Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Campbell Girls Top Bow in Battle of Unbeatens

There were 2 teams who went into this game undefeated. One of them played like it, the other did not. Campbell built up an 11 point lead in the 2nd quarter, and from that point on they were in control of the game. The defending D-III champs defeated Bow in Litchfield on Tuesday night 50-33. Going into the game Campbell was 12-0 and Bow was 13-0, so it was a possible D-III title game preview. With the win the Campbell girls have now won 30 consecutive games - no other basketball team in the state, girls or boys, any division has won more games in a row than this team.

Senior forward Becca Arnone made a pretty good case for being this year's Division III Player of the Year, with 17 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals, 4 assists and 2 blocks. It wasn't just the stats but the intangibles that she brings as well. Arnone was always in the right spot on defense, hustled all over the court, was quicker to all the loose balls and made great decisions out there.

"We like playing against them, it's a good match up" said Arnone, who recently scored her 1,000th career point and is just 93 rebounds away from 1,000 rebounds for her career as well. "We just tried to stay focused and stay positive to maintain the lead."

Arnone played a great game, but also got plenty of help from the other 2 members of Campbell's 'Big 3'. Freshman guard Hannah Neild (12 points) and senior guard Liz Pettis (11 points) also played vital roles for the Cougars, and they both had some crucial baskets in the 2nd half when Bow was trying to make a comeback.

The key to the win for Campbell though was their defense. Bow has one of the division's best players in junior guard Lindsey Nerbonne, who can flat out score the basketball. However Campbell held her to just 4 points in the 1st half. She ended up with 12 points for the game but had to take A LOT of shots in order to get those 12 points.

"We call it our Brooke defense" said Arnone, referring to Brooke Springfield, the former star player for Conant. "We just played man-to-man but the help side 'D' was big to try and stop her."

You do have to give Nerbonne a ton of credit though. Even though Campbell geared their whole defense towards stopping her, and she often times faced double or even triple teams she still played a great game. At one point in the 1st quarter Nerbonne had 2 defenders on her as she brought the ball up the court. She was not only able to it across half court, but she kept on driving and got all the way to the rim. She then finished the basket inside - the ENTIRE possession she had 2 defenders all over her and she still went coast-to-coast for the score! Nerbonne also hit a bunch of nice pull-up jumpers in the 2nd half to lead a comeback attempt by the Falcons.

Sophomore guard Kirsten Bresson also drained a pair of threes for Bow. She scored all 8 of her points in the 2nd half to provide a nice compliment scoring weapon to Nerbonne (who also scored 8 in the 2nd half).

It wasn't enough though, as Bow never got closer than 7 points of Campbell during the 2nd half. They cut the deficit to 38-31 with 5:00 left after a pull-up jumper by Nerbonne. But then Campbell answered right back, as Pettis and Arnone were both able to get layups (Arnone's was an and-1 finish) to push the lead back to to 12 at 43-31 with 2:30 left. And just like that it went from Bow having a legit shot at a comeback to pretty much no shot.

The game was definitely closer than the final score indicates though. It was 43-33 Campbell with 1:54 left to play when Nerbonne was taken out of the game. Falcons head coach Bill Vermette must have figured the outcome of the game had bee decided and he didn't want to risk his star point guard getting injured. Well with Nerbonne on the bench Campbell ended the game on a 7-0 run.

Maybe Campbell should have also taken their star player out with the outcome already decided, because with 1:07 left to play and Campbell up 46-33 Arnone suffered an injury and had to leave the game and head immediately to the trainer's room.

"I just rolled my ankle" said Arnone. "I'm fine."

One advantage Bow was hoping to exploit in this game was with their size inside. With Jill Chergey, Suzanne Barry and Dina Tischofer their front line is definitely bigger than Campbell's. However those 3 players combined for just 8 points. They got a lot of good looks inside but often times missed shots in close or were called fr traveling.

"We have to get to the free throw line more" said Coach Vermette, whose team shot just 6 foul shots all game (and only made 3 of them). "We need to have more of an inside presence. Hopefully if we play them again we can compete a little better."\

For Campbell, it's a good win. At 30 games they now have the longest winning streak of any basketball team in the NHIAA. Arnone already has 1,000 points and is closing in on 1,000 rebounds. Neild is really coming into her own as just a freshman. And they got strong play in supporting roles from Ashley Gannon, Aly O'Donnell and Alex Trevains.

"With Becca and Liz I have 2 of the top 3 players in this division" said Coach Flynn, with the other player in that top 3 being Nerbonne of course. I have a strong starting 5 and they can all score. We want to run and usually shoot the ball from the outside a lot. They took that away from us, and they slowed the game down. So I think we beat them at their own game."

Will these teams meet again in the D-III title game come March? Probably. But you also have to watch out for Newfound (12-2), White Mountains (11-2) and Fall Mountain (11-2).

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