By: Tuesday and Friday
"We are not trying to set any records. We are just trying to win championships." This was Coach Ed Beattie speaking after the Warriors' 44 - 34 semi final victory over Memorial. Winnacunnet took a big step towards trying to capture their 5th consecutive Class L/Division 1 title. They will play Londonderry this Saturday at 7:30 pm in the title game.
Here are the game's highlights, plus the complete game recap as well.
It became apparent from the start of the game there would be 2 contrasting styles. Winnacunnet would press, move the ball around quickly on offense and take the first available good shot. Memorial would slow the ball down on offense, play back in a zone and sometimes pass up a good shot on offense to try to find a better one. This was a nice strategy for Memorial to keep their team in the game early. It seemed like it took Memorial 9 and three quarters seconds to pass half court every time they brought the ball up against the Winnacunnet pressure.
"We worked on this in practice", Memorial assistant coach Mark Leonard said. "We would rather have our players absorb a 10 count instead of throwing away a pass that would lead to a Winnacunnet fast break basket." Memorial tried protecting the ball like their first born child when they went against the Warrior pressure. Sometimes, it seemed as if they were overly cautious as they passed up some early open lane drives to the hoop in favor of the comfort of the 20 to 35 foot area from their offensive basket.
After the regular season encounter between these two teams where Winnacunnet shot out to an early big lead and never looked back, Memorial's efforts to have Winnacunnet play their game worked from the start of the game. Christa Sopel had 3 early baskets to help Memorial survive the first quarter. Senior Sam Corcoran had a couple of nice short jumpers to help the Warriors keep pace early. Memorial played well in the first period, but were still losing 13 - 6 at the end of the first.
Amra Elezovic had a couple of baskets to keep Memorial close in the 2nd. Kirsten O'Neil started making her presence felt for Winnacunnet in this period also. The Warriors had a 17 - 14 lead with a couple of minutes left in the half. Memorial was 2 minutes from feeling really good about themselves at half time. The fatigue of the end of the half took it's toll on the Crusaders. A couple of poor choices lead to a couple of quick baskets for the Warriors. They were up 21 - 14 with under a minute to go and then made it 23 to 14.
Mark Leonard said, "We thought about taking a time out during the 6 - 0 run by Winnacunnet at the end of the first half, but wanted to save them for the 2nd half." In the blink of an eye Winnacunnet went from a 3 point to a 9 point lead. Dynasties have a way of destroying you in a painful way.
The 3rd quarter was a stalemate. Corcoran and Elezovic really took control of the game for their respective teams. Corcoran did it by pounding the paint, while Elezovic scored in a variety of ways. Kirsten O'Neil ran the show for the Warriors making sure they took care of the ball. This 5'6 junior might not be the scorer Tiffany Ruffin was in running the show for Winnacunnet, but realize this. She handles the ball nicely, drives to the hoop with authority and will do just fine replacing the Tiffany Ruffin sneakers for this season and next season.
Memorial's lack of depth took a toll at the start of the 4th quarter. Lazy Crusader passes were gobbled up by the swarming Warriors. Memorial was down by double digits and needed to make every possession count. A near perfect game won't get it done against the Warriors. Anything less than this will lead to 15 to 20 point losses against them. Corcoran continued to score to keep Memorial at a distance. Elezovic found the mark for some more baskets to give Memorial a ray of hope. Ashley Gendron picked up her 5th foul with too much time left in the 4th. Memorial's thin depth just got paper thin.
At this point with a double digit lead Winnacunnet decided to pull Memorial out of their zone. A tired Memorial team became more tired as Winnacunnet took time off the clock. A beautiful O'Neil drive after Winnacunnet took a lot of time off the clock gave was the final bell for Memorial's season. Even though Memorial outscored Winnacunnet in the 4th quarter 8 to 5 the Warriors were in complete control the whole 8 minutes.
The 44 points Winnacunnet scored was their lowest of the season. Their previous low was against BG in their 49 - 35 victory. "We knew Memorial would play zone and it would be a low scoring game. We were prepared for it" Ed Beattie said.
POY candidate Samantha Corcoran lead all scorers with 18 points. Kirsten O'Neil chipped in with 12 points. Aviana Morrison had 9 points on three 3 pointers. Amra Elezovic had 16 points to lead Memorial. Christa Sopel had 8 while Ashley Gendron scored 5 points. The 3 Memorial seniors, Ashley Gendron, Christa Sopel and Taylor Leonard finished their fine careers by helping this Crusader team set a school record for wins in a season with 15 and for getting to the Final Four for the first time.
For Winnacunnet their road to a 5th consecutive championship will have to go through the Londonderry Lancers. As Coach Beattie said, "Winnacunnet is just trying to win championships."