaching these kids for another five days.”
The Eagles will play against the winner of the Westerly-LaSalle game in the state finals at 4 p.m. at URI’s Ryan Center on Sunday.
“Not going to the state finals was not an option,” said Coleman. “I’m so excited.”