Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winnacunnet Girls Win 50th Straight With Defeat of Alvirne

The wins just keep on coming for head coach Ed Beattie and his Winnacunnet girls basketball team. The Warriors have not only won 4 straight Class L titles, but with tonight's 71-46 win over Alvirne they have now won a staggering 50 consecutive games.

It is a streak that definitely deserves recognition. Winnacunnet has a dynasty, and they have been able to keep it going even after graduating one of the best senior classes in recent memory. But one player who does return from last year's team is senior Samantha Corcoran. The 6'0" forward scored a game-high 26 points to lead the Warriors to their milestone victory.

Impressive Streak
Winnacunnet graduated two Division I players in Tiffany Ruffin (Boston College) and Emily Siegart (St. Francis) along with fellow seniors Lindsey Mahoney, Caroline LaRosa, Christine Newcomb and Jen McCann. This was a group of players that is largely responsible for the 4 titles and the long win streak.

So the Warriors lost all of that. And they also only have 2 seniors on this year's team. But make no mistake. Winnacunnet IS indeed one of the favorites in win it all. They have started the 2010-2011 season off with blowout wins over both Manchester Central and Alvirne, who are both preseason top 10 teams.

"The girls I have now played against last year's seniors everyday in practice" explained Coach Beattie. None of our teams lost a game last year - freshmen, JV or varsity."

Beattie does a great job with his team. All of his players are smart, fundamentally sound and they play hard. He has a system down pay that when flat out wins games when it's executed correctly. They run a full court press which forces a TON of turnovers, which in turn leads to easy baskets for the Warriors. And if by chance their opponent does get the ball across half court they settle into a very active, pressure 3-2 zone defense. Offensively they are quick and move the ball very well which leads to open looks all over the floor - either in the paint, from mid-range or from beyond the arc. And they have the shooters to knock those shots down on a consistent basis.

"I told my girls that they did ok" said Alvirne head coach Steve Tracy, who is in his 1st year at the helm. "We were going up against a program that is 20 years in the making. And they shot the lights out."

Not a Bad Showing for Alvirne
All of that being said, this game was definitely closer than the final score indicates. With just 3:50 left in the 4th quarter Alvirne was only down 59-46. They had the basketball with a chance to cut the Winnacunnet lead to just 11 or to only 10 with a three. But instead the Warriors got the ball back, got a couple baskets in a row. Then Alvirne took their starters out with a couple minutes left and Winnacunnet ended the game on a 12-0 run.

"There were 3 games here tonight" said Beattie. "There was us winning by a lot in the beginning, then there was us losing and then after that we were winning again. I was a little disappointed with that middle part. But that just gives me something to use to motivate my kids."

Winnacunnet led 43-22 at halftime, so the fact that they were able to cut it just a 13 point deficit is at least something to feel good about. Leading the run for the Broncos was 5'9" senior guard Deanna "DJ" Purcell (18 points), 5'10 senior wing Katie Donovan (17 points), 5'3" freshman point guard Sandi Purcell and 5'11" forward Taylor Carbone. DJ Purcell was solid all game, knocking down shots, hustling for loose balls, blocking shots and handling the ball well against defensive pressure. She also made one of the plays of the game in the 2nd quarter. She was coming down the court on a 2-on-1 fast break when she faked a pass over to her little sister Sandi (completely faking out the Winnacunnet defender), and then all in one motion lays the ball in the basket. Great move.

Alvirne is a good team, this game doesn't change that. They gave Winnacunnet a better game than most teams in D-I would be able to. I still think the Broncos have a very good chance at a top 8 seed.

Girls from the Seacoast Were the Story Though
Corcoran was simply automatic. Alvirne didn't do a bad job on her defensively, but all she needs is a little but of space and she will knock the shot down. Corcan shot 11/13 from the floor and 4/4 from the free throw line for a total of 26 points. And oh by the way she also had 8 rebounds. Not bad for a player who doesn't even plan on playing basketball in college. Speaking of which, one of the other Winnacunnet players who had a big game is in the same boat. 5'7" junior guard Kirsten O'Neil is a Division I prospect in soccer, yet she had 11 points in this game and is also one of the best defensive players in the state for basketball.

Also playing starring roles for Winnacunnet were junior guards Anna Sullivan and Avianna Morrison. Sullivan had 11 points and played excellent defense all game. She drilled a three pointer about 8 seconds into the game that really set the tone. And Morrison poured in 16 points on the night, including 3 three pointers in the 1st half.

1st Half Domination by Warriors = the Difference
Alvirne played well, and made a little bit of a run to cut the lead down to just 13 in the 2nd half. But there's no question that the 1st half of this game and the way Winnacunnet played in it was the difference. The Warriors jumped out to a 24-6 lead....in the 1st quarter! With about a minute left in the 1st quarter, just 7 minutes into the game, and they had already scored 24 points. That's right, they were on pace to score 100. Sullivan started the game off with a three, and then later in the quarter O'Neil and Morrison hit back-to-back treys. Alvirne came out in a zone defense, and Winnacunnet made them pay.

"They have that signature full court press which we actually did a pretty good job of breaking" said Coach Tracy. I thought they actually had more trouble with our press later in the game than we did with theirs. Unfortunately we just weren't quick enough defensively to stay with them."

That, combined with the Warriors' superb ball movement and red-hot shooting resulted in a big lead early on for "The Beattie Bunch."

Winnacunnet is a very deep team, but when they did rely pretty heavily on their starters. Their starting lineup of Corcoran, O'Neil, Sullivan, Morrison and 6'1" sophomore forward Carly Gould was in there quite a bit. And when they were out there together they were very tough to stop. Gould played well, especially considering she didn't play with the team the entire fall league season as she had a foot operation. Gould definitely has lots of potential as a sophomore who is already 6'1" and can put the ball on the floor, rebound effectively and also run the floor.

Free Throws
Alvirne went 11/16 from the line. Meanwhile, Winnacunnet shot 20/24 from the charity stripe. Anytime you MAKE more free throws than your opponent TAKES you have a pretty darn good chance at winning the basketball game. It should also be noted that Corcoran, Sullivan and O'Neil shot a perfect 16/16 from the line.

Winnacunnet and Londonderry Separating Themselves Early in Season
Going into the year I had these two teams ranked above the rest in girls Division I. Neither team has done anything so far to disappoint, both going 2-0 with blowout wins. Meanwhile the preseason #3 and #4 ranked teams (Manchester Memorial and Trinity) both lost tonight. And the #5 team Bishop Guertin barely beat #12 ranked Merrimack, while #6 ranked Alvirne lost by 20+ tonight and the also barely beat #14 ranked Nashua North. So what does it all mean? Well I know it's early so teams are still figuring things out. But it does look like Londonderry and Winnacunnet are a notch above the rest. In case you're wondering, the Lancers and Warriors square off on January 28 in Hampton. You could see a match-up of two 10-0 teams going at it, with Winnacunnet's winning streak of 58 games on the line, plus the two NH coaching legends (Beattie and John Fagula) matching wits. Let the hype machine begin!

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