Division II rival schools Portsmouth and Oyster River met on Sunday night in the championship game of the Bobcat Invitational Basketball Tournament. These same 2 teams just played each other 9 days ago in a regular season showdown, with Portsmouth coming out on top 53-41. This time the outcome was much different, as not only did Oyster River win but there were far fewer points scored this time around.
Portsmouth didn't score a point until their was 2:43 left in the 1st quarter. It was only 5-2 Oyster River after 1 and it was only 10-9 Bobcats at halftime. For awhile you had to wonder if either team was going to even reach 20 points for the game. But in the 2nd half the scoring picked up.
It was the size of Oyster River vs. the speed of Portsmouth. Oyster River starts Sara Messler (5-foot-10), Claire Salmon (5-foot-11) and Claire McCarthy (6-foot-2), meanwhile none of the 8 girls who played for Portsmouth tonight were taller than 5-foot-8. In a match up of size vs. speed it was size that won, as Messler, Salmon and McCarthy dominated the boards and combined to score all but 1 of the Bobcats' points. McCarthy had a game-high 14 points and 12 rebounds, earning Tournament MVP honors and Oyster River won the tourney championship with a 30-28 win.
"In the 1st half the shots weren't falling and both teams played good defense" said Oyster River first-year head coach Dave Burrows. "The difference in the 2nd half for us was instead of retreating against their press we started attacking the rim and finishing."
The action started to pick up in the 3rd quarter, as senior wing Abby Salvadore hit a pair of mid-range jumpers to put the Clippers up 13-12. On the other end Oyster River answers right back, as Salmon gets a pass inside for an and-1 finish. The FT is no good but the Bobcats retake the lead, 14-13 with 3:20 left in the 3rd.
McCarthy scores inside to make it 16-13 Oyster River, but then Portsmouth freshman Heather Durand drove across the lane and finished in traffic with her off-hand. McCarthy answered with a foul line jumper, and it was 20-15 Bobcats after 3.
One of the stories of this game was the play of Portsmouth's 2 freshmen, Durand and Libby Underwood. Both came off the bench but ended up playing the majority of the game. They played hard, they brought a lot of energy and both have the ability to create offense either off the dribble or with their shot. They combined for nearly half their team's points. It's safe to say that Durand and Underwood are the future of Portsmouth girls basketball.
This game really heated up in the game's final 5 minutes. Messler drilled a big 3-pointer to make it 25-19 Bobcats with 5:00 remaining. Then McCarthy scored on back-to-back layups inside, with the second one coming off a nice feed from Messler. It was now 29-19 Oyster River with just 3:30 left, and it looked like this game was over.
You can't count out the Clippers though, as they went on a 9-1 run to cut the lead to 30-28. Senior guard Tighe Loche hit a 3, then Underwood connected on a long jumper with a foot on the 3-point line. The senior guard Phoebe Collins (will play college softball at Hamilton) banked in a shot in the paint.
Now it was Oyster River ball, up 29-26 with a minute left. Messler gets fouled, she makes 1 of 2 FTs and it's 30-26. Again it's the freshman Underwood hitting a big shot, but again she had a foot on the 3-point line. The lead is now 30-28, but if those 2 shots she made late were just an inch further back it would be a tie game.
Oyster River ball, up 30-28 and just 30 seconds left. Portsmouth gets a steal, but then turns it back over. With 15 seconds left Salmon gets fouled and goes to the line for a 1-and-1. She misses the front end, but McCarthy grabs the offensive rebound. McCarthy is called for a travel, so Portsmouth gets the ball back with a chance to tie it win it.
There's only 3.5 seconds left, and the Clippers have to go the length of the court. Oyster River has a foul to give, and they use it (good move by Coach Burrows to foul there). Now Portsmouth has just 1.5 seconds left to get a shot off. They get the ball in to Durand, who drives to the basket but is unable to get a shot off before the buzzer sounds. Oyster River hangs on for the 30-28 win and tournament championship.
D-II girls is wide open this season. These 2 teams, as well as Hanover, Coe-Brown, Souhegan, Lebanon, Windham, Goffstown, Pembroke and Milford are all in the mix.