It is very rare for a team to score just 4 points in the 1st quarter and still win by over 20, but that is exactly what the Portsmouth High girls basketball team did on Tuesday night. The Clippers recovered nicely from a slow start, and went on to defeat seacoast rival Oyster River 55-34 in the preliminary round of the Division II girls basketball tournament.
"The press turned things around for us" said Portsmouth head coach Dan Parr. "It changed the tempo for us. We also wanted to put some pressure on their point guard (Jenny Mistretta). Over the last 3 quarters we played pretty good."
Portsmouth exploded for 24 points in the 2nd quarter, with a balanced attack led by Phoebe Collins, Christina Jones, Devon Parker, Tigh Loche and Abby Salvadore. Each of them made key plays, as Parr's squad went on a 12-2 run to end the 1st half after a 3-pointer by Mistretta tied the game up at 16-16. They all stepped up with 6-foot-3 senior center Alicia Brown in foul trouble, and then Brown took over in the 2nd half to finish with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
The points came fast and furiously for Portsmouth in the 2nd quarter, as they scored 12 point in the last 2 minuytes of the period alone. Jones made a layup after cutting back door to get the run started and put the Clippers back up 18-16. Collins then hit a pair of free throws, and after a quick steal via the press Loche converted a layup. Jones then dished it over to Salvadore for another layup. Then after another Clippers steal, Loche passed it to Parker for yet another layup (seeing a pattern here?). Right after that Portsmouth went on the fast-break, pushed it quickly ahead to Salvadore who drove strong to the rim for an and-1 finish. That's right, another layup for the Clippers.
"Our goal was to make the tournament, and we did that" said Oyster River head coach Dave Nichols. "Next year our goal is to make it to SNHU. We will have just about everybody coming back, including 4 starters and all 3 of our bigs, plus a nice group of guards coming up from JV. We are playing for next year."
That returning core for the Bobcats includes Mistretta, Claire McCarthy, Claire Salmon (all 3 of them are juniors) and freshman Sara Messler.
McCarthy connected on a 15-footer to pull the Bobcats to within 5 at 28-23 early in the 3rd quarter. Just when it looked like they were making a comeback Portsmouth answered back. Brown hit a 15-footer of her own followed by a foul line jumper by Collins. Both teams were getting the ball inside to their bigs, who were hitting shots inside and out. Just when Portsmouth pushed the lead back up to 9 at 32-23, Mistretta countered with another 3-pointer to cut it to 32-26.
Unfortunately for Oyster River that is as close as they would get for the rest of the game. They had a chance to cut it back down to 6, but missed a layup with 5 seconds let in the 3rd quarter. Portsmouth got the ball back, and Jones went hard to the rim and got fouled. She made 1 of 2 FT's. So instead of Oyster River pulling to wihtin 6 heading to the 4th, instead they were down by 9.
Loche, Collins and Brown all hit shots early in the 4th, as the Clippers continued to force turnovers with their press. Soon they built up their lead to 49-31 and the teams began pulling their starters out.
Portsmouth now moves on to the D-II quarterfinals, where they will host the winner of the Merrimack Valley (10 seed) vs. Hanover (7 seed) game.
"We haven't played Merrimack Valley yet" Coach Parr explained. "We played hanover in the Christmas tournament. We lost to them, but we have improved a lot since then."