Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Arnone Reaches Milestone, Campbell Advances to Title Game

The second semi-final of the night in Division III girls basketball was between #1 seed Campbell and #5 seed Newfound Regional. It was a great game, and one that will go down in history. Late in the 1st half a Newfound player missed a three throw. Campbell senior forward Rebecca Arnone grabbed the rebound and fired an outlet pass over to a teammate. Pretty basic stuff, right? Wrong.

With that rebound, Arnone became just the second player in New Hampshire high school basketball history to record 1,000 points AND 1,000 rebounds in a career. The only other player to accomplish the feat was former Londonderry High standout Stefanie Murphy, who went on to play for Boston College. Arnone needed 10 rebounds going in to reach the milestone - she got 17, plus she also had 17 points on the night to lead the team.

"I'll fight for the ball, I don't want them to get any second shots" said Arnone, who will continue her basketball career at Wheaton College in the fall. "But getting those rebounds wasn't my focus at all, my focus was on Newfound and getting the win. They're a good team, and it was not an easy battle."

Led by Arnone and fellow senior Liz Pettis Campbell earned a hard fought victory over Newfound 50-45. The Cougars advance to their 5th straight D-III title game. They are trying to win back-to-back titles, and the win over Newfound was the program's 40th consecutive victory. That's the longest current winning streak in the state!

You have to give credit to the girls from Newfound. Not only has Campbell won 40 straight games but nobody has even come close to beating them all season. So you have to be impressed with the way Newfound battled in this game - they had a legit shot at winning this thing. In fact with 5:00 left in the 4th quarter Newfound actually had a 43-39 lead. The Bears are a smart, hard nosed, well coached team and they gave it their all for 32 minutes.

"We knew that the way they beat teams by so many points all year was with their full court pressure" said Newfound Regional head coach Karri Peterson, who also coaches the school's field hockey team. "But tonight against us they backed out of that a minute into the game, so I guess we earned their respect."

The Bears played hard and played as a team, so they should earn respect all around the state. They were led by 5'10" senior forward Jordan Phinney, who had a game-high 22 points on the night to go with 9 rebounds and 4 steals. Phinney showed the ability o score inside and also hit the outside shot. She can take the ball to the rim, rebound and defend.

Phinney hit a three to tie the game up at 18-18 with 5:00 left in the 1st half. Arnone answered right back with a bucket of her own, and just like in the first semi-final game of the night this game also had the two star players matching each other shot-for-shot.

However a key point in the game came late in the 2nd quarter. Arnone had 2 fouls and Pettis had 3 and the game was tied 18-18. Campbell head coach Shawn Flynn decided to keep both players in the game for the rest of the 1st half (he sent a sub to the scorer's table with 1:00 left but she went back to the bench when Campbell go the ball back with 30 seconds left). If Pettis picked up her 4th foul there the Cougars would be in BG trouble. But instead Pettis stayed in the game. She hit a BIG three-pointer, and Campbell ended the half on a 10-2 run to take a 28-20 lead into the locker room.

Campbell then increased it;s lead to 30-20 early in the 3rd quarter. However that's when momentum shifted back over to Newfound, as Pettis picked up her 4th foul with 6:00 left in the 3rd. With Pettis out of the game Phinney went to work, attacking the rim and hitting shots. She hit a three to cut the Cougars lead to 30-29, then a foul shot tied it up at 30-30, completing a 10-0 run by Newfound. The bears would then take a 32-31 lead, forcing Coach Flynn to call a timeout and the Newfound fan section was going nuts! The Bears had the momentum on their side and looked poised to pull off the big upset.

Not only was Phinney playing well, but Newfound was getting steady play in the back court from guards Alex Jewell, Abbey Symmonds and Amber Plummer. Symmonds hit a pair of big three-pointers, Jewell is possibly the team's best defender and Plummer is a lightning quick slasher who can get to the rim with either hand (she's only a sophomore).

After the timeout by Campbell, Pettis returned to the lineup. This was a risky move by Coach Flynn, because Pettis had 4 fouls and there was 2:00 left in the 3rd quarter so if she were to foul out at this point in the game it would REALLY hurt their chances of winning. But it turned out to be a gamble that paid off, because Pettis hit a couple of BI threes after going back in the game and she did not commit another foul the rest of the way.

"We are a totally different team when Liz is on the floor, I need her out there" said Coach Flynn. "She can pass the ball the length of the floor, she can shoot, she can dribble, she can rebound, she does everything you would need someone to do out there."

Campbell went on a 6-0 run once Pettis went back in the lineup, and took a 37-32 lead. The Cougars got back-to-back hoops by freshman guard Hannah Neild (who had 10 points on the game) as part of the run.

"I thought the key play of the game was during that run where Liz passed it down court to Hannah for a shot on the baseline" said Flynn. "That play got the momentum back for us and got Hannah going as well."

Again though, you have to give credit to Newfound. They battled right back, and answered Campbell's 6-0 run with an 11-2 run of their own, and with 5:00 left Newfound was up 43-39 following a steal in the back court and layup by Phinney. Once again the Bears had the momentum on their side and it looked like they just might pull off the upset.

But what was the difference down the stretch? The dynamic duo of Arnone and Pettis. Right after Newfound went up 43-39 Arnone answered back with an and-1 finish. Campbell then got a steal, pushed the ball up ahead to Pettis, who made an and-1 finish of her own in transition. Pettis then nailed a clutch three-pointer to put the Cougars up 47-43 with 400 left. That's right, in the span of just 1 minute Campbell went on an 8-0 run. A run like that is even more impressive on a college sized floor!

"The problem was them stalling with the lead" said Coach Peterson. "We were trying to stay ahead of them by at least 1 point so they couldn't run their stall offense. We missed 6 uncontested layups, and we also needed Amber to score more than 2 points tonight. I know she's only a sophomore but she made some great moves to get to the rim but just couldn't seem to finish them."

From there Campbell was able to hang on for the 50-45 win.

When you consider all of the layups Newfound missed they could have easily scored 50+ points in this game, which is much more than Campbell usually gives up. The Bears were able to move the ball well and drive to the basket at will, creating a ton of quality looks inside. They often times seemed a step quicker than the Campbell defense.

"We need to work on our help side defense and communicating better" said Arnone."

Campbell will take on White Mountains Regional in the title game Saturday night at 6 pm. They will be trying to win their 41st straight game and 2nd consecutive D-III championship. And Arnone has a chance to win another title, she will likely win the D-III Player of the Year and further cement her legacy as one of the best players in Campbell basketball history.

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