Monday, January 10, 2011

John Stark Girls Win Thriller Over Hanover

The Hanover girls basketball team was 5-0 heading into Monday night's match-up with John Stark, including a 47-46 victory at home in the first meeting between the two teams. But tonight the Generals got revenge.

Senior guard Katie Cullerot (committed to play college basketball at Division I Assumption College) scored a game-high 21 points, and John Stark pulled out a thrilling win on their home court by defeating Hanover 40-38 in a Division II battle. In the process they not only avenged the early season loss, but Stark also handed the Marauders their first defeat of the season.

Here is the game's complete recap, plus video highlights, and a post-game interview with Player of the Game Katie Cullerot.

Cullerot vs. Rosen Show
Here's something that you do not see everyday. One player scores at least half of their team's points. Definitely not an everyday occurrence, right? Well, how about if two different players do it on the same night? And how about if both players did it in the same game? Pretty crazy, right? Well that's exactly what happened this evening.

Cullerot scored 21 of Stark's 40 points (that's just over half for any non-math majors out there). Meanwhile Hanover senior guard Emma Rosen poured in 19 of Hanover 38 points (exactly half).

Both players were really on their games tonight. Cullerot is known as a long range bomber (no coincidence that she played for the NH Lady Bombers AAU program), but tonight she got most of her points on drives to the basket, mid-range jumpers and free throws.

After dropping 7 points on Hanover in the 3rd quarter, the Marauders went to a box-and-1 defense to try and slow her down. Hanover senior guard Morgan Metcalf was the one player who was guarding Cullerot, and she played so far up on her that Cullerot couldn't go anywhere. This however allowed the other Stark players to step up and make plays, including senior guard Allison Harris (10 points). Harris drilled a BIG three-pointer (her second of the game) with 1:46 left in the game that put the Generals back in the lead 37-35. Sophomore guard Rebecca Titcomb also had 2 big free throws down the stretch for Stark, which also put the Generals ahead.

As for Rosen, she also had an exceptional game. She got of to a quick start, scoring 9 points in the 1st quarter. Hanover jumped out to a 10-4 lead early (the largest lead either team would have all game), and it was largely thanks to Rosen's strong play. She showed a sweet shooting stroke from the outside and also finished effectively inside. The 5'8" guard also came up big for the Marauders down the stretch. Hanover trailed 30-27 going into the 4th quarter. But then Rosen drilled a three which tied the game up at 30-30 with 5:11 left to play. Then with the game still tied she got out and ran the floor on the fast-break, caught a pass from a teammate, finished the basket with her left hand plus got fouled for the and-1. It was back-to-back clutch plays by the senior captain, and just like that Hanover went from being down 3 to being up 3 with 4:29 left in the 4th quarter. Unfortunately for Hanover those would be her final points of the game, as John Stark picked up their intensity on defense, and forced a number of Marauder turnovers.

Just like how Hanover keyed in on stopping Cullerot late resulting in other Generals players stepping up, the same thing happened for Hanover with Stark keying in on stopping Rosen. Right after Titcomb's clutch foul shots, junior forward Kate Gautier laid it in for Hanover to put them back on top 35-34 late. Then after 2 more clutch free throws for Stark (these ones were by Cullerot), Hanover was down 39-35 with just 30 seconds left. With the General's defense again focused on stopping Rosen, Metcalf (9 points) found herself open on the right wing. She nailed the trey (her second of the evening) and just like that it was a 1 point game.

Stark then turned the ball over, and gave Hanover an opportunity to win the game. The Marauders had the ball with 20 seconds left down 39-38. Senior guard/forward McKenzie Anderson got a good look at the basket inside, but her shot was just barely off the mark. Generals 6'1" sophomore center Jilian Gilman pulled down the rebound and was immediately fouled. She made 1 of 2 free throws, and Hanover got the ball back down 40-38 with just 3.3 seconds left. They inbounded the ball along the sideline at half court, but the pass was broken up and stolen by senior guard Erica Vaillancourt (who despite not scoring played a VERY solid game on both ends of the floor). The clock ran out and John Stark had won it, 40-38. There was a pretty good crowd on hand, and they all stood up and cheered loudly as the buzzer sounded. These were two good, evenly matched teams, and Stark had pulled out a hard fought victory.

Hanover's Offense
Offensive rebounding helped to keep Hanover in this game. Their offense was actually pretty simple. They would launch three-point attempts, then crash the offensive glass for long rebounds and then try to get put-backs. If that didn't work they sent players flashing through the middle cutting towards the basket. Many of these passes got picked off or deflected, but some of them led to baskets.

Why So Low Scoring?
Neither team was very deep, or had many scoring options. Cullerot and Rosen are both very talented players, and while both had some solid players supporting them they didn't have many other scorers out there to help them out. Also, at many times the intense pressure defense that the teams brought outweighed the ball handling and passing ability of the opposition. This resulted in some sloppy play at times, a number of turnovers and missed layups. Both teams cleaned up their play late in the game though, and the result was a combined 18 points for the two teams over the game's final 4 and a half minutes.

The Bottom Line
While neither of these teams is a legit title contender in Division II, they both have a realistic shot at a top 8 seed in the playoffs which would mean a home playoff game. The top teams in D-II right now are Lebanon, Hollis-Brookline, Souhegan, Oyster River, Portsmouth, Kennett, Merrimack Valley and Bedford. Right after those 8 teams is where I would rank John Stark and Hanover. So right now they're both just barely outside the top 8. It's a long season, and if either Stark or Hanover can get hot they could definitely end up as a top 8 seed. Cullerot is likely a 1st team all-state player regardless. And as for Rosen I could see her making 2nd team all-state, but definitely honorable mention at the least.

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