Monday, January 24, 2011

Hartford Hits Game-Winner, Memorial Girls Beat Trinity

A tie game with only seconds remaining, then a player hits a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer. We've all seen it in the movies and on TV. But not nearly as many have seen it in person, especially at the varsity level. Well on Sunday afternoon at Trinity High, it happened.

Sophomore point guard Allie Hartford got the ball with 2 seconds left with the game all tied up 38-38. She was 2 feet behind the three-point line when she launched the ball towards the basket. It banked off the backboard and in, just as the buzzer sounded. The crowd went nuts, she was mobbed by her teammates. And the Manchester Memorial girls basketball team held off a 4th quarter rally to defeat Trinity 41-38 to win their 7th game in a row and improve to 8-1 on the season.

"The Shot Heard Round McHugh"
Memorial had the ball with about 30 seconds left with the game tied up. They put the ball in the hands of junior guard/forward Amra Elezovic.

"We knew we would at the least be going to overtime" said Manchester Memorial head coach Jack Quirk. "And I felt good about giving the ball to Amra because when she drives she draws other defenders, so I figured we'd get a good look for somebody."

Elezovic, who scored a game-high 21 points, looked to go isolation on her defender and drove to the basket. When the defense collapsed she dished it out to senior Taylor Leonard. With time running out Leonard then swung the ball over to Hartford on the left wing, outside the three-point arc. That's when Hartford hit the game-winner.

"Coach just told us to take the last shot" said an ecstatic Hartford after the game. "We didn't really run a play. Taylor was covered so she got the ball to me, and I knew I had to shoot it. I saw it go in and then everyone was all around me. It's my first varsity game-winner."

Hartford is only a sophomore for Memorial, but she certainly doesn't play like one. The 5'3" floor general has played in plenty of big games already, and in addition to her 8 points she also played some tough pressure defense.

"It couldn't happen to a better kid" said Coach Quirk. "She's a very intelligent player. She'll point things out to me during a game that I may not have even noticed. She's started every game since she was a freshman. How many sophomores in the state have already started 30 varsity basketball games?"

Best High School Game of the Year?
If this one wasn't the best, it is definitely up there. Led by Emilee Marro, Paige Heslin and Lia Nawn, Trinity made a resilient comeback. After a three-pointer by Elezovic to cap a 6-0 Memorial run the Crusaders were up 27-18 late in the 3rd quarter. That was their largest lead of the game. From there, the Pioneers slowly got back back into it.

Marro (team high 14 points) had a number of strong drives to the rim and tough, acrobatic finishes inside as she put the team on her back and scored 10 of her 14 points in the 2nd half, and 8 of them in the 4th quarter. Her outside shot wasn't falling, but Marro was very effective taking the ball to the basket to use her strength to her advantage.

It was a low scoring game, but in the 4th quarter the girls started to get in a rhythm, feed off the energy of the crowd, and more shots started to fall. It was only 27-22 Memorial after 3, but in the 4th Trinity outscored the Crusaders 16-14.

In the 4th quarter both teams just kept trading big basket after big basket. Ari Dimou had a big shot for Memorial, double-pumping in the air and then banking in the shot from 15 feet away. Then Marro came right back down and hit a big shot of her own on a very tough drive. After a couple of other big baskets by Marro, Nawn (11 points) drilled a three to make it 33-32 Memorial with 4:06 left. Then Marro came off a screen and broke free for a wide open lay-up to tie the game up at 34-34. Then things got even worse for Memorial as senior guard Ashley Gendron fouled out with 2:58 left to play. Gendron was in foul trouble all game, and was held to just 5 points.

The 5'11" Elezovic (a match-up nightmare) then got a steal and led a 2-on-1 break for Memorial. She dished it over to Leonard who laid it in off the glass to put the Crusaders up 36-34. Heslin and senior Emily Martin however began to really make a difference fr Trinity on the offensive boards, as the got a handful of their points on put-backs. Heslin (7 points and 9 rebounds) grabbed scored back-to-back baskets, and Trinity led 38-36 late. Memorial then tied it up at 38-38.

Nawn then went to the basket with the game tied on Trinity's last possession. There was a lot of contact but no call. Memorial got the rebound with about 30 seconds left, and that's when "The Shot Heard Round McHugh" happened.

The Bottom Line
Memorial is the second best team in Division I right now, only behind Winnacunnet. They only beat Spaulding by 5 on Saturday night and only beat Trinity at the buzzer, but they just keep winning games. They have a very talented roster, and with sophomore Danielle Fletcher now back in the lineup from her concussion they are now even deeper.

Trinity meanwhile is the best 6-loss team in the entire state, hands down. They have shown that they are a team that can compete with the best out there, giving Memorial all they could handle (twice). And while Winnacunnet is undefeated it was Trinity who gave them their toughest game, as Trinity lead that game with 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter.

Playing in games like these, where it is close, back-and-forth, high intensity and a playoff atmosphere will only make both Memorial and Trinity better as the season goes on.

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