Lately I've been spending quite a bit of time in the city of Dover. Whether it's to cover a basketball game, a hockey game, or to drop off my alimony check (just kidding!). Tonight however, I made my first trip to St. Thomas Aquinas High School, and broadcasted the BIG Class I girls basketball game between Portsmouth and St. Thomas. And like the title of this post says, the football team down in New Orleans isn't the only Saints team winning games these days. The St. Thomas girls improve to 12-2 on the season with a 56-44 win over Seacoast rival Portsmouth. This was not only a seacoast rivalry game, but it was a battle between the two best teams in girls Class I basketball.
Going into this game I was anticipating an intense, well played game. I thought that even though there were a handful of intriguing matchups on the boys side, this could end up being the game of the night. While this game did have it's moments, it did not live up to the hype, I'm not going to lie. One team shot just 24% from the floor, and the other team had 31 turnovers...yikes!
Portsmouth shot just 15-63 from the floor (24 %). A lot of those misses were easy looks too, layups and inside shots that were very make-able. The Clippers also made just 1 of their 17 three point attempts. To be fair, on some of these misses it was just bad luck. A lot of their shots, especially those by senior forward Rosa Drummond, went halfway down the basket and then popped out. The 6'2" Drummond had 10 points, but she could have had 20 with some better luck.
As for St. Thomas, they somehow won the basketball game despite turning it over 31 times. They turned it over 7 times in the first 4 minutes of the third quarter alone! Portsmouth was pressing them full court, and the Saints simply could not handle the ball or get it across half court. Not only that, but once Portsmouth would steal the ball and go on the fast break, St. Thomas was not doing a good jopb of stopping the ball. Basic fundamentals say that when defending the break your first priority is stopping the ball. Force the player to give the ball up and don't let them get in the lane. But St. Thomas was not only tuning it over, but they weren't stopping the ball on the break, and the Clipper guards were bale to get to the basket at will.
However, that is where I go back to Portsmouth and not being able to finish inside. Because although the Saints were allowing them to get to the hole, the Clippers still weren't converting. At one point in the third quarter Portsmouth missed two wide open layups on back to back plays.
All of that being said, there were some positives in this game. First and foremost was the individual play of Portsmouth's Rosa Drummond and Ali Beauregard. Drummond is a very versatile player. The 6'2" senior can play inside and out. She has the size and strength to score and rebound down low. At the same time, she can step out and knock down the three and she has the quickness to drive by a slower defender. Drummond had 9 rebounds to go with her 10 points. Beauregard, a 5'7" junior guard, had a game-high 16 points for the Clippers. She is an excellent slasher, ball handler and can score inside very effectively for a smaller player.
Portsmouth may have had the two best players on the floor tonight. But St. Thomas won because they played better team basketball and they knocked down their free throws.
With Drummond, Beauregard and Susie French, the Clippers have some talented individual players. But they ran too much isolation on offense. And when they did pass the ball, St. Thomas did a good job of getting in the passing lanes and forcing turnovers, especially in the fourth quarter. St. Thomas was a more balanced, unselfish team down the stretch which really worked in their favor.
Free throws were also huge for St. Thomas, as they made 19 of 23. Included in there is 9 of 11 in the final frame. This game really was much closer than the final score indicates, but the Saints made a lot of foul shots at the end.
St. Thomas is a well balanced team. They don't really have 1 or 2 stars, but rather 5 or 6 key players who share the load. Two players did stand out slightly more than the rest tonight however. They were senior guards Caleigh MacDonal and E.C. Chojnicki.
Both teams are now 12-2 on the season. Certainly though, neither team played their best game tonight. Both teams will regroup after this one and I expect some better basketball for both squads down the stretch and into the tournament. If these two meet again in the tournament I would not be surprised to see Portsmouth get revenge and get the win. They have more overall talent, they just need to make their layups and play better team basketball and they'll be fine. St. Thomas is a very well coached team, by Sabrina Payeur. She really gets the most out of her players.