The Bishop Guertin girls basketball team won the Division I championship last season, and now they are just 1 win away from making it back-to-back titles. It wasn't the best game they have played this year, but it was good enough to get the job done in a 45-33 semi-final win.
It was just one of those nights. Both teams were a little off their game. Londonderry shot just 19% on the game, while BG wasn't much better at 26.9%. The teams had a combined 39 turnovers.
"I think were both nervous, with the bigger court and more fans" said BG junior point guard Jamie Sherburne, who had 13 points in the win. "We just weren't making shots."
Leading the way for Guertin was senior forward Meghan Green. Green had a HUGE game on both ends of the floor with 24 points, 24 rebounds, 2 blocks and 1 steal. She was dominant on the boards and scoring inside with a wide array of post moves. She got in a nice rhtym in the 2nd quarter, with a good move inside for 2, followed later by 2 straight offensive rebounds and put-backs.
"Meghan carried us in the 1st half" said Bishop Guertin head coach Scott Hazelton. "But then she got in foul trouble in the 2nd half and played more tentative."
It is inspiring to see such a performance from a player who has seemingly accomplished everything a high school player can. Green has already scored 1,000 points, grabbed 1,000 rebounds, she has won D-I Player of the Year, she has won a state championship and she has a full ride to play her college ball at BU. Some players with that kind of resume would be content to just play out the rest of their senior season and go off to college. Not Green, she still went out there and put up huge numbers and led her team to a big win.
"I love this team so much, I didn't want this to me my last game" said Green.
Even with Green's dominance in the 1st half, BG was still only up 17-15. Yes, that is a very low 1st half score. The 1st quarter was especially mild, with Londonderry leading just 6-4 after one. No one could buy a bucket on either side, and there were many turnovers.
"A lot of it was good defense, some of it was poor offense" commented Londonderry head coach John Fagula.
In the 2nd quarter especially there was just no flow to the game, with the whistle being blown on seemingly every trip down the floor. The pace picked up a little in the 3rd quarter. Lancers sophomore forward Casey Evans was matched up with Green all game. She got beat on a few rebounds inside in the 1st half, but played much better in the 2nd half. Evans rebounded her own miss and took it strong to the rim for 2.
Sherburne answered with a dazzling crossover dribble move, getting into the lane and hitting a tough runner. Then BG picked up their defensive pressure, getting a steal and pushing the ball up ahead to sophomore guard Megan Kerutis. Kerutis finished the layup on the other end, and BG took a 25-19 lead with 3:11 left in the 3rd quarter. Londonderry was still very much in the game, but BG certainly had the momentum on their side.
Gigi Piercy then made a great defensive play to strip the ball away from Lancers junior shooting guard Jaime King, forcing a jump ball. Londonderry got the ball back, but their star point guard Aliza Simpson was blocked by Green on an attempted pull-up jumper from 18 feet. Simpson is one of the best players in the state, but she had a tough game in this one with 6 points on just 2/16 shooting.
"I just tried to keep her out of the middle" said Sherburne.
Green added, "We knew we couldn't go for steals on her, and had to hedge out on the screens."
Simpson then broke out of her shooting slump with a 3-pointer from the corner to cut the Cardinal's lead to 29-24. Then Evans continued to play well in the paint, sprinting up court on the break, going up strong with a shot and getting fouled at the 3rd quarter buzzer. She hit both FT's, and the Lancers were only down 29-24 headed to the 4th. Evans picked up where she left off in the 4th quarter, working hard on the boards, and finishing a put-back to cut the BG lead to 29-26.
"She's a good young player" said Green. "There aren't many other teams with good bigs, just them and Bedford. I gave up some rebounds to her in the 2nd half. I just have to be better on defense."
Londondery continued to build momentum, as Simpson pushed the ball quickly up the floor and zipped a pass over to Evans for a layup on the break. Just like that the BG lead was now just 29-28 with plenty of time left, 6:46 to play. The Lancers were on a 9-2 run.
"If there was a team we didn't want to play in the semi-finals it was them" said Hazelton. "They're big, they're physical. Aliza Simpson is a great player. She has played in this game 3 years in a row, and she has played well every time."
The 2 teams continued to battle each other tooth and nail in the 4th quarter, just like they did in last year's championship game. In that game Simpson fouled out with about 5:00 left, and that was a big reason why BG won. Simpson also fouled out in this game. The Lancers were down 32-28 with 4:39 left when she picked up her 5th foul in tonight's game. When she left the game, Londonderry's hopes of a comeback victory took a significant hit.
"All of those shots she was missing tonight, she was making those shots for the past 3 or 4 games" said Coach Fagula. Sometimes that can turn into frustration on defense, and then you pick up chippy fouls."
With Simpson out, BG reeled off 2 quck buckets to go up 36-28, their largest lead of the game. The Lancers weren't ready to give up yet though, as sophomore forward Brittany Roche drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing to Cardinals' lead to 36-31.
But then Londonderry went cold offensively, BG hit some free throws, and they added the exclamation point on the win as Madison Gibbs connected with Green on a pair of long passes for layups at the end against Londonderry's press. That mde the final score BG 45 Londonderry 33.
Now it is Bishop Guertin vs. Bedford on Saturday night at SNHU for the title. BG won the regular season meeting between the 2 teams, while Bedford won when they played each other in the finals of the Nashua Christmas Tournament. This one will be the rubber match, and it's for all the marbles.
"Our defense will have to be big" said Sherburne. Everyone has to step up, we'll practice the shell drill and deny, deny, deny on defense. We're both going to come out playing hard, it's going to be a great game."
Ironically, BG's 3 senior starters are all from Bedford. It's scary to think how good Bedford would be if Green, Gibbs and Nicole Hayner were all going there instead of BG.
"I guess our toen is really good at basketball" Green said with a smile. I want a third game against them. They beat us last time, and my best friend Maggie McGown is on Bedford so it will be fun playing against her."
Both BG and Bedford got off to slow starts in their semi-final games. Now that the jitters are out, look for a special night of basketball on Saturday night in the finals. Let the best team win!