Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Timberlane Girls Over Dover in a Nailbiter

These were two VERY good teams going at it. Dover was 2-0 going in (including a win over #4 ranked Trinity) while Timberlane was 2-1 going in (including a win over #3 ranked Memorial). It was a back-and-forth game, with great defense being played on both sides. In the end though, the Timberlane girls basketball team prevailed on their home floor 40-37 over Dover.

Led by 16 points and 7 rebounds from Emily Rose, a couple of big 2nd half three-pointers by Katie Matatall and Meghan Short who took 4 charges, the Owls beat the Green Wave to improve to 3-1 on the season in a game that had tournament-like intensity.

Let's Get Physical
If there are any girls basketball teams in the state who are more physical than these two I'd like to see them. Because let me tell you, this game was a knock down, smash em' in the mouth, bodies on the floor slugfest. Players were taking charges left and right, diving on the floor for loose balls, hitting each other hard as they went up for shots inside to prevent the easy basket. Tough, inn-your-face defense being played by both teams, often times full court. You will be hard pressed to see a more physical girls basketball game than this one. The last time I saw a game like this was actually the last time I saw Dover play. It was during AAU season and they were playing a team from CT.

It was not only the physical play, but the defensive effort and intensity as a whole that was so impressive. Not only are these two very physical teams, but they are two of the best defensive teams in the state, hands down.

"One thing we hang our hats on is our defensive effort" said Dover head coach Dan Casey. "The 40 points they scored tonight was the most we've given up all year."

With all of the great defense that was played, it was clear that a couple of players stood out among the rest. Short was very good, and was the leader of the Timberlane defense. She was able to defend all 5 positions on the floor. And she also drew 4 charges.

"Short did a real nice job of putting herself in position to take some charges" explained Timberlane head coach Bruce Johnson.

But anyone who was in the gym last night would tell you that the game's best defender was Dover's Allie Mahan. Mahan took awhile to get in a rhythm offensively, but she was a difference-maker on defense every minute of the entire game. She made life VERY difficult all game long for Timberlane point guard Page Travaglini, as Mahan pressured her full court for much of the game and although Travaglini did score 10 points she had to really work for all of them. Mahan had not one but SEVEN steals on the game. After Katherine Harris of Pinkerton, the 5'6" junior guard Mahan is the best defender in the state.

Back-and-Forth Contest
It was very clear to anyone watching this game that not only were these two of the better teams in girls Division I, but they were two VERY evenly matched basketball teams. It was a close, hard fought game the whole way. The largest lead that either team had was a 7 point lead for Timberlane at 21-14 in the 3rd quarter, which the Owls were able to get after going on a 9-0 run (which was immediately preceded by an 8-0 Dover run late in the 2nd quarter). Travaglini hit a big three-pointer off a drive-and-kick as part of the run.

Just when it seemed like Timberlane was in control Dover came storming right back. Led by Mahan and 6'0" senior forward Jamie Boyatsis, the Green Wave went on a 10-0 run of their own. Mahan had one of her 7 steals, and then laid it in on the other end. She was also feeding Boyatsis (team-high 16 points) in the post, and she showed some very nice low post moves. The Owls had different players covering Boyatsis, at times going with Rose and at other times going with Short. Although Short is...well, shorter, she did a better job because she was more physical and drew a couple charges on her. Still, Boyatsis is a very tough player to stop inside when she's playing well due to her size, strength and skill.

"We're capable of going on runs like that" said Coach Casey. "And it was our defense that led to those points."

After the Dover run the went up 24-21. Matatall answered right back though with her first of two BIG 2nd half threes. the 5'8" senior wing banked it in off the glass from the left wing, and we were all tied up 24-24. Boyatsis ended the quarter with a blocked shot underneath and another layup on offense. You could really sense that this game had tournament level intensity. Timberlane led 27-26 after the 3rd quarter, but this game was far from over. It was a good ballgame between two teams who would not be surprised to see have home playoff games come March.

To begin the 4th quarter Mahan continued the great defensive effort. She came up with her 5th steal of the game, then found Boyatsis for another layup. On the very next play she stole the bole again. Rose however, answered back for Timberlane, laying it in down low to put the Owls back on top 29-28. The lead changes would only continue throughout the 4th quarter.

Mahan then stole the ball AGAIN, her 7th of the game. And on the very next Timberlane possession she pressed Travaglini full court, pressuring the heck out of the ball and forcing Travaglini to carry the ball and turn it over. What an outstanding defensive effort by the 5'6" junior.

"I don't think it was so much what they did to us defensively, as it was our mistakes" said Coach Johnson. "We made too many unforced errors against their press."

Megan Walcek then hit a mid-range jumper and Dover went back ahead 32-31. A Travaglini foul shot tied it all up at 32-32. Everyone in the gym was on their edge of their seat, waiting to see how this one would turn out.

That's when Timberlane would hit back-to-back shots from the perimeter, which turned out to be the difference in the game. With the game all tied at 32-32 with 3:50 left to play, Matatall drilled a three-pointer from the left wing (she has a smooth stroke and a quick release). Then on the very next Owls possession, Rose knocked down a shot from 18 feet away and just like that Timberlane was up 37-32 with just 2:48 left. Like they were all game, Dover was still playing tough defense. But those were just a couple of clutch shots by a couple of very good players.

"They hit a couple of key shots" said Casey. And it went from a tie game to a 5 point lead for them pretty fast."

Dover refused to quit, though. Bridget Lynch made a nice, strong drive to the rim and gt to the foul line where she made both free throws. It was now back to a one possession game and you could really feel the playoff intensity on the floor.

Short the missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and Dover was still alive. Boyatsis got the ball in the post, and Short made up for the missed foul shot by taking her 3rd charge of the game.

Then came another big play. Bridget Lynch (whose twin sister Kayla is also on the team) made a very nice drive-and-dish play, finding teammate Emma Johnson down low for a layup. The shot would have made it a 1 point game with 40 seconds left. Instead the official called Lynch for a charge (who was taken by none other than Short).

After another Travaglini free throw it was back to a 2 possession game, with Timberlane up 38-34 with just 27 seconds left. Timberlane kept playing good defense though, and they forced Bridget Lynch into throwing the ball away for a turnover. Another free throw by Matatall made it a 39-34 Owls lead. It would now be very difficult for Dover to come back, but not impossible. Give credit to the Green Wave though - they kept fighting hard all the way. Mahan came right back and drilled a three with 9 seconds left and it was now 39-37 Timberlane - it wasn't over quite yet!

Dover needed a quick steal or a foul. They came VERY close to stealing it off the inbounds play, but Lynch was called for her 5th foul instead. Matatall made 1 of 2 free throws.

Dover then had one last chance. They were down 40-37 with the ball and 5.9 seconds left. Mahan got a good look at a 3 from the left wing. The ball sailed up through the air but rimmed out. Rose grabbed the rebound and that was the game.

Others who played well were Rebecca MacDougall for Timberlane and Laura Hambrook for Dover.

Dover plays Pinkerton on February 4. If you want to see the two best defenders in the state check that game out. Dover's Mahan and Katherine Harris from Pinkerton are sure to be matched up on each other the entire time, with both players giving it their all on defense for every minute. It would be a very fun match-up to see.

As for Timberlane, the deserve some respect around the state. After a tough year last season they have gotten off to a very nice start. I had the Owls ranked #11 in the preseason rankings, but this is clearly one of the top 8 or 9 teams in the division.

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