Sunday afternoon's snow storm re-scheduled game between the Pinkerton girls and Nashua North was all tied up 39-39 after 3 quarters. But then Pinkerton (the only undefeated team left in D-I girls) outscored North 17-4, to win 56-43.
Yes, 3:30 on a Sunday afternoon is a strange time for a high school basketball game. But that wasn't a factor, as the girls who saw most of the minutes in this one play AAU and 3:30 on a Sunday is not an uncommon time for an AAU game at all.
What was a factor was experience, as all 5 of Pinkerton's starters were either starters or key players off the bench last season. One of them was sophomore forward Val Martin, who had a breakout game with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Meanwhile, Kayla Stacy, Sam Breslin, Brandi Bonneau, Colleen Fortier and Corina Moore have all been getting varsity minutes for 3 years now.
North put up a valiant effort, even taking a 36-35 lead in the 3rd quarter. But Pinkerton dominated the 4th quarter, and that was largely due to having a more experienced, disciplined team. All 5 of the Astros starters can handle the basketball and score; they run good sets and they defend.
2 plays in particular really helped to seal the win in the 4th quarter for Pinkkerton. The first one was a clutch 3-pointer by reslin from the top of the key to make it 48-41 Astros. North head coach Ricky Oliver was visibly upset at his team for not rotating over quick enough to challenge the shot. But you have to givee Breslin credit, that's a senior making a big shot at a big time.
The other big play late was by junior point guard Kayla Stacy. She (along with the other Pinkerton players) had picked up their defensive intensity in the 4th quarter. Stacy was covering North's freshman guard Marie LaPlante. Stacy was pressuring LaPlante the length of the floor, making her really work to get it across half court and set up the offense. Then Stacy stole the ball around the 3/4 court mark. Sje got to the rim and finished with her left hand with a defender right there contesting.
Pinkerton head coach John Barry got consistent scoring and rebounding all game long from Martin, and he got 2 HUGE plays late by Breslin (8 points) and Stacy (8 points).
Fortier (7 points) meanwhile hit a layup to put Pinkerton up 37-36, just seconds after North had finally taken the lead. And when it was knotted at 39-39, it was Bonneau (12 points) who hit a tough scoop shot to once again put the Astros back in the lead 41-39 early in the 4th quarter. Like I said, all 5 of the Pinkerton starters can hurt you.
With that being said, the Titans did put up a good fight. And it would be wrong to go any further in this article without mentioning the outstanding performance by North sophomore guard Taylor Choate. Choate once again showed why she is not only one of the best players in her class but in the entire stae. She had a team-high 18 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and 1 blocked shot. Choate can shoot from the outside but is even more dangerous when driving to the basket, which she can do well with either hand. She is extremely quick and athletic and plays hard on every play. With the two leading scorers in this game (Martin and Choate) only being sophomores it is clear that the future of NH girls basketball is bright.
Also playing well for North was senior wing Genevieve Gosselin. Like Choate, Gosselin is very good at slashing to the rim and creating offense off the dribble. Gosselin was able to knife her way through defenders and get to the rim a number of times. Nearly every time she did, she either scored or got fouled. With Gosselin, Choate, freshman guard Adaeze Okorie and Choate's older sister Summer Choate the Titans have arguably the most athletic team in the state.
Pinkerton is in the midst of a tough stretch. They just played Londonderry and North (both wins), and now they play BG on Tuesday and Bedford on Friday. By the end of this week we will definitely know just how good these Astros girls are. Also on Friday, the North girls play against BG. So with North/BG and Pinkerton Bedford both being played Friday night it is a possible Final Four Preview. Now, if only the A.D.'s of those 4 schools could get together, call up the NHIAA and have both games played back-to-back and in the same gym. Now that would be a great night of basketball!