It was senior day for the Proctor Academy girls basketball team, but unfortunately for them they were going up against one of the top prep school teams in New England. Tilton improved to 21-3 on the season with a 50-38 win over Proctor.
Proctor is some dangerous weapons on offense, so the fact that Tilton held them to just 38 points is very impressive. How did they do it? The simple answer is they forced turnovers - Proctor had over 20 turnovers on the day. Tilton rotates 7 girls in and out - all 7 of them can shoot it, and all 7 of them can defend. Included in those 7 is NH natives Alex Cohen (Nashua, NH) and Kelsey Brown (Durham, NH).
"My favorite thing about this team is their resilience" said Tilton head coach Tara Brisson. "We have to learn to play through runs, but the defense has been there consistently. We're always holding teams to around 40 points or less."
Proctor hung around for most of the game, but Tilton went on a run in the 2nd half to break it open. Abby Iannotti hit a dagger 3-pointer which gave the Rams a 45-30 lead late in the game. The shot was even more of a dagger because it came after Proctor had already been playing defense for over 35 seconds. Tilton guard Jillian Fama took a three with 1 second left on the shot clock. Proctor was unable to get the defensive rebound, giving Tilton the ball back. Iannotti made them pay by nailing the three.
In some ways, this possession summed the game up. It showed that not only does Tilton have lots of girls who can shoot the basketball (all 7 of their rotation players hit at least one jumper from the perimeter), but also Proctor gave up far too many offensive rebounds.
Still, Proctor played hard and put up a good fight. They are a young team with just 1 senior in the starting lineup. They are led by a pair of sophomores (Amber Wilson and Elemy Colome) and a junior who could end up reclassifying to be a sophomore (Morgan Church). They may have lost this game but losing to a team as good as Tilton is nothing to hang your head about. Plus, Proctor still has a strong record of 12-5 on the season and this Wednesday they will host a playoff game.
Proctor played zone defense and Tilton for the most part was struggling with their outside shooting in the 1st half. That allowed Proctor to stay close, and at halftime they were only down 19-16.
Church (New London, NH) hit a tough floater in the lane early on, and then connected on a 3-pointer from the corner off a kick-out to tie the game up 12-12. Tilton answered back though, as Brown hit a smooth step-back jumper with a foot on the 3-point line. That gave the Rams a 14-12 lead with 4:00 left in the 1st half. Then Cohen (committed to Manhattan University) hit a three from the top of the key. Tilton then got a steal, and Maureen Taggart converted an easy layup on the other end. It was a quick 7-0 run, and just like that Tilton was on top 19-12.
The action picked up in the 2nd half, with Proctor fighting hard to try and make a comeback. Church made a nice pass to Wilson for an and-1 finish. But Jillian Fama answered right back with a 3-pointer for Tilton. Proctor got out on the fast-break and Wilson (11 points) was again able to finish. Right after that Cohen drilled her second three of the game to push the Rams' lead back up to 29-21 with 13:00 left in the 2nd half.
Tilton then extended the elad to 31-21, as Proctor continued to turn the ball over against Tilton's tough pressure defense. Sophomore point guard Giulia Orlando hit a jumper frm the left elbow, and then Taggart and Cori Marshall both hit 3-pointers as Tilton really started to get rolling. They were now up 40-26 with under 7:00 left to play. Tilton had too many girls who can shoot it, and Proctor had too many turnovers. Proctor was also giving up too many offensive rebounds, as Kelsey Brown went inside and grabbed an offensive board. Brown went back up strong with it and got to the line.
Colome (16 points) had some steals and quick baskets at the end of the 1st half and also at the end of the game to keep Proctor in it. Colome and Wilson give Proctor 2 very athletic and talented girls who are both only sophomores. Church could also reclassify and if she does that will be a scary trio when the three of them are seniors in a couple years.
Just last month Church returned to the court from a torn ACL injury. Sje was going to Kearsarge High at the time, and she suffered the injury with 1:00 left in her team's semi-final game vs. Windham. Kearsarge won that game but without Church in the lineup for the title game they got blown oiut by Souhegan. Soon after that Church had knee surgery.
"The knee feels good" said the 5-foot-7 guard. "There are still some problems but it's getting better every day. I missed the first 6 games and then came back in the beginning of January. It's really exciting to be playing again."
Church said she will be deciding soon whether she will stay in the Class of 2014 or if she will reclassify to 2015. The other option would be to stay a 2014 and then do a post-grad year at a different prep school which would make her a 2015. Stay tuned.
Tilton has earned the number one seed in the NEPSAC Class B Tournament. They have won their fourth straight Lakes Region championship, and their first playoff game is this Wednesday when they host 8th seeded Marianapolis Prep.