Wednesday, May 18, 2011

NH Girls Basketball AAU State Tournament - 2011 Recap

I've said it before but I'll say it again. The Class of 2014 is a very talented one when it comes to girls basketball in NH. First you had the Crusader Black team finish in 3rd place in AAU Nationals last summer. Then just recently three members of the Crusader Black team were selected to attend the 2011 Nike Skills camp.

And now this. The Crusader Black team (pictured above) and the NE Shooting Stars 14U team both played up a division at last weekend's NH Girls AAU State Tournament. Both teams won titles. The Crusaders played up 2 age divisions and still easily won the 16U championship, while the Shooting Stars played up 1 age division and won the 15U title. Once again we see just how talented these freshmen girls basketball players are.

So how is it that a 14U team is not only able to win the 16U championship, but win all of their games by over 20 points? Well folks, this is not your typical 14U team - they're very good. The Class of 2014 is deep and talented, and the Crusader Black team has 8 of the top 12 players in the class. Plus they have a prep school player (Elisabeth Giegerich) who would be a top 5 player if she was in the NHIAA, and a player from Maine (Allie Clement) who would also be top 5 if she was in NH.

And it's not even that this team is loaded with talent so much, it's the way they play sound, fundamental, TEAM basketball. They play smart, disciplined ball. They have good shot selection, they're unselfish, they execute and move the ball well on offense and they play tough defense.

In the championship game the Crusaders defeated the NE Lady Panthers (Oliver) in a blowout, 52-33. Clairee Putnam (Windham HS) hit a nice pull-up jumper off an inbounds pass, followed by Mary Mullen (Merrimack Valley HS) with a pair of nice inside moves, one being an and-1 finish off a nice pass by Rachel Collins (Bedford HS).

Early on though the Lady Panthers were keeping it close. They were being led by NH players Katelyn Roeser (Nashua High North), Markey Flewelling (Portsmouth HS) and Maya Desfosses (Alvirne HS). Flewelling made a nice baseline move and reverse layup in traffic, while Roeser ran the offense well and also drilled a pair of three-pointers. Desfosses battled under the boards and ran the floor well. Other NH players who contributed for Ricky Oliver's team were 6'3" center Rachel King (Hollis-Brookline HS) and Christina Milliken (Londonderry HS).

While the Lady Panthers hung around in the beginning, The Crusaders were still able to jump out to an early lead and just continued to build on it as the game went on. Giegerich made back-to-back nice moves and finishes inside, then converted in transition off a nice pass by Morgan Church (Kearsarge Regional HS). Church really played well as the game went on, going all out on defense, and knocking down shots. After a strong drive and finish by Ali Glennon (Bedford HS), the Crusaders had increased their lead to 30-14 with 2:09 left in the 1st half.

The Crusaders were playing without 2 of their best players in Clement and McKenzie Brown (Bedford HS), who was out with a minor ankle sprain. But it didn't matter, they just kept on rolling, even against a team with all juniors and sophomores.

Also contributing for the Crusaders were Aliza Simpson (Londonderry HS) and Brenna Walczak (Oyster River HS).

In the 16U consolation game it was the Strafford Stars defeating the NE Lady Panthers (Lessard) by a final score of 53-38. Leading the way for the Stars was 5'11" forward Juliana Blais (Berwick Academy) and Allie Mahan (Dover HS). Blais, who is from Eliot, Maine put on a clinic in this game. She made some outstanding moves in the low post, some smooth finishes inside, she rebounded well and had a nice blocked shot on defense. Mahan was tough and scrappy as usual, taking charges, hustling after loose balls and pushing the ball quickly on offense. Sophomore forward Meaghan Flynn (St. Thomas Aquinas) also played well for the Stars, finishing with 11 points. Junior wing player Julia Wise (Dover HS) also contributed in the win.

Jamie Sherburne (Bishop Guertin) and Sandi Purcell (Alvirne HS) led the way for the Shooting Stars, averaging over 16 points per game for the tourney. However it was Kayla Stacy's (Manchester Memorial) 18 points in the championship game that put the Stars over the top. Bailey Marshall (Bedford HS) also played well, averaging over 10 points a game. Dina Tischofer (Bow HS) also contributed with 6 rebounds per contest.

In pool play the Shooting Stars (pictured at right) beat last year's runners-up the Lady Spartans 56-43, and last year's champs NH Flames 57-43 to earn the #1 seed for the tourney play on Sunday. In tourney play they beat the NH Blackout 57-38 to advance to play the NH Flames for a second time time to win the championship.

"I am very proud of all my girls" said Shooting Stars head coach Frank Girginis, who is also the girls basketball coach at Goffstown High. "Not only am I happy they won, but I am proud of them winning it an age level up. On our team we have one 8th grader, eight freshmen, and one sophomore. So to win it in the sophomore division says something about the talent of these players. It was a complete team effort and I know they are all excited for their accomplishment. In the middle of our AAU season this is a very nice lift for us."

The other members of the Shooting Stars title team were Veronica Moceri (Alvirne HS), Emily Hickey (Salem HS), Paige Parkinson (Nashua High North), Maddie Jeans (Windham HS) and Emily Cuthbertson (New Hampton School).

The NH Rivals took the title with a win over the NH Spartans. Phoebe Collins (Portsmouth HS), Brandi Bonneau (Pinkerton Academy), Ashley Hugh (Pinkerton Academy), Dominique St. Pierre (Portsmouth HS) and Colleen Fortier (Pinkerton Academy) were all part of a strong group of Rivals players.

The NH Rivals also captured the 13U title, this time by defeating the NH Flames. The Rivals have some tough, scrappy guards and also have good size with 3 girls 5'10" or taller. They won the title game by double digits. One of their bigs is 6'1" forward Erica Hadad (Salem HS) who has good potential for down the road if she gets working on her game.

In the 13U division's consolation game it was the Lady Cats coming away with a hard fought 47-39 win over the Crusader Gold team. #23 on the Lady Cats put on a show in that game, showing tremendous athleticism and the ability to force turnovers and finish on the break.

The fact that the Crusader Gold team only got 4th place shows how competitive the 13U division is. The Crusaders have a number of quality players, including Val Martin (Pinkerton Academy Class of 2015), Madison Springfield, Bri Purcell and a very athletic guard from Jamaica Plains.

Martin is a tough 5'10" forward, Springfield (yes, she's Brooke's little sister) is a versatile 5'11" wing player and Purcell (DJ and Sandi's little cousin) is very small but she's tough, fearless, scrappy and is a winner. Springfield and Purcell are only in 7th grade, but they'll definitely be players to watch in a couple years.

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