Sunday, March 6, 2011

Memorial Girls Headed to SNHU for Semis

By: Tuesday and Friday

"I honestly don't remember the regular season loss to Dover. I completely put it out of mind heading into this game" said Memorial senior Christa Sopel after scoring 10 points to lead Memorial to a 43-31 quarterfinal playoff victory over Dover.

Memorial won this game at the free throw line by going 13/17 for the game including shooting 11/13 in the 4th quarter from the charity stripe.

This game was a match-up of the #4 seed Memorial vs. the #5 seed Dover. The 1st half certainly proved to be a 4 vs. 5 game. Christa Sopel helped Memorial get off to a quick start with 2 baskets in the opening minutes. There was a stark difference in defensive strategy between the 2 teams that was apparent from the opening tip. Dover would be in tough hard nosed man to man defense while Memorial was in a condensed zone.

"When we lost to Dover in the regular season they shot 18/23 from the free throw line" Memorial coach Jack Quirk said. "We played man to man against them in that game and gave them too many free points. We wanted to make them earn their offense this time which is why we switched to zone. Dover went 6/8 for this playoff game from the foul line. Mission accomplished."

The 1st quarter finished with Dover having a 10-9 lead. Allie Mahan had 6 points in the 1st stanza to lead the Green Wave. Memorial took a 19-17 lead at halftime as Ashley Gendron made her presence felt in the 2nd period. She became more active shooting the ball and creating havoc on the offensive boards. Dover kept pace due to the tough defense senior Megan Walcek was playing on the multi-faceted Crusader, Amra Elezovic.

The first half was cleanly played with neither team coming close to arriving at a bonus situation. The quarterfinals feature the start of 3 person refereeing crews in NHIAA games and this crew did an excellent job of letting both teams show the fruits of their season long labors in this quarterfinal game.

One of the key parts of the game was the start of the 2nd half. Memorial had a quick start. Taylor Leonard swished a deep corner 3 pointer 10 seconds into the 2nd half to give Memorial a 22 - 17 lead. A minute later Christa Sopel hit a 2 to give Memorial it's largest lead of the game to that point at 24 - 17. A Mahan 3 pointer made it 26 to 20. With 3 minutes left in the 3rd Memorial pulled the ball out and started taking time off the clock. This seemed to work against them for the next couple of minutes as their offense stagnated while Dover charged up their offense.

A Walcek basket and a Mahan 3 cut Memorial's lead to 28 to 25. A key sequence then transpired with Memorial having the ball for the last 30 seconds of the 3rd and trying to get a last shot. Memorial took 2 missed shots as the period was ending. Dover could not get a handle on some rebounds and somehow the ball squirted loose to Taylor Leonard who quickly threw up a 10 footer. The ball bounced high, with shades of the famous Don Nelson shot from Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals vs.. the Lakers firmly in memory and into the Crusader air and then nestled into the net at the buzzer to give Memorial the 30 - 25 lead after 3.

This was HUGE. It gave Memorial much needed momentum heading into the final period. There was no scoring for the first 2 minutes of the 4th period. A Kara Duffy basket drew the Green Wave within 3 at 30 - 27. This would be the closest the Green Wave would be to Memorial for the rest of the game. The most important sequence of the game came next. With Walcek continuing to frustrate Elezovic with her fine defense Memorial desperately needed to find some points.

Enter 5'9 Memorial sophomore Danielle Fletcher. "Our game plan in the 4th quarter was move Dover away from the basket defensively. The coaches told me to take advantage of my quickness against Jamie Boyatsis. I think it worked", Fletcher said. And work it did. Fletcher drove to the basket twice and had a missed put back, but was fouled on each play. She made 5 of 6 freebies to give Memorial a big 35 - 27 lead with about 4 minutes to go in the game.

Dover turned cold at this point and Memorial decided to put the game in the freezer with 3 and a half minutes left. "You have to remember something", Asst. coach Mark Leonard pointed out after the game. "We are an excellent free throw shooting team. We have won a few games this year by scoring a lot of our points at the line. We had full confidence in holding the ball with more than 3 minutes left in the game and making them foul us. We knew we could win this game at the line."

A Sopel basket made it 37 - 29. A Mahan basket cut the Memorial lead to 6 with 2 minutes left. The Memorial free throw shooting took over for the rest of the game as they went 5/6 in the last 2 minutes to get the 43-31 quarterfinal victory.

Christa Sopel was the player of the game for Memorial with her 10 points and numerous rebounds. She is one of those glue players every team should have. She does everything well.

The happy senior, when asked how they turned the tables against Dover replied, "We were all riding on the adrenaline of hosting a quarterfinal playoff game. My team mates energized each other for this rematch with Dover." Amra Elezovic gave credit to the defense played on her by Walcek. "She was solid on defense against me the whole game. I tip my hat to her."

Memorial coach Jack Quirk praised the efforts of Danielle Fletcher by saying, "She came up big for us tonight when it counted. She's really been coming on the last few games. We've needed her contributions." Quirk went on to say, "There is no doubt the zone defense and FT shooting won this game for us. The quick start in the 2nd half was big also."

Junior Allie Mahan had an outstanding game for Dover. She is so strong and quick when handling the ball. She makes good decisions, finishes hard to the hoop and can knock down 3's. There is no doubt she will be one of the best players in the state next year. Senior Megan Walcek had a nice game in finishing off her career with 8 points and did an outstanding defensive job on Elezovic. Memorial will play Winnacunnet this Wednesday in the 7:30 pm semi-final game at SNHU.

While the looming battle with the vaunted Warriors is around the corner for the Lady Crusaders, nothing can replace the lit up smiles of knowing you won your quarterfinal home playoff game and will be part of an exciting Final Four night at SNHU this week.

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