Cody Graham (22 points) guides Portsmouth to D1 Title 46-38 over Dover

The final result settles in on Portsmouth and Dover

Cody Graham had answers when the Green Wave got close

(Durham NH) Neither team was supposed to be there.

Portsmouth had heavy graduation losses while Dover hadn’t been to a D1 final since 2005.

But Portsmouth had an 18-2 season and #11 seed Dover upset three higher seeds to gain the Big Game.

The standing-room only crowd at Lundholm Gymnasium, saw Portsmouth excel in the late game and defeat Dover, 46-38, on the UNH campus on Saturday afternoon.  This was the Clippers third straight title.

Senior Cody Graham (22 points) led all scorers and on three different occasions in the second half put up points when Dover had gotten with two points of the lead.

Cody’s most crucial contribution came after the Green Wave (11-11) was within two (40-38) on a Tyler Vitko (18 points) jump shot with 2:52 left.

Dover had the ball twice with that late-game, 2-point deficit but couldn’t find the Big Shot.

When the Clippers started riding that small lead with dribbling and passing the Green Wave was forced to foul and Cody Graham ended up at the line.

Cody Graham (22 points) about to shoot last-minute free throws

Cody (all-time Portsmouth scoring leader) calmly drained two freebies (38 seconds left) and then came back and did it again fifteen seconds later after Tyler Vitko missed a 3-pointer.

Ty Vitko (18 points) surrounded by Clippers

Now up by six (44-38) the Clippers, added two more free throws (Alex Tavares) to take the Division One championship.

“We got it done on defense,” said PHS coach Jim Mulvey afterwards. “They had it down to two.”

Junior Alex Tavares recalled the timeout with the lead at two: “We said, look, if we get a stop here we seal it.”

This was Portsmouth’s fifth straight time in the final game.  Being used to it, probably was a factor in the last few minutes.

Coach Mulvey was quick to praise Cody Graham: “Cody stepped up and made those free throws.  He also covered (Tyler) Vitko who has been killing people.  Cody was unbelievable on both ends of the court.”

John Cantwell surrounded

Dover looked to be on the verge of getting blown out in the first half.  The combination of Portsmouth building an eleven-point lead (23-12) and Dover’s John Cantwell having two fouls, and being on the bench, had me wondering if the #11 seed could recover.

Well, they did!  There were rumors that “everyone” from Dover was there and it sounded like it.  That crowd lifted the GW.

A Devin Cady layup (assist to John Cantwell) had Dover within two (33-31) with 2:20 to go in the third period.  But the next points were scored by Portsmouth’s Cody Graham (layup).

The Green Wave were again within two (35-33) but again Cody Graham answered.  This time it was a 3-pointer assisted by Max Lincoln.

Devin Cady (3), Cody Graham (23), Alex Tavares (22)

Later, as I described earlier, Dover was again within two (40-38) but still yet again it was Cody Graham rescuing Portsmouth.  This time with free throws.

They did not name an MVP but the “answer man” (Cody Graham) certainly would have gotten my vote.

The flawless free throw shooting by Portsmouth didn’t surprise Alex Tavares: “We shoot 50+ every day at the end of practice.”

On December 19th the Clippers had a 63-44 win over Dover at Portsmouth.  I asked Alex Tavares what was different about Dover this time around: “They all jelled.  Their offense flowed.  They were making tough shots.”

Box from the game

The Clippers won their 21st state title this afternoon.

Alex Tavares guards John Cantwell (13 rebounds)

Portsmouth entered this season on a 43-game win streak.  That ended opening night.  The Clippers, after today, now have a fourteen-game win streak running.

Dover was able to put two three-game win streaks together this season.

John Cantwell had thirteen rebounds for Dover.  His time on the bench with fouls was costly in the second quarter.

Starters Alex Tavares and Calvin Hewett will return next season for Portsmouth.  It will be interesting to see how PHS replaces the scoring of Cody Graham.

(All the pictures will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Mike Sanborn

Coach Jim Mulvey

Dover coaching staff

Steal by Griffin Carloni (14)

Mike Sanborn shoots from long range

Alex Tavares shoots a three with the Dover crowd in the background

Ty Vitko in front of the Portsmouth student section


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Ashley Sampson explodes in OT leading Foxboro over Pentucket 58-54

The final result settles in on Pentucket and Foxboro

Foxboro coach Lisa Downs switched to a zone in the second half.

(Woburn MA) I preach to anyone who will listen that no one player loses/wins a team game.

I start with that point because individuals on the losing team can think that they lost the game because they missed free throws or turned the ball over.

They may have done those things but in a game thirty-six minutes long, every player on the floor is a contributor to the final outcome.  No one player loses a game!

But can one player win a game?  Wouldn’t have said so before tonight’s Foxboro win over Pentucket but afterwards?  Ashley Sampson was about as good as you can get in overtime, leading Foxboro into the D2 state finals on a win over Pentucket on Wednesday night at Woburn High School.

Ashley (commit to D2 Adelphi on Long Island) finished with twenty-two points but had FOURTEEN of them in the 4-minute overtime.

Ashley Sampson (22 points) had a remarkable overtime for Foxboro

And just to get to overtime, Ashley had the only points in the last minute of regulation.  She had an old-fashioned three to get the Warriors within two (43-41) and then with two seconds left drove the left baseline to tie it.

You never saw two different halves.

Pentucket, led by Casey Hunt (19 points), made shots and played an excellent brand of half-court man-to-man defense.

Foxboro (24-1) didn’t score a point in the final 4 ½ minutes of the second quarter while Pentucket put up nine points.  In that segment, Jelly Hurley (15 points) had a layup and a three. Maddi Doyle had two free throws, and Emily Riley (assist to Liv Cross) added a layup.

All that good defense/offense put the Sachems ahead, 29-14, at the half.

“Our man-to-man defense wasn’t good in that first half,” said Foxboro coach Lisa Downs afterwards.  “They were penetrating way too much and we weren’t getting a lot of help defense.”

Senior Lily Sykes was more blunt about the Warriors first half: “We were playing like 4th grade basketball in the first half.”

Casey Hunt (19 points) had ten of them in the first quarter

The Sachems would add five more points to their lead to start the second half and to bring their advantage to twenty (34-14) on a Casey Hunt rebound hoop and a Jess Galvin trey.

Down by twenty, one minute into the second half, you had to like the Sachems chances of being on a bus to Springfield on Saturday. The Warriors had other ideas.

Foxboro had been averaging 66 points a game so that first-half, fourteen points was likely to change significantly.

What turned this game around for Foxboro, however, was their defense.  Overmatched by the Pentucket offense, the Warriors resorted to a zone defense in the second half.  Usually when a team is down, they are forced to play man-to-man to change the tempo.  Going the other way, from a man-to-man to a zone, however, struck gold for the team from the Hockomock League.

As their offense picked up, especially long range, the zone defense did what it was supposed to do.

Lily Sykes had five 3’s for Foxboro

The Warriors drained five 3’s in the second half; two by Katelyn Mollica (3rd quarter) and three by Lily Sykes (4th quarter).

The Warriors zone did its part forcing the Sachems to rely on long shots (which weren’t falling) and getting control of the boards.

It was a terrific offense/defense combo for Foxboro and slowly but surely the Pentucket lead began to vanish.

The wildcard was Ashley Sampson and her 19 points per game average.  Sophomore Jelly Hurley came off the bench in the first quarter to shadow Ashley and it worked up until the last minute of regulation.  Ashley had only three points and was on the verge of ending a 1500-point career on a bad note.

“I just didn’t want this to be the last game,” Ashley told me afterwards.

Ashley Sampson was 6-for-6 from the line in OT

Ashley would get the final five points Foxboro needed in the last minute to gain overtime.

Katelyn Mollica (8 points) drives on Angelina Yacubacci

Pentucket had only nine points in the second half after taking that twenty-point lead.  They couldn’t hit from long range and they couldn’t get to the basket.  Almost every possession was one-and-done.

But they still were in good shape after Jelly Hurley nailed a three (from Casey Hunt) with 1 ½ minutes left in regulation.  They were up by five (43-38).

The rest of regulation was a virtual nightmare for the team from West Newbury; two turnovers, misses on the front end of two one-and-one’s, and the inability to secure a rebound on Foxboro’s next-to-the-last possession.  Delete any of those disasters and I suspect that the team from the Cape Ann League would now be a lot happier.

Ashley Sampson tied the score in regulation and then had two three’s in the first two minutes of OT.  A Maddi Doyle layup cut the FHS lead to two, 49-47, but Ashley answered back with a layup.

The rest of the way Foxboro shot free throws.  Grace Tamulionis made one while Ashley was six-for-six.

“Coach always says that free throws win games,” said Ashley post-game.  “Tonight, we hit ours at the end like we practice every day.”

Ashley Sampson tries to get past Jelly Hurley (15 points)

Maddie Doyle and Casey Hunt hit three’s in the last few seconds but Foxboro still won, 58-54.

The Warriors will face Hopkinton on Saturday in Springfield.  Those two faced each other twice this season and each team won once.  Should be a good battle.

Saturday’s title game will be Foxboro’s first one in fifteen years.

Coach Downs: “Ashley played at the end like the MVP she is.  When the pressure is on we want the ball in her hands.”

Lily Sykes: “We knew if we were to get back in the game it would have to be defensively.”

“Once we started making shots in the second half our confidence built up,” said Ashley.

Casey Hunt (19 points) had a terrific game.  The sophomore had ten points in the first half getting freely to the basket several times.

Jelly Hurley dropped three 3’s on her way to a 15-point night.  Her defense on Ashley Sampson was very good until Ashley got it going late in the game.

Casey Hunt passes to Liv Cross

The quality of Foxboro was evident when Pentucket couldn’t turn them over with their pressure.  Foxboro ended up with twelve turnovers while Pentucket had fourteen, including two in the final ninety seconds.

The Sachems (23-3) graduate three from the team but should be very strong next year.

I managed to get lost getting to Woburn High School.  Seems that Montvale Street will get you to a quiet neighborhood.  However, Montvale Avenue will get you to the high school.  Fortunately, for me, a mailman was able to straighten me out on that significant difference and I adjusted my GPS.

Foxboro box

Pentucket box

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge if you click on them.)

Casey Hunt guarded by Ashley Sampson

Casey Hunt and Lily Sykes

Abby Hassman looks to pass

Grace Tamulionis lines up a three

Maddie Doyle to the hoop in overtime

Late-game free throws

Late-game free throws










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Coyle Cassidy reaches D4 state finals with 55-47 win over Fenway

Kaylee Haynes (13) passes ahead to an open teammate and an easy two points

Kassidy Fields (41) looks for an inbounds pass

(Boston MA) The storm arrived a day early for Coach John Rice and his Fenway Panthers.

That “storm” was the Coyle & Cassidy Warriors.

The Warriors (22-3) never trailed as they won the Division 4 state semi-final game, 55-47, on Monday afternoon at the TD Garden.

“We just played the best team we’ve played all year,” said Coach Rice afterwards.  “They did everything well.”

This was the first time Fenway (21-3) has lost at the Garden in the five times Coach Rice has brought his teams there.

The Warriors started fast (9-0) forcing the Panthers to burn two timeouts in the first four minutes.  Senior Me’ara Carter (10 points) finally got Fenway on the board with a nice spin down the lane.

The team from Taunton built their advantage to as many as seventeen points (40-23) in the third quarter and still were up by fourteen (44-30) two minutes into the final quarter.

Kaylee Haynes trapped by Dasiah Thornton and Colby Upchurch

But a good team like Fenway was not going to go away.

“I told the team at halftime that Fenway would make a run,” recalled Coach O’Brien, “and that was what happened.”

The Panthers put a run of eight straight together and suddenly with 3:20 left in the game the deficit was just six (44-38). Dasiah Thornton had a three during the rally.

Plenty of time for Fenway but on this afternoon C&C refused to let it happen.

A key play for the Warriors was a Kassidy Fields block that led to a breakaway layup.  “Kassidy blocked it and it came to me,” said Sam Hourihan afterwards.  “I outleted the ball and we ended up with a layup.”

The play Sam described was part of the ten points the Warriors put together after Fenway was within six.

Rachel Johnson (12 points) turns the corner on Nattaly David

Kaylee Haynes and Rachel Johnson were also major contributors in the game-sealing segment that gained C&C separation (54-38).

Kaylee had two layups and a free throw while Rachel assisted on the first two baskets in the two minutes of offensive excellence.

The Panthers would add nine points in the last minute, but time was on C&C’s side and they won, 55-47.

“We cut the lead to six but then left one of their players alone and they went down and got an and-one,” said Coach Rice.  “That turned the momentum their way.”

“We perservered,” said Coach O’Brien.  “We made some big shots down the stretch.”

Coyle & Cassidy will play for the state title on Saturday at Springfield against Monson.  It will be the Warriors first time in the state finals since 1987.

Plenty of good guard play by the Warriors.  The Panthers some serious pressure on those guards in the second half. The result was four C&C turnovers as the team from Roxbury cut the lead to six.

“We were too close to the sidelines,” said guard Kaylee Haynes after the game. “That is why they were able to trap us. When we got the ball into the middle we were able to spread them out and get layups.”

Dasiah Thornton (10 points) uses a Me’ara Carter screen

The Warriors ran early in the game with missed Fenway attempts to get that nine-zip lead.  Rachel Johnson, Sam Hourihan, Kaylee Haynes, and Kassidy Fields supplied the points.

Fenway had size (Me’ara Carter is 6-3) and drivers.  The Warriors handled those things with help defense. They also committed plenty of fouls but benefitted from an off afternoon at the line by the Panthers.

Fenway’s poor foul shooting (19-for-35) had a direct connection to the final outcome.  When the Panthers were within six, in the last quarter, they had already missed thirteen freebies.

C&C had success during the game breaking out with Fenway misses and getting layups before the Panthers shot blockers could get back on defense to be a factor.

Juniors Rachel Johnson and Kaylee Haynes led the Warriors with twelve points each.  Rachel had nine in the first half.

Junior Colby Upchurch (12 points) paced Fenway.  Junior Dasiah Thornton and senior Me’ara Carter both collected ten points for Fenway.

Jenna Piatelli at the line

Senior Jenna Piatelli came off the C&C bench to tally six points in short minutes.

“My father coached thirty years and never got a sniff at a state championship,” said Coach O’Brien.  “I’m happy to be in this situation.”

The Warriors were able to contain sophomore Janyah Gulley.  In the tournament, Janyah had twelve rebounds against Lowell Catholic and nineteen points versus Mystic Valley.

John Rice has won sixteen Boston City League titles; five at Fenway and thirteen at Burke.

It is always exciting for the players to play a big game at the Garden.  So much history.  Pretty exciting for a blogger to cover a game there too.

Coyle & Cassidy box

Fenway box

(All pictures will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Post-game pose

Kaylee Haynes (13) gets past Colby Upchurch (11)

Kassidy Fields (9 points) about to cash a breakaway layup

Abbie Kurtzer puts up an open three

Nattaly David (20) looks to shoot

Colby Upchurch (12 points) tries to turn the corner on Kaylee Haynes

Kaylee Haynes (13) drew a charge from Janyah Gulley (25) on this play

Dasiah Thornton (3) heads down the lane with Stacie Leonard (23)

Guard Kaylee Haynes (13) looks one way and passes another

Abbie Kurtzer looks for someone to pass to

Rachel Johnson (12 points)

Me’ara Carter looks for open space

Me’ara Carter at the line

Sam Hourihan defends Colby Upchurch




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Pentucket takes D2 North title with 48-33 win over Wakefield

Hannah Dziadyk harassed by three Pentucket defenders

Casey Hunt on defense against Hailey Lovell

(Lowell MA) Rome wasn’t built in a day nor was that amount of time enough for Wakefield to prepare for Pentucket’s pressure.

The result? A 48-33 win by the Sachems (23-2) over the Warriors (18-6) on Saturday afternoon at the Tsongas Arena in the Divison 2 North final.

“No team in the Middlesex League plays that type of aggressive, double-teaming defense,” said WHS coach Jason Pavey afterwards. “It was tough to prepare for them in a day.”  The Warriors reached the D2 North final with a win over Wilmington on Thursday.

With today’s victory, Pentucket will return for a sixth time for a tournament game (Tuesday 5:45PM) at the TD Garden.  The good news for Pentucket is that they won’t be facing D3 Archbishop Williams.  The Sachems are 2-3 at the Garden and all three losses have been to the Archies.

The Warriors (18-6) had size and seniors.  After being down by seven in the first quarter, Wakefield started the second on a run of five points on a rebound basket by Allee Purcell and a free throw as well as a layup by Hannah Butler.  That narrowed the Pentucket advantage to 13-11 after two minutes in the second quarter.

Allee Purcell (11 points) ahead of everyone after a Pentucket turnover

That would be as good as it would get for Wakefield. The rest of the quarter the Pentucket defense stymied Wakefield while the Sachems scoring picked up.  Last six minutes of the half?  The Warriors had only a free throw (Hannah Dziadyk) while Pentucket collected thirteen points.

In that breakaway segment, Maddi Doyle had a free throw, but all the other points were on 3-pointers.  Casey Hunt started with an old-fashioned three.  Then it was Maddi Doyle, left all alone, draining a long one from straight away.  The last two?  Angelina Yacubacci set up by Casey Hunt and Liv Cross.

Angelina Yacubacci (15 points) made three 3’s

“The NBA lines on the court made it a little confusing at the start,” said Angelina after the game.

The Warriors trailed 26-12 at the half.

“We were better in the second half,” said Coach Pavey, “but we’d dug ourselves too deep a hole against a very good team.”

Pentucket’s lead was down to eight (33-25) after a buzzer-beating layup by Hannah Butler at the end of the 3rd period.

“They cut the lead to eight but then Angelina (Yacubacci) hit a three which was huge,” explained Pentucket coach John McNamara.

Pentucket applies pressure

The Warriors began the final quarter with four turnovers and the Sachems regained separation, 39-25, for good.  The final was 48-33.

It is easy to notice the Pentucket defense but what I am starting to notice is their ability to run an effective half-court offense when they have to.  Up by double-figures in the final quarter, there was plenty of organized movement that opened up lanes to the basket for layups or resulted in foul shots.

Angelina Yacubacci led all scorers with fifteen points.  Allee Purcell paced Wakefield with eleven points.

One of the keys to the Pentucket win was their ability to contain senior Hannah Dziadyk.  In this year’s post-season, Hannah had five 3’s against Burlington, seventeen points versus North Reading, and twenty-two points against Wilmington.  Maddi Doyle was the primary defender on Hannah although it seemed to me that there were multiple defenders most of the time.

Wakefield used a zone defense for part of the game.  “It was the first time we’ve seen a zone in a while,” said Coach McNamara.  The Sachems had several turnovers in the early going, trying to force passes into the interior of the Warrior zone.

Jelly Hurley hemmed in by Allee Purcell

“Wakefield hasn’t been this far in the tournament for a while, “said Coach Pavey.  “We had a lot of nervous energy and they wouldn’t let us settle in.”

“We want the other team to play at our pace and we try to force turnovers,” explained Casey Hunt afterwards regarding her team’s style of play.

“Our defense will take us as far as we’re going to go,” said Coach McNamara.  “Hopefully it will take us a couple more games.”

I like the Tsongas Arena.  The lighting is terrific.

Pentucket box

Wakefield box

(All of the pictures will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Jess Galvin (8 points) puts up a three as Coach John McNamara watches

Maddi Doyle guards Hannah Dziadyk

Pentucket celebrates

Pentucket team

Jelly Hurley (24) gets away from Olivia Dziadyk

Casey Hunt (20) covered by Hailey Lovell (22)

Liv Cross (8 points) in for two

Angelina Yacubacci (22) on a breakaway after a steal

Casey Hunt drives on Allee Purcell







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Pentucket reaches D2 North finals with 59-45 win over Melrose

Pentucket celebrates after defeating Melrose

Casey Hunt (14 points) shoots over Sam Dewey

(Danvers MA) Pentucket dominated the beginning and the end defeating Melrose, 59-45, in the Division 2 North semi-finals on Thursday night at St. John’s Prep.

The Sachems (22-2) take on Wakefield on Saturday (2PM) in the D2 North finals at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell.  Melrose and Wakefield split in their two Middlesex League games this season.

Pentucket ran and pressed Melrose into mistakes from the outset and had a 10-0 lead after 4 ½ minutes.

“We never got into any kind of rhythm,” said Melrose coach Bill Hirchfield afterwards. “They were right on us from the get-go.”

Peri MacDonald (11) looks for a pass

What looked like a bad matchup early was anything but that as the game progressed.

Pentucket still led by ten (22-12) with 1 ½ minute left in the first half before a three-minute, twelve-point surge gave the Lady Raiders (19-4) the lead, 24-22, early in the third quarter.

During the run of good Melrose offense, Sam Smith’s big three ended the first half. Lily Cunningham (13 points) continued the Melrose scoring with a full-court layup and free throw.  Freshman Sam Dewey (17 points) finished the drive to the lead with a put-back.

“We scouted her (Sam Dewey) and knew she was good,” explained Pentucket coach John McNamara.  “She is very hard to handle down low.”

Freshman Sam Dewey (17 points) led all scorers

Liv Cross (10 points,10 rebounds) reignited the Pentucket offense with a rebound basket to tie things at 24-24.

Angleina Yacubacci (10 points) followed with two free throws that gave the Sachems the lead for good with four minutes to go in the 3rd quarter.

This game, however, was anything but settled.

The Lady Raiders stayed within one or two possessions until the Sachems gained serious separation with a run of seven points early in the final quarter to pull up by ten, 46-36.

That ten-point separation was just about as safe as that 10-0 lead at the start!

Alexis Doherty and Lily Cunningham drained three’s and Sam Dewey hit a free throw.  Suddenly that “comfortable” lead was once again a one-possession lead with three minutes left.

As I said at the start, Pentucket finished strong.  In the final stretch they controlled the ball without any turnovers and forced Melrose to foul by constantly going to the basket.

The Sachems late-game foul shooting was a very good eleven-for-fourteen.  There was also a Jess Galvin (11 points) layup set up by Casey Hunt (14 points).

The Lady Raiders could get just two free throws (Alexis Doherty) in those outcome-deciding final three minutes.

Peri MacDonald surrounded by Sachems

The final was 59-45.

“Everything we do is based off of our defense,” said Coach McNamara.  “When we play good defense, our offense opens up.”

That Sachems’ defense created a whopping thirty-two turnovers including six during the fast start and four during the strong finish.

The Lady Raiders were at their best when they turned Pentucket misses into fast breaks.  Lily Cunningham went the distance several times for Melrose.

“They were a good team,” said junior Liv Cross afterwards.

Liv gave credit to Coach McNamara: “He knows exactly what will work against teams.  He puts a lot of time and effort into scouting other teams.  We are always well prepared.”

Coach McNamara cited the play of junior Maddie Doyle: “She did a spectacular job on #32 (Alexis Doherty).  She is their high scorer and Maddie was very disciplined to keep focus on her.  Those little things are what gets a team to the divisional finals.”

Angleina Yacubacci (22) tries to drive by Abby Cunningham

The Sachems drove frequently to the basket. “We knew that they weren’t too deep, so we wanted to attack them and get them into foul trouble,” said Caoch McNamara. “We want to wear the other team down.”

I arrived early and wondered where everyone was.  Of course, I was at the old gym.  I told Coach McNamara about my mistake before the game and he said that he liked that old gym because Pentucket had never lost there.

The new gym is very nice.  The old one had one scoreboard.  This one has several.  I am not a fan of seats in the end zones but overall, I liked it.

Melrose’s last win over Wakefield gave them the Middlesex League Freedom Division title for the first time in ten years.

Melrose box

Pentucket box

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge if you click on them.)

Liv Cross (32) blocks a shot attempt by Sam Dewey

Jess Galvin (11 points)

Sam Dewey guards Liv Cross

Casey Hunt dives for a loose ball

Lily Cunningham (10) went coast-to-coast several times

Casey Hunt tied up by Lily and Abby Cunningham

Maddie Doyle (21) defends Alexis Doherty

Casey Hunt (20) takes off after another steal

Freshman MacKenzie Currie at the line


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Free throws boost Conant to Division 3 title 36-30 over Hopkinton

Liz Gonyea (12 points) made ten free throws

Mariah Chamberlain (30) led all scorers with 13 points

(Hooksett NH) Practice makes perfect.

Conant captured the Division 3 New Hampshire state championship, 36-30, over Hopkinton on Saturday afternoon at SNHU.

Late-game free throw shooting was huge for the Orioles. It wasn’t that the Hawks missed so many, it was that Conant made so many.

“I’ve been working all year on my foul shots,” explained Liz Gonyea afterwards. “After practice I try to make ten in a row.”

Liz didn’t make ten in a row in this game, but she did drop ten-of-twelve, including three straight, in the final twenty-five seconds to seal it for Conant.

Krista Amoth (15) and Amelia Thomas (10) try to keep Mariah Chamberlain away from the basket

“We knew it would be a close game,” said Hopkinton coach Pat Roye.  “Even though we had beaten them twice during the regular season, they had played well afterwards.”

The Orioles (18-4) finished the season winning eight straight and added to that streak with three more wins in the tournament.

There was little to indicate which team would take the title until the closing minutes.  There were eight lead changes and three ties.

Neither team shot well from the floor.  Hopkinton was 11-for-42 (26.2%) while Conant was 10-for-35 (28.6%).

The free throw stats showed (me) where this game was won.  Hopkinton (17-5) made six-of-eight but Conant made fifteen-of-nineteen gaining nine points from the line.

Liz Gonyea (23) in the middle of three Hawks

Hopkinton coach Pat Roye said, “We were hesitant to attack at times.  The stage got to us a little bit.”

Liz Gonyea hit three free throws in the final twenty-five seconds to separate Conant from Hopkinton

No hesitation for Conant.  Mariah Chamberlain (13 points) spun to the basket every time she had possession down low.  Teammate Liz Gonyea took openings to the hoop and sometimes the resulting shots were wild ones but other times she drew free throws.  On this championship afternoon, the freshman made ten-of-twelve free throw attempts.

“Her composure down the stretch was remarkable,” said Coach Troy about Liz’s free throw heroics.

I asked Coach Troy about what adjustments he made before facing the Hawks for the third time: “We packed in the middle a little bit and we got out on their shooters better than we did last time.”

Senior Taylor Banish told me, “We wanted them to be one-and-done so that we would get more opportunities to score.”

The Orioles played a zone defense while Hopkinton played a man-to-man most of the way.

Liz Gonyea ended up with a double/double (12 points and 11 rebounds).  She also had four steals.

Camri Aho (9 points) lines up an outside shot

Junior Camri Aho had 9 points getting seven of them, including Conant’s only 3-pointer, in the second half.

Amelia Thomas and Abby Houston led Hopkinton with seven points each.

This was Conant’s 3rd championship game in the last four years.  The Orioles have been in seven championship games since the last time Hopkinton was in one (2003).

The story of Liz being from Alaska is well known.  “We moved here the end of August,” she explained. “We have tons of family down here.”

I appreciated the stat pages provided by SNHU.

Box from the game.

(All of the pictures will enlarge if you click on them.)

Conant (2018 D3 champs)

Senior Taylor Banish raises the championship plaque

Conant coach Brian Troy and Abby Houston afterwards

Taylor Banish (10) and Taylor Signor (5)

Silas Bernier (20) eyes the hoop

Taylor Signor (5) and Taylor Banish (10)

Camri Aho (11) and Katie Meserve (32) battle for rebounding position

Maurgan McGrath

Abby Houston





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Bedford executes late and defeats Amesbury 61-58 in D3N quarterfinals

Lauren Legere (13 points) goes baseline for Bedford

Mel Proulx looks to pass

(Amesbury MA) “That game could have gone either way,” said Bedford coach Jason Talanien afterwards.

When Flannery O’Connor’s 3-point attempt missed in the closing seconds, the Bedford Buccaneers had an, 61-58, Division 3 North quarterfinals win over Amesbury on Thursday night.

“It was back-and-forth all night,” said AHS coach Matt Willis.  “Great effort by both teams.”

The Bucs (13-9) trailed by three (57-54) with three minutes left.  “We’ve had many close games,” explained Coach Talanien, “and we have worked a lot on last-minute execution.”

One thing that the team from the Dual County League did well was take the ball to the basket.  The Indians (13-8) used a 3-2 zone to protect the perimeter but this gave the Bedford drivers openings and they weren’t shy about taking advantage.  Fifteen Bedford baskets were in the layup area.

Ali Napoli (26 points) in from the left

The Bucs defeated Whittier in the first round with eleven 3-pointers, hence the Amesbury’s 3-2 zone.  Bedford had only three long ones versus Amesbury but one of them, by Jenn Rennich, came in the final three minutes.

The Bucs were also good at the free-throw line hitting 17-for-23.  None bigger than two straight by Annie Cowen with fifteen seconds left.

Joelle DeLia’s layup (1:53) brought Bedford within one, 57-56.  Next possession Jenn Rennich drilled a three from in front of the Bedford bench to give the Bucs the lead, 59-57, with 1:25 to go.

Ali Napoli went to the line with thirty-three seconds left with a chance to tie the game but made only the second shot.

The Bucs guarded that slim one-point lead (59-58) until Annie Cowen was fouled with fifteen seconds remaining.  With the Amesbury student section yelling in her left ear, Annie made both shots.

The Indians needed a made three to tie but on this frantic evening it didn’t happen.

Flannery O’Connor secures a rebound

Both teams extended pressure full-court the whole game and every rebounder was liable to get double-teamed.

“Our defense was better in the second half,” said Coach Talanien. “Trying for steals got us into foul trouble in the first half.”

Ali Napoli (26 points) had another remarkable performance.  Because of the Indians youth and inexperience, Ali was expected to be the primary ball-handler, top rebounder, and leading scorer. The upgrade in my eyes of her game in this game was her ability to get the ball to open teammates.  I had her for seven assists.

Bedford had four players in double figures; Joelle Delia (18), Annie Cowen (15), Lauren Legere (13), and Cate Marcus (10).

Joelle DeLia (18 points) defended by Ali Napoli

Joelle had four successful driving layups in her 10-point final quarter.

Flannery O’Connor tallied fifteen for Amesbury.

Bedford was 5-15 last season.

Amesbury made 8-of-17 free throws.

There were ten lead changes including five in the final quarter.

The Buccaneers had a seven-point lead in the first quarter (11-4) before Ali Napoli and Catherine LaForte (three with 4 seconds left) drove AHS ahead 17-16 to end that quarter.

“This was a great experience for our young team,” explained Coach Willis.  “Every girl is coming back next season.”

Amesbury box

Bedford box

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably.)

Annie Cowen hit clutch free throws in the closing seconds

Cate Marcus trapped in a corner by Ashley Porcaro and Ciara Sullivan

Ciara Sullivan and Joelle DeLia

Ali Napoli gets in for two

Flannery O’Connor tries to get past Cate Marcus

Joelle DeLia (11) runs into Mary Bullis

Annie Cowen (15 points) eyes the hoop

Lauren Legere finishes

Mary Bullis gets a rebound

Lauren Legere hit two 3’s

Jenn Rennich (hit a big three late in the game)





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