On Tuesday night there were a lot of big games played across the state, but none were played on a bigger stage than the Division III girls basketball semi-finals, played in front of a packed gym at Southern New Hampshire University.
In the first semi-final is was a match up of #2 seed Bow vs. #3 seed White Mountains Regional. It was one of the most low scoring basketball games you will see. The halftime score was White Mountains 13 Bow 8. That's right, 13-8. That's not what it was after the 1st quarter, that's what the score was at HALFTIME.
Bow was able to finally get in a rhythm offensively and score 15 points in the 3rd, behind the hot shooting of star point guard Lyndsey Nerbonne. It was a close game throughout - with 2:30 left White Mountains led 31-29 and with 1:00 left they led 32-29.
But White Mountains was able to hold on for a 36-29 win, thanks to some great team defense and a game-high 15 points and 10 rebounds by senior forward Bryanna Bennett.
"We played a 1-3-1 zone against them and they're not used to facing that" said Bennett. "We watched film on Bow and knew what all of their player's strengths were going in, which helped us to play really good defense."
Bennett is a tough match up for opposing team, because she's 5'11" and can not only do damage inside and on the boards but also showed the ability to handle the ball out on the perimeter and knock down the outside shot.
The offenses for both teams finally started to get going in the 3rd quarter. Nerbonne (team-high 13 points) hit a pull-up jumper on the right wing to tie the game up at 18-18. Soon after that Bennett answered right back with a three-pointer from the top of the key to put the Spartans back on top 23-21. Junior forward Dina Tischofer came back for Bow and knocked down a baseline jumper and we were knotted at 23-23. Then with under a minute left in the 3rd quarter Payton Curtis caught a pass in the right corner and put up a three-point attempt just as the defender was closing out on her. The shot went in and gave White Mountains a 26-23 lead heading to the game's final period. Curtis played very well on both ends of the floor for the Spartans.
"Dina Stepped up for us and made some big baskets" said Bow head coach Bill Vermette. "But unfortunately we weren't able to get Lindsey as many looks on the baseline in the 1st half as we wanted to."
The depth for White Mountains was challenged down the stretch as starting guard Brennah Couture fouled out just a minute into the 4th quarter. Mikala Bastain came in and gave the team valuable minutes down the stretch, while Chelsea Payer and Olivia Conway were tough all game long.
In the 4th quarter the stars for both teams continued to shine as Nerbonne for Bow and Bennett for White Mountains matched each other shot for shot. Bennett made a basket, then Jill Chergey answered right back with an inside shot of her own for ow to cut the White Mountains lead 28-27 with 5:03 left in regulation.
Conway then made a big offensive rebound and put-back, and after a foul shot the Spartans lead was 31-27 with just 3:00 left.
"Being back here again this year with a lot of the same players as last year helped" said White Mountains head coach Gary Jenness. "They hadn't been here before. They key for us though was getting them to foul us, and also we played great defense."
Bow wasn't ready to give up yet. Nerbonne drilled a jumper from 18 feet away to cut the White Mountains lead to 31-29 with 2:30 left. Then the Spartans missed the front end of a 1-and-1, which again gave the Falcons some hope.
But unfortunately for Bow they had missed shots and turnovers from there, White Mountains took care of the basketball and made their free throws and went on to win it 36-29.
White Mountains proved a lot of people wrong in this game. I admit before the season I thought it was going to be Bow and Campbell battling it out in the D-III final. I thought it was those 2 teams and everyone else. But White Mountains showed that they're better than Bow, and in the other semi-final Newfound Regional really gave Campbell a scare as well.
"We don't get much publicity because of where we live" said Bennett. "But tonight we brought it."
The Spartans hope to 'bring it' on Saturday night, and win their first state title since 1999.