Free throw shooting was the difference, as the Souhegan High girls basketball team held off a 4th quarter comeback attempt by Coe Brown to win 49-44 in the first game under new head coach Mike Heaney on Friday night in Northwood. Senior guard Devon Hickey poured in a team-high 18 points for Souhegan, including three 3-pointers while junior forward Abigail Ahern led Coe Brown with 18.
Coe Brown shot just 10/24 from the free throw line (41%), while Souhegan was 13/18 (72%) (which you might as well call it 13/16 since the last 2 misses for Souhegan came with 0.1 seconds left with the outcome already decided).
"We actually had a free throwing shooting coach last year" said Coe Brown head coach David Hartnett. "But we felt like it was putting too much pressure on the kids so we didn't continue with it. Free throws, missed layups, plus we had 21 turnovers. It's part of having a young team."
Coe Brown led 8-5 after 1, and 11-7 in the 2nd quarter. But then Hickey and Jaime King (both Londonderry transfers) started to heat up from the outside, leading a 12-4 Sabers run. Souhegan took a 17-13 lead into halftime. They increased it to as many as 12 in the 3rd quarter as Hickey continued to hit shots and they held on from there.
"When Devon believes in herself she's as good as anybody" said Coach Heaney. "It helps to have players like Hickey, King and Morgan Brady at the end who can take care of the ball and make free throws."
Points came few and far between in the 1st half. Both teams were playing tough pressure defense but at the same time were missing a lot of makeable shots and turning it over. Both teams were pressing full court on a made basket. Coe Brown point guard Haley Ruth made a nice move on a 2-on-1 break, faking the pass and then laying it in for 2. Sydney Fisher connected on a shot with a foot on the 3-point line to give the Bears an 8-4 lead.
Coe Brown continued to lead in the 2nd quarter, as 5-foot-10 junior forward Jenny Schlim hustled for an offensive rebound and put-back attempt, drawing the foul and hitting 1 of 2 FT's. Ahern then sprinted across the court on defense to knock away a pass, and then Schlim came over from the weak side to block a shot.
That's when Souhegan started hitting shots. Hickey got it started with a 3-pointer. Then Souhegan got a steal off their press and King immediately drilled a 3 of her own. Just like that the Sabers take their first lead, 13-11 with 3:50 left in the 1st half.
Then to start the 3rd quarter Hickey hit another 3 to put Souhegan up 20-13. Coe Brown answered back though, as Sarah Curtin hit Schlimm with a good pass for a layup. Hickey then hit an 18-footer, followed by a put-back in transition by Emily Gaukstern. Hickey then drained yet another 3 to give Souhegan their largest lead of the game, 27-15. Curtin answered right back though with a 3 of her own to cut it to 27-18. Souhegan was hitting shots from the outside, and Coe Brown was missing a lot of shots in close. The Sabers led 30-21 after 3 quarters.
Cammie Formby-Lavertu converted a big and-1 finish inside early in the 4th, as the Sabers maintained a 33-21 lead. That's when Coe Brown started to mount a comeback, going on a 17-7 run. The Bears finally found some offensive rhythm, cutting the Souhegan lead to 34-27 with 5:00 left. They had a chance to cut the lead to 5 but missed a layup. On the other end Hickey makes a layup to make the lead 9, 36-27.
The Bears kept battling though. Ruth made a nice steal in the back court off the press, went hard to the rim, got fouled and made both FT's. Formy-Lavertu answered on the other end, rebounding her own miss and putting it back in for 2 to make it 38-31 with 3:30 left.
Coe Brown continued to make their comeback attempt, getting the ball inside to Schlim and Ahern who were able to finish. Ahern had a big hoop off a pick-and-roll for an and-1 finish. Then Ruth played tough on the ball defense to force a turnover. Then Schlim made a nice turnaround baby hook shot. Coe Brown set up their press, Schlim stole the ball, setting up another layup by Ahern. Just like that the Sabers lead is only 2, 40-38 with 2:00 left.
"These kids don't quit" said Coach Hartnett.
Souhegan was able to hang on from there for the win, though. After the Bears closed to within 41-39, Souhegan responded with 2 quick buckets. Souhegan broke the press and on the other end Brady hit a runner. Then the Sabers got a steal and Formby-Lavertu converted a layup to make it 45-39 Souhegan with just 1:18 left.
Souhegan made their FT's, and took a commanding 47-39 lead. Schlim drilled a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 47-43 with 30.7 seconds remaining. The Sabers hold on for the 49-44 win.
D-II girls is wide open this year. You're not going to have 1 team that goes undefeated like Lebanon did last year. You have probably about 8 or 9 teams who all have a shot, and Souhegan and Coe Brown are certainly 2 of them. The addition of King makes the Sabers a threat.