By: Jeremy Leveille
The Salem High girls basketball team was 12-7 going into their quarterfinal game on Saturday night. Included in there were wins over Londonderry (who is in the Final Four) and Memorial (who made the quarterfinals). It was already the best season the Salem girls have had in a long time. And they were going against a BG team that is the defending champs, has 7 future college players on the team (including 2 who are going D-I). Nobody expected the Blue Devils to have a chance in this game - they had nothing to lose.
In the 1st quarter Salem played like a team with nothing to lose, and BG played like a team that just assumed they would win. Led by junior point guard Brenna Blakslee (9 points in the 1st quarter) who plays AAU for BG head coach Scott Hazelton's Rivals program, Salem jumped on top 16-13 after 1 quarter of play.
"They're a scrappy team, they play hard" said Hazelton. "It's a credit to Salem. We were worried about Blakslee and (Emily) Hickey. We didn't want them both to go off, so we focused on stopping Hickey. We played sloppy in the 1st quarter."
Blakslee scored 9 in the 1st quarter but just 1 point the rest of the way. Hickey was held to just 4 points on the night. Meanwhile Guertin got big games from the usual suspects. Nicole Hayner had a game-high 23 points, Jamie Sherburne had 16 points and 10 assists, Meghan Green had 16 points and 13 rebounds and Megan Kerutis had 12 points. After coming out sluggish in the 1st quarter, BG completely dominated the 2nd quarter, outscoring Salem 29-8. That's right, the Cardinals scored 29 points in the 2nd quarter alone - that is the same amount of points that the winning team (Bow) for the entire game in Saturday's girls D-III title game!
"We just needed to play our game" said Sherburne. "I had to guard Blakslee and Kerutis was on Hickey. Bllakslee is really good at penetrating so I just tried to keep her out of the paint. Once we got going and started hitting our shots were good from there."
In the 2nd quarter it was fast-break basketball up and down the floor, and that pace favors BG. Hickey hit a foul line jumper to cut into the BG lead but then Kerutis answerd with a long 2 from the corner just 5 seconds later. Allie Sirmaian then countered with a 3-pointer to pull Salem within 6 at 29-23. But that is as close as the Blue Devisl would be for the rest of the game. Guertin ended the half on a 13-1 run to go up 42-24 at the half. Hayner made a good drive and finish. Then Salem had a tough call go against them, as Blakslee stepped in to try and take a charge on Kerutis. It appeared as though a charge would be the correct call, but instead the pofficial called it a blocking foul on Blakslee. Kerutis made the shot and the free throw, and BG went up 36-23.
Right after that Green made a put-back, and Sherburne followed that up with the play of the game. Sherburne got the outlet pass and immediately turned up court to attack on the break. She was met near half court by 2 Salem defenders. She used a killer crossover dribble to get by both defenders, as they both fell to the floor and Sherburne just kept driving to the rim. She was then met by one more Salem defender, and she used a nifty dribble-drive move to get by her and finish the layup.
Sherburne then hit a step-back shot frm just inside the 3-point line to start the 3rd quarter, and then in the 4th she made back-to-back big time drives and finishes. Hayner then drilled back-to-back threes, as BG was now hitting on all cylinders. Kerutis then amde a layup off a steal and BG was up 73-34 with 3:10 left in the game. With the game well in hand, Guertin pulled their starters and cruised to the win.
It was a slow start for BG, but the bottom line is that if they play the way they did in the final 3 quarters of this game there isn't a team in NH that can touch them.
"I got 8 quck points for us right away and then started kicking it out" said Green, who will be playing for Boston University next winter. "I trust Nikki to make every shot."
Hayner has been on a tear shooting the ball all season, establishing herself as the preimier spot-up shooter in the state and often times leading her team in points.
"Meghan is so good inside and Jamie and Kerutis are so good at driving and kicking" said Hayner. "All I have to do is catch and shoot it."
Also playing well for the Cardinals was senior wing Madison Gibbs, who chipped in with 7 points including a 3-pointer in the 4th quarter which started a 7-0 run (Green had a pair of quick buckets as well during the run). Gibbs, Green and Hayner are all from Bedford and have been playing together since they were in grade school. Gibbs and Hayner fathers (Kevin Gibbs and Mark Hayner) coached them all growing up.
"It's crazy to think this is our last home game for us playing together" said Green.
Leading the lue Devils in scoring was Amanda Bickford with 16 points.
BG now moves on to play Londonderry in the semi-finals on Wednesday night at SNHU. It will be a rematch of last year's D-I title game, which BG won. It will also be a match up of the 2 best point guards in the state - Sherburne and Londonderry's Aliza Simpson. Sherburne is from Hudson, and the 2 of them grew up playing against each other. Sherburne is committed to D-I Niagara University, while Simpson holds offers from UNH, Holy Cross and SNHU. It is amazing that 2 girls from towns right next to each other and grew up playing against each other will both be playing D-I ball in college.
"I will guard her and she will guard me" said Sherburne. "I love playing against each other. It is always a challenge, she's a great player. We're a good match up."
BG won the regular season meeting between the 2 teams by 40+ points. But that game was a long time ago, and Londonderry head coach John fagula wasn't there. He missed that game with health issues. Plus last year during the regular season BG crushed the Lancers during the regular season as well but only won in gthe title game by 5. Buckle up, folks - Wednesday night should be one to remember!
"We turned the ball over way too much tonight" said Coach Hazelton. "If we turn it over and don't rebound well Londonderry's going to kill us."