Both Hanover and Souhegan were 11-2 going into their match up on Saturday afternoon. It was a potential Final Four preview game. Early on it was an evenly matched game, but then sophomore standout Lexie Hamilton took over. Hamilton hit not 1 but 6 three-pointers, en route to a game-high 20 points. Hanover not only won but they won by 17, and in doing so made a statement that they are possibly the team to beat right in in Division II.
After scoring just 12 points during the entire 1st half, Souhegan exploded for 20 points in the 3rd quarter. They went from being down 28-16 to only trailing 35-32 heading to the 4th (a 16-7 run). But then Hanover took over once again, outscoring the Sabers 24-10 in the 4th to win 59-42.
"We were so exhausted from our come back in the 3rd quarter we didn't have enough left in the 4th" said Souhegan head coach Mike Heaney. "We can't keep digging ourselves a 15 point hole, it caught up with us. That was by far the most points we've given up all year."
Souhegan went on top early, as Cammie Formby-Lavertu made a strong drive and finish. Hanover then went on a quick 7-0 run, as Cathleen Beliveau hit a 15-footer, then they got a steal and JJ Daniell made a nice pass to Christine Croituro for a layup. Then Hamilton stole the ball near half court, which led to an and-1 for teammate Eileen Daley (17 points). Formby-Lavertu hit a pull-up jumper at the foul line at the buzzer, and it was 9-8 Hanover after 1.
That's when Hamilton started draining 3's. She hit her first 3 of the game from the right wing to put the Marauders up 12-9 with 6:30 left in the 1st half. Then she buried another 3, this time from the left wing and it was 15-10 Hanover. On the next trip down the floor Hamilton brought the ball up the court, pulled up 5 feet behind the 3 point line and hit yet another shot from beyond the arc - it barely touched the net! This kid can flat out shoot the basketball. It was now 18-10 Marauders with 3:42 left in the 2nd quarter, and Souhegan called timeout.
"Lexie is a special player" said Coach Heaney. "She's really smart when reading screens. She moves as well without the ball as any player I've seen, boy or girl."
Then Hamilton made a nice pass, dishing it over to Daley for a tough bucket inside. Then on a baseline out of bounds play Daniell cut to the rim, caught the ball in traffic and laid it in. Hanover took a 23-12 lead into halftime and Marauders head coach Dan O'Rourke had to be very pleased with how his team was playing.
"We held a top 4 team to just 42 points, so I'm most happy with our defense" said Coach O'Rourke. "After a slew of injuries since December we're finally healthy now. Our defense has improved drastically. We're now playing defense like you need to in order to win a championship."
The pace of the game and the scoring both picked up in the 2nd half. Mickenzee Larivee drilled an 18-footer for Souhegan, but then Hamilton answered right back with another 3. Sabers senior point guard Devon Hickey made a strong drive and finish, but then Holly Schlosser had an and-1 on the other end for the Marauders and it was 28-16 Hanover.
That's when Souhegan made their comeback. Amanda Gendron played tough on the ball defense to force a turnover. Souhegan started the game 0/9 on 3-pointers, but then Hickey ended that streak as she hit a 3 to cut the Hanover lead to 32-23. Hamilton was playing tough defense herself, with a nice back tip to force a turnover, then grabbing a steal on the next possession. Souhegan's shots weren't falling in the 1st half but they definitely started falling in the 3rd quarter. Larivee hit a 15-footer to cap a 7-0 run for the Sabers and it was now 32-27. Hamilton again answered with a 3-pointer, but that was quickly followed by a fast break layup by Jaime King (team-high 12 points). Then King hit a 3 and it was 35-32 Hanover. That's how the score stayed at the end of 3 quarters, as Emily Gaukstern drew a charge right at the end of the quarter.
"We got more aggressive going to the rim in the 3rd quarter" said Heaney. "Also we had some kids who started taking shots who were passing those shots up in the 1st half."
Souhegan made a spirited comeback in the 3rd, but the 4th quarter was all Hanover. Schollser made another strong drive and finish. Then Hanover threw the ball over the top of the Souhegan press which led to an and-1 by Croituro. The scoring continued to happen at a fast pace, as Daley drove and finished inside, Formby-Lavertu made a nice up-and-under move for 2 and Daley scored 2 more inside. Hanover now had a 43-34 lead with 6:15 left in rgulation and Souhegan called timeout.
Morgan Brady drilled a 3-pointer off the catch, as the Sabers were trying to battle back. But they still trailed 47-37 and would not get the lead back under single digits the rest of the way. Hamilton hit another 3-pointer, her 6th of the game (she was 6/8 from beyond the arc). Then Schlosser hit a turnaround leaner. Daniell made back-to-back layups at the end and the Marauders cruised to the 59-42 win.
There's still a lot of basketball left to be played, but it wouldn't be surprising if the 4 teams who made it to SNHU for the girls D-II Final Four were Souhegan, Milford, Lebanon and Hanover. How fun would that be? You have 2 of the biggest rivalries in the state right there, with Milford/Souhegan and Lebanon/Hanover. It could happen!