Monday, August 15, 2011

One Last Look at Girls Summer Basketball Action

AAU Basketball for 2011 is over, the boys summer leagues are over. But before the fall sports season got started there was still one more night of girls basketball summer league action, as the Memorial Girls Summer League wrapped up on Wednesday night in Manchester.

There was 6 games on tap, and the NH Notebook was there for all of them. Most of the games were blowouts, with teams missing many of their key players. But the last 2 games of the night (Trinity vs. Hollis-Brookline and Memorial vs. Alvirne) were very exciting, competitive games, making it well worth the wait.

Here's a recap of those 2 games, plus some other notable performances.

Trinity vs. Hollis-Brookline
Considering Trinity led by double digits for nearly the entire way, this was a very intense basketball game, especially in the 2nd half. It definitely had the feel of a much closer game, but in the end it was Trinity winning it 48-36.

Like with most summer league games, there were key players missing in action. Hollis was playing without 2 of their best players in Katie Stopera and Kelsey Berry. Without those 2 girls in the lineup there's no question that Hollis is a much different basketball team. Along with Olivia and Jillian Gillis, they're the ones who really make this team go. This would have been a much different game if Stopera and Berry were playing. But at the same time, Cavaliers coach Bob Murphy had to be pleased with the way his team played. They were missing their starting back court yet they still battled all game, played some good, solid team basketball and gave Trinity a scare in the 2nd half.

Trinity also has to like the way they played, especially during the first half and early on in the 2nd half when they were able to build a 37-20 lead. It was one of those rare games where both teams had to walk away feeling good about themselves.

Right off the opening tip there was some good intensity on the court, and the game had a nice pace to it, with end-to-end fast paced action and no basket coming easy. Only 2 minutes into the game I was saying to myself this was the best game of the night.

Leading the way for Trinity once again, was incoming senior guard Lia Nawn. Nawn is a deadly outside shooter, and again she did a nice job of looking for her shot while at the same time getting her teammates involved. Also playing well for the Pioneers was Hannah Willard, Meredith Farrell, Lizzy Meehan and Lauren Seitz.

Hollis got a breakout performance from Ellie Flaum, an incoming junior guard who really had a nice game. She was hitting threes, playing tough defense and also made a very good left hand finish on the break with a defender all over her. Flaum and the Gillis twins were keeping Hollis in the game early.

As the 1st half went on, Trinity started to take control of the game. They were playing very good team basketball, moving the ball around and hitting shots. Nawn, Willard and Farrell all connected from beyond the arc, and Meehan (only an incoming sophomore) handled the basketball well and finished in transition.

After Trinity got the lead up to 37-20, Hollis started to make a comeback. Flaum continued her big game by hitting yet another three-pointer to cut the Trinity lead to 37-29, completing a 9-0 Hollis run. Then Nawn came right back for Trinity, and just seconds after Flaum's shot she buried a three of her own from the left wing to push the Pioneers lead back up to double digits, 40-29 with 5:38 left in the game.

Hollis refused to give up, though. Flaum hit another nice shot - she drove across the lane, threw up a runner with her left hand and banked it in off the glass for 2. The Gillis twins were also playing hard, showing good toughness and taking the ball hard to the rim as the Cavaliers kept battling.

Trinity though was able to hold onto the lead. They stayed strong, and showed good discipline down the stretch. Nawn hit big shots, and Willard continues to show that she will be one of the state's top defenders this winter.

Alvirne vs. Manchester Memorial
This was the last game of the night, and it was also the best. Both teams were missing key players, but it was still a good one. This game also had a thrilling finish, as Amra Elezovic found Peace Kabari for an and-1 basket inside with 1 second left to give Memorial the 46-44 win.

Memorial was playing without their starting point guard Allie Hartford, while Alvirne was missing incoming senior forwards Maya Desfosses and Taylor Carbone (both are returning starters).

With Desfosses and Carbone both out, it was Alvirne's pair of incoming sophomore guards who got the Broncos off to a good start. Sandi Purcell and Veronica Moceri both played very well for Alvirne, and they were able to take a 24-17 lead. Purcell and Moceri are not only teammates on Alvirne, but they're also AAU teammates with the NE Shooting Stars 14U team. Moceri is a 5'7" guard who is in good shape, and she drilled back-to-back threes in the 1st half, showing a smooth, compact shooting stroke in the process. Her second three made it 21-17 Alvirne, then Purcell found 6'0" forward Jessica Underwood with a pass on a nicely executed pick-and-roll. Underwood made an and-1 finish on the play, and Alvirne led 24-17.

As the game went on though, Memorial started to play better basketball. Kabari and Danielle Fletcher got things going for the Crusaders, making some plays that really energized the rest of the team. Kabari (who is only going to be a freshman and earlier this summer she was playing for Manchester Central) made a nice offensive rebound and put-back, showing her tremendous athleticism. Then Fletcher made back-to-back nice dribble drive moves to get to the basket where she finished for 2. On the second play she made a nifty spin move and then finished with her left hand, against contact.

The two teams (I expect both of them to earn home playoff games this winter) continued to battle each other, and the rest of the game it was back and forth with the teams trading the lead a number of times. Purcell made a nice pass to Underwood for a layup on the break. The basket ended a 10-2 Memorial run, and gave Alvirne a 27-26 lead.

The teams continued to battle each other and trade the lead down the stretch. Purcell made a nice drive to the basket and finish, then hit a three-pointer with Elezovic (who's 9 inches taller than Purcell) closing out on her and putting her hand up just as she was shooting the ball. It was a big shot by Purcell, and it gave the Broncos a 1 point lead. Then Moceri hit yet another three, this one from the corner, to make it a 44-40 lead for Alvirne with 1:38 left in the game.

Unfortunately for Alvirne those would be their last points of the game. Elezovic and Fletcher both made a pair of clutch free throws late, and it was all tied up at 44-44. Memorial was able to get another stop late, giving them the ball back with about 20 seconds left to play and a chance to win it.

The Crusaders had the ball in the hands of Elezovic, and everyone in the gym knew that she was going to try and make a move to the basket for the winning score. Alvirne came at her with a double team, a couple feet past the top of the key. Kabari cut to the basket, and Elezovic passed the ball over the double team to her. Kabari caught the ball in traffic in front of the hoop, made the shot and got fouled with 1 second remaining. Memorial wins 46-44 in a good one.

This was a very good game, and both of these teams would have been even better if they had been at full strength. They will both certainly be teams to watch in D-I this winter.

Other Notes
We all knew that Londonderry was a deep team, but on Wednesday night we found out just how deep. The Lancers were playing without their 2 best players in Aliza Simpson and Lindsey Bolduc, and they were also missing key players Jamie King and Kirsten Enwright. Yet they were still able to go deep into their bench and beat Nashua South by double figures. The game's breakout player was incoming sophomore Devon Hickey, a 5'6" point guard. Hickey was on fire from the outside, hitting back-to-back threes from the top of the key, then just a minute later she drained another trey. Hickey hit 4 threes on the game, and also played tough defense and runs the point with lots of poise. Casey Evans-Driscoll also had another strong game on the boards, and made a a buzzer-beating shot at the end of the game, including a very athletic finish.

Manchester Central was on fire from the outside in their game, especially in the 1st half. In the span of about 2 minutes, Ashley Giampetruzzi, Shannon O'Neil and Samantha Gauthier are connected from long range. Giampetruzzi and Gauthier would then add 2 more threes just minutes later. Central was able to beat a shorthanded Campbell team, although Campbell incoming freshman Hannah Neild played well once again. The 5'7" guard showed a soft touch on a floater in the lane, then on the next possession she drained a three, and minutes later she made a nice and-1 finish inside.

In the first game of the night it was a match-up of 2 teams expected to be contenders in Division II, with Bedford taking on Windham. You would have thought this would be a much closer game. Both teams were missing key players, as Bedford didn't have Rachel Collins, McKenzie Brown or Katie Prothro while Windham was missing Clairee Putnam and Bernadette Connors. So it was very surprising that Bedford was able to win by as much as they did, as they beat Windham 55-36. Ali Glennon, Bailey Marshall, Maggie McGown and Haley Driscoll led the way for Bedford. The Bedford girls still do not have a coach, as Scott Sarsfield stepped down earlier in the summer. A replacement is expected to be announced soon.

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