Saturday, March 3, 2012

White Mountains Wins 2012 Girls D-III State Title

Congratulations to the White Mountains Regional girls basketball team - your 2011-2012 Division III state champions. The Spartans defeated Campbell 56-51 in the title game on Saturday night at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester. In doing so White Mountains won their first state title since 1999 and also ended Campbell's 39 game winning streak.

There were 828 fans in attendance, and none of them will forget about this game for a VERY long time. It was an intense, hard fought battle between 2 tough, well coached teams that went down to the game's final second before it was decided. The score was tied 9 times and there was 9 lead changes.

White Mountains had 2 key players (Olivia Conway and Chelsea Payer) foul out and they also had another starter (Mikala Bastian) sit out for most of the game with an injured knee and ankle. But the Spartans persevered, as senior forwards Bryanna Bennett and Brennah Couture both had spectacular performances in the win. Bennett had 19 points, 20 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks and 3 steals while Couture recorded 18 points and 7 rebounds. Kaitlin Wood (10 points) also hit some big shots and Payton Curtis (7 points) is a smart, scrappy guard who played well on both ends of the floor.

Campbell was hurt by the foul trouble of their best player Rebecca Arnone. In the Cougar's semi-final win over Newfound regional, Arnone became just the second player in NH basketball history to go over 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career. Yet in this game she was in foul trouble the whole way. Arnone fouled out with 5:30 left in the 4th quarter and was held to just 2 points in 15 minutes of play.

"I find it hard to believe how they could foul 4 kids out in a championship game" said Campbell head coach Shawn Flynn. "But I give credit to White Mountains and Coach Jenness. They had a great game plan and they executed it. They
stifled Becca and kept her off the boards."

In addition to Conway and Payer fouling out for White Mountains and Arnone fouling out for Campbell, senior forward Ashley Gannon also fouled out for the Cougars. Campbell was called for 23 fouls on the game, while White Mts. was called for 18 - that's right, 41 total fouls were called! White Mountains took advantage of all those Campbell fouls, as the Spartans attempted a whopping 29 free throws (they made 17 of them). Campbell meanwhile was 10/15 from the charity stripe. In other words White Mts. MADE 2 more foul shots than Campbell ATTEMPTED.

I big reason why White Mts. was getting to the line more than Campbell was because they were taking the ball to the basket whereas Campbell was taking a lot of outside shots and of course the more you take it to the rim the more you will get fouled. Want a stat for proof? The Spartans shot 7 three-pointers while the Cougars shot 20 of them! And Campbell only made 5 of those 20 threes (that's just 25%).

With Arnone in foul trouble all game you do have to give credit to the other girls for Campbell for stepping up, especially freshman guard Hannah Neild (14 points, 4 rebounds and 4 steals) and senior guard Aly O'Donnell (13 points). Senior guard Liz Pettis also played well with 14 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 steals.

But still it was not enough, as the Cougars came up just short in their attempt to win back-to-back Division III titles. Campbell has made an impressive run though, as this was their 5th consecutive appearance in the D-III (Class M) title game.

"The key in the 1st half was that we out-rebounded them" said White Mountains head coach Gary Jenness, who wins his first championship at White Mountains after winning 11 Division IV (Class S) state titles at Groveton High. "In the 2nd half we panicked a little bit and got in foul trouble, then they went ahead. But we showed a lot of guts to come back and win it."

Bennett, a 5'11" senior, made big plays all game but had 2 baskets in the 2nd half that were especially critical. She grabbed an offensive rebound, made the put-back plus got fouled. Then Neild hit a buzzer beater from half court to put Campbell up 40-39 headed to the 4th quarter. Halfway through the 4th with the Spartans clinging to a 1 point lead Bennett made her first free throw and missed the second. However she got her own rebound and again made the put-back to give White Mts. a 51-47 lead with 1:20 left. Neild then answered with a three-pointer to cut the Spartan's lead to 51-50 with just a minute left.

Campbell then had a shot to tie it up at the end when they were down 54-51. Pettis had an open look from the outside but she didn't get the bounce. White Mts. made their free throws down the stretch to hold on for the 56-51 win.

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