By: Jeremy Leveille
It was a Queen City Showdown in the championship game of the Manchester Central Girls Holiday Tournament, with the host team Central taking on the tourney's defending champs Memorial. The Crusaders were once again crowned Tournament Champions, as they won a tight, hard fought battle 46-43.
Memorial was led by Makenah Grisson, Danielle Fletcher, Allie Hartford and Amela Imamovic. Grisson and Fletcher both had a team-high 13 points, Imamovic chipped in with 8 and Hartford was the floor general who ran the offense. Grisson was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
"This is a great group of girls" said Manchester Memorial first-year head coach Maureen LaRoche. "They work hard everyday and they believe in themselves."
Still, it was not an easy win by any means. Although they did have the lead for virtually the entire game, Memorial never led by more than 6 points. Central was right there with them the whole way.
Central even had a chance to tie it up on the last play of the game. The Little Green were down 46-43 and had the ball with under :10 remaining. They got the ball to sophomore guard Caitlin Vincent, who had a game-high 14 points. Vincent put up a 3-point attempt but the shot was blocked by Imamovic. Memorial grabbed the rebound, the buzzer sounded and the Crusaders win the tourney once again.
Fletcher connected on 2 clutch free throws late in the game to give Memorial the 3 point lead. Imamovic also had a big 3-point shot which pushed the Crusaders' lead to 42-36 with 6:40 left to play.
Vincent answered back with a 3 of her own through, and then teammate Amanda Gaudreault converted a put-back to once again pull Central within 3 at 44-41 with 2:21 left in regulation. Vincent then scored again, and now Central was only down 44-43 with :21 left. That's when Fletcher hit her 2 foul shots to make it a 3 point Memorial lead.
Grisson and Central senior forward Megan Cleary battled each other inside all game. Cleary chipped in with 10 points and 7 rebounds. She must play well inside for Central, as they are still playing without their best player, senior forward Katherine Johnson (knee injury).
"I was happy with our defensive rebounding, but I was not happy with our offensive rebounding" said Coach LaRoche. "We didn't get enough second shots."
One Crusader who did have a couple of offensive boards was Hartford, who also made some great passes and hit a 3 ball in the 1st quarter. Fletcher also drained a 3 and had some strong slashes to the rim and finishes through contact. Also, Memorial guard AJ Akot hit a big 3-pointer with 3:30 left in the 3rd quarter after Central pulled to within 1 point on a Cleary layup.
Lebanon Crushes Trinity in 3rd Place Game
Lebanon wasn't able to make the trip to Manchester for one of their scheduled games due to the snow. So they had to forfeit that game. After they dismantled Trinity in the 3rd place game, 63-45 you have to wonder if the Raiders would have won the tournament championship if they didn't have to forfeit a game.
Lebanon got off to a little bit of a slow start, as they were only up 11-7 midway through the 1st quarter and led just 20-13 at the end of the 1st.
"We haven't practiced in a week and it showed" said Lebanon head coach Tim Kehoe.
But then they went on a run, and did what Lebanon does best - force turnovers with their press and turn them into layups on the other end. They led 37-18 at halftime, they were up 57-34 at the end of the 3rd quarter and then got their biggest lead of 63-36 with 4:02 left in the 3rd quarter. That's when Coach Kehoe took out his 'Big Four' of Moriah Morton, Emily Kehoe, Heather King and Samantha MacDonald.
Leading the way for Trinity was 6-foot-2 senior center Jillian Gilman, who had a game-high 21 points in the win to go with 12 rebounds and 2 blocks. Lebanon didn't have enough size to match up with Gilman, especially with center Vanessa Fleury sitting the game out.
"Vanessa sat out with a back injury" said Coach Kehoe. "We didn't want to chance it with her in a Christmas tournament game."
The story of the game though was the outstanding all-around effort by Morton. Morton, who hopes to walk-on next year for Dartmouth, simply did everything out there for Lebanon. She had a team-high 20 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists and 5 steals. Morton is the best defender in the state, and if she didn't steal the ball she was getting deflections or just flying around the court putting pressure on the Trinity players. She is very unselfish and is always looking to pass it to a teammate for a better look rather than taking the shot herself.
Kehoe, King and MacDonald all fed off Morton's play and were able to convert a wide array of layups and jumpers. Kehoe had 18 points, King had 11 and MacDonald chipped in with 8.
Lebanon is the hands down favorite to win the Division II title this season.
Also playing well for Trinity was junior guard Meredith Farrell (9 points) in defeat.