In the preseason Power Rankings for Division I girls basketball, Bishop Guertin was ranked #2 and Londonderry was #3. So when the 2 teams met on Tuesday evening in an early season showdown I was not expecting the final score to be 59-36. However that's exactly what happened.
"I thought we'd have a good chance to win" said Bishop Guertin junior forward Meghan Green. "But the fact that we crushed them was a big statement."
That statement is that the Bishop Guertin girls basketball team is one to be reckoned with. First year head coach Scott Hazelton has these girls playing VERY hard, they're fast as heck, they move the ball well and can hit shots on offense and really brought the pressure on defense which forced Londonderry into turnovers and tough shots.
Green, who recently picked up a Division I scholarship offer from the University of Hartford, had a game-high 22 points and 12 rebounds. The Cardinals led 25-7 at halftime and 44-20 after 3 quarters. They played up-tempo, fast break basketball and ran the Lancers out of their own gym and won it 59-36.
These are clearly 2 of the top teams in D-I, however when the game tipped off there was only 1 senior on the floor - Londonderry guard Lindsey Bolduc, who will be playing softball in college at nearby Southern New Hampshire University. Bishop Guertin started 2 juniors, 2 sophomores and 1 freshman while Londonderry started just 1 senior to go with 3 sophomores and 1 freshman.
"It's good for NH basketball" said Hazelton, a former McDonald's All-American and player for UConn and URI. "There was a lot of people here tonight, some college coaches, it was a great atmosphere. Londonderry has some good young players, they're going to get better as the season goes."
BG has a very young back court in particular, with sophomores Jamie Sherburne and Gigi Piercy and freshman Megan Kerutis. These girls might be young but they can play with anybody, no question about it.
"They're young but very talented" said Hazelton. "I stay on them pretty good in practice, but when they're that young you can't be too tough or they won't have the confidence to go out there and play, so it's just finding that balance."
Kerutis might be the best freshman in the state. She had some strong drives to the rim and finishes in traffic and also hit the outside shot. Sherburne ran the point very effectively by getting the ball up the floor in a hurry and finding the open man and also taking it to the rim strong when that was there. Piercy was all over the place, playing hard on both ends of the floor. She got in the passing lanes, crashed the boards and ran the floor on the break, setting herself up for open jumpers.
The real key to BG's success in this game though was defense. Londonderry scored 75 points in their last game and they were averaging 59 points a game coming into this one. Yet the Cardinals were able to hold them to just 7 points in the entire 1st half and 20 points through 3 quarters. The Lancers went scoreless for the first 6 minutes of both the 1st and 2nd quarters - that's 12 minutes of scoreless basketball in 1 half!
BG did it with a tenacious full court press led by Kerutis, Shuerburne and Piercy. They were also very aggressive on defense in the half court. Green was tough on the boards and junior guard/forward Nikki Hayner (10 points) also played well on both ends of the floor.
"The officials let them get away with a lot of hand-checking" said Londonderry head coach John Fagula. "The game might have turned out differently with a different officiating crew."
Sophomore point guard Aliza Simpson played well in the loss for Londonderry. She did well handling the ball against BG's intense pressure defense and also scored a team-high 13 points.
"They really keyed on Aliza and threw double teams at her to get her to pass the ball up" said Coach Fagula. "When that happens we need to make better passes and better adjustments."
Freshman Casey Evans-Driscoll also played well for Londonderry. The 5'10" forward followed up a 17 point 14 rebound game vs. Salem up with 7 another strong game tonight. She had 7 points and 8 rebounds, which is not bad at all for a freshman going up against a player like Green inside, especially since Evans-Driscoll had a few good looks inside that just rimmed out on her so she could have had more like 13 points.
Still, this game was dominated by BG from start to finish. And with their youth they will be a scary team not just this year but over the next few years as well. The question is do they have what it takes to beat the 5-time defending champs Winnacunnet? On January 10 we'll find out.