History repeated itself last night at Manchester Memorial. Last year these same 2 teams met in the Class L prelims. Trinity had the lead, but Memorial made a late comeback and won it. Now this year they meet on the opening night of the Division I girls basketball season, and the same thing happens.
Amra Elezovic scored a game-high 14 points to help lead Memorial to yet another 4th quarter comeback win over Trinity, 34-26 on Friday night. This post contains the complete game recap as well as video highlights of the NH Notebook Game of the Week.
This was not only a rematch of last year's playoffs, but it was match up of 2 of the top 4 ranked teams in the girls Division I preseason rankings. Memorial came in ranked #3 in the division, while Trinity was ranked #4. It was also a "city game," and plus there were no boys games going on as of yet with the bigger schools. So there was a good sized crowd and lots of anticipation. The atmosphere and intensity of this contest gave it the feel of a playoff game. However since it's only December both teams were a little rusty, and the game overall was a little sloppy. The effort was there though, and both teams really got after it for all 4 quarters.
Memorial scored the game's first 5 points, but then Trinity answered with back-to-back threes by junior guards Hannah Willard and Lia Nawn. The Pioneers looked like a slightly sharper team early on.
"We knew they'd come out hard after we beat them last year" said Memorial coach Jack Quirk. "It took us a few minutes to match their intensity."
The teams continued to trade baskets, and the 1st quarter went back and forth, with a total of 6 lead changes. It ended with Trinity leading 10-9. From that point forward, Trinity held onto the lead and didn't give it back to Memorial until the 4th quarter.
Memorial trailed 24-19 late in the 3rd quarter. But the Crusaders stormed back, and they outscored the Pioneers 15-2 the rest of the way. Memorial held Trinity to just 2 points in the 4th quarter, and only 9 points the entire 2nd half.
"In the 1st half we didn't do a good job on the defensive boards" said Coach Quirk. "But in the 2nd half we did a much better job, and we also kept them out of the paint and forced them into taking lots of threes."
Memorial stepped it up on defense. They forced Trinity point guard Emilee Marro to take threes and they weren't falling. Marro did however have a big bank shot in the lane late to keep the Pioneers in it. Nawn made 3 threes on the game and finished with a team-high 9 points. Also hurting Trinity was the fact that forwards Emily Martin and Paige Heslin were in foul trouble for most of the game. Martin fouled out with 4 minutes left to play (with only 2 points scored on the game). And out of the lineup with knee injuries for the Pioneers were seniors Jasmine Theroux and Emily Bourque. Theroux might return late in the year, but Bourque is out for the season.
"Memorial played tough 'D' and forced us to shoot it from the outside" lamented Trinity coach Pat Smith. "With Jasmine out we're going to struggle to score a little bit and we know that."
In the Memorial comeback win last year in the playoffs, Elezovic made a big steal late in the game. She did the same thing again this one. In the 4th quarter, after the Crusaders had taken the lead but it was still anyone's ballgame, Trinity had possession. Nawn was trying to get the ball across half court against some full court pressure by Memorial when Elezovic stripped the ball from her right around half court. The 5'11" junior then took it hard to the basket. Nawn got back on defense, but Elezovic made a nifty crossover dribble move that left her out of position and Amra laid it in for the score. Elezovic also made a pair of 3 pointers and a couple of very nice entry passes down low to open teammates which all showed her versatility as a player.
It was definitely a team win though for Memorial. Sophomore point guard Allie Hartford had a big 3 pointer as part of the comeback, to go with some strong drives to the basket and she also did a nice job of defending Marro and running the Crusader offense. Senior wing Ashley Gendron had 10 points in the win. She hit some big shots from the outside and also had some big rebounds and went hard after loose balls late in the game (as did senior Christa Sopel who also played well). Ari Dimou and Taylor Leonard also played well in supporting roles for the Crusaders. Leonard was making her return to the court after being out since last winter with a leg injury. Elezovic and Gendron both made a number of big foul shots at the end to preserve the victory.
This is just the beginning for these 2 teams. Both squads are expected to win a lot of games this year and make it deep into the playoffs. Having a big game like this against a good team is a good way to start your season off.