By: Jeremy Leveille
In the preseason Merrimack Valley and Windham were the #2 and #3 ranked teams in Division II girls basketball. In the last two weeks St. Thomas has beaten both of them.
Allie Coneys hit a pair of free throws with 9.5 seconds left to put the Saints ahead. A last second 3-point shot by senior wing Bernadette Connors was no good. The St. Thomas players then stormed the court to celebrate their 57-56 upset victory over Windham (who was 9-2 coming in). STA has now won four games in a row to improve to 6-6 on the season.
"This was a great win for us" said St. Thomas head coach Sabrina Payeur. "We have 7 players who are freshmen or sophomores, only 2 seniors and only 1 of those seniors played varsity before this year. So we started slow, but they've been working hard."
Leading the way for STA was 5-foot-11 senior forward Meaghan Flynn with a team-high 19 points. She was a force in the paint all game long against a smaller Windham squad. Allie Coneys had 16 points, including the game-winning foul shots. Flynn and Coneys are the two post players for the Saints and did much of their scoring inside.
"That was our game plan" said Coach Payeur. "We wanted to get the ball inside against them."
St. Thomas got the ball with 30 seconds left, trailing 56-55. They worked the ball around the perimeter against the tough pressure defense of the Jaguars. They got it to Flynn but she was too far from the basket to make a move. Then Coneys got the ball in the post, and put up an off balance shot in the lane. It was no good but she got her own rebound and got fouled on the put-back attempt. That's when Coneys drilled the game-winning free throws.
St. Thomas pulled off the win, despite having their coach ejected early in the 4th quarter for arguing a call.
"They were hanging all over our bigs all game" Coach Payeur explained. "So I said something to the official about it. I thought he just gave me one technical but I guess he gave me two."
The Saints really buckled down defensively from there, only allowing Windham to score 6 points in the 4th quarter. The Jaguars were still able to maintain a small lead the whole 4th quarter though, up until the game's final seconds. Junior forward Bri Angelini hit 2 free throws to give Windham a 54-52 lead with 3:00 left as the crowd really started to get into the game.
Windham then made it a two possession game, but then freshman wing Ashley Coney caught a pass from Flynn cutting to the basket and converted a clutch and-1 finish. The foul shot was no good though, so STA still trailed 54-52. The Jaguars once again went up by two scores after Amanda Schiebel hit a pair of free throws with 2:40 left.
Allie Coneys answered right back with a turnaround bank shot to cut the lead to 56-54 with 1:52 remaining. Hannah Turgeon then sank 1 of 2 free throws to make it a 1 point game, 56-55 with 1:40 left.
That's when the pace of the game really picked up with both teams pressing each other to try and get the ball back. Windham had a couple of turnovers and STA missed a pair of long jumpers. On the second one there was a mad scramble for possession before a jump ball was called. That led to the Saints' game-winning possession.
It was a close game throughout, and it was tied 29-29 at halftime. Kelsey Schiebel led Windham in scoring with 19 points (she also played some tough on the ball defense). Junior guard Clairee Putnam had 17 points, but also had a couple of drives late where she got to the rim but just barely had the ball rim out or had a jump ball called as her shot went through the net. She is tough to guard off the dribble. Angelini had 10 points for the Jaguars in a losing effort.