Monday, January 3, 2011

Portsmouth Girls Late Rally Falls Short vs. Oyster River

Oyster River River and Portsmouth - one of the best basketball rivalries in the state. It always seems to be a special game when the two seacoast schools square off. Tonight was no different.

Portsmouth made a resilient 2nd half comeback which fell just short. And behind 30 points and 17 rebounds from NH's best player Danielle Walczak the Oyster River girls basketball team defeated Portsmouth 47-42 on Monday night at the Stone Gymnasium in Portsmouth.

Walczak Shows Why She's State's Top Player
Portsmouth is a good team, but they're undersized. They're basically all guards. Whereas Oyster River is one of the bigger teams in NH (although they were missing Walczak's little sister Brenna who is also 6'1" but was out sick for this game). Still, the Bobcats whole starting lineup was 5'8" or bigger, and included 5'10" Izzy Gorham, 5'11" Kelsey Brown and 6'1" Danielle Walczak.

"I thought we did a pretty good job on her with the zone" said Portsmouth coach Eric Chasse. But she's a very talented player so there's only so much you can do."

Walczak had 13 of her season-high 30 points in the 1st quarter alone, which really set the tone early on for Oyster River. The Bobcat's offense is all about getting her the basketball close to the hoop where she can make a move and score (as it should). So if you're having trouble stopping her it will be very tough to beat them. Even when Walczak (headed to the University of Maine next year on a basketball scholarship) was double-teamed she was still able to score.

Free Throws Late Were Key
With 1:12 left in the game Portsmouth trailed 44-42 when Clippers senior Susie French (who can play all 5 positions on the floor) stepped up to the line for a 1-and-1 with a chance to tie the game up if she makes both of them. Instead she missed the front end and Oyster River got the rebound.

Portsmouth was then forced to foul, and they sent Bobcats sophomore guard Kelsey Brown to the line. She made 1 of 2 to make it a 45-42 game, and then after French missed a three-pointer that would have tied the game up with under 10 seconds left Brown went back to the line. This time she made both free throws, and Oyster River goes up 47-42 with under 5 seconds remaining. Game over.

"Geno Auriema used to say that we won because we had Diana (Taurasi) and they didn't" joked Oyster River head coach Dave Nichols. "Well tonight we had danielle (Walczak) and they didn't. But I also thought that Kelsey's free throws were big, Riley (Maynard) was a good floor general and Izzy Gorham was our best defender.

Can't Blame French Though
It would easy to say the free throw shooting at the end by French and Brown were the difference in the game, and that if French made hers to tie it up who knows what would have happened (especially since they would have made it a 12-2 Portsmouth run). But the bottom line is without French in the lineup Portsmouth doesn't come anywhere close to winning this game. She was clearly their best player, and other than Walczak she was the best player in the gym. French finished with 18 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocked shots. She was all over the place making plays, and showed incredible versatility by not only playing inside and blocking shots but also leading the break, going coast-to-coast and playing on the perimeter as well.

Late in the 3rd quarter Oyster River was up 42-32 (their largest lead of the game). Portsmouth then made a furious comeback to cut the lead to 44-42 (a 10-2 run). French was huge during this run, making plays all over the court.

Also contributing to the run for the Clippers were Lauren Nevin (10 points), Markey Flewelling (8 points), along with Christina Jones and freshman Phoebe Collins.

Would Have Been Different Game With Beauregard
Portsmouth was once again playing without senior point guard Ali Beauregard, who suffered a high ankle sprain on the first day of practice.

"Ali averaged 14 points a game for us last year" said Coach Chasse. "I think the next time we play them (Oyster River) when she's back in the lineup it will be a different game."

I don't blame you, coach. Even without Beauregard, Portsmouth was still only down by 2 points with 28 seconds left. That means on February 22 when these teams meet again you can bet it will be yet another great game for one of the best rivalries in the state.

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