Monday, February 17, 2014

North Goes to a Zone, Pulls Away From Pinkerton

Coming in, North was 9-3 and Pinkerton was 10-2. So it was a big game in terms of tournament seeding. It was tied 27-27 at halftime, as you had 2 evenly matched teams battling each other tooth and nail on every possession. Pinkerton scored 2 quick buckets to start the 2nd half to take a 31-27 lead. However, that's when North took over.

"They went to a zone on defense and we have been struggling against zones" lamented first-year Pinkerton head coach Lani Buskey. "We need to move the ball better against them."

North then scored the next 7 consecutive points, en route to an 18-4 run to end the 3rd quarter. They took a 45-35 lead after 3 quarters and that run turned out to be the difference as the Titans went on to win 59-50. Both teams now have identical 10-3 records, with North now owning the tie-breaker.

"I'm not going to say exactly what type of zone it was" said Nashua North head coach Ricky Oliver with a smile. "We didn't use a zone often, but we had to at that time because we were in foul trouble. Taylor (Choate) had 4 fouls and we couldn't take a chance on her fouling out."

After Pinkerton took the 31-27 lead on a 15-footer by Colleen Fortier (13 points) and a strong drive and finish by Val Martin (14 points), North scored the game's next 7 points and they did it in a hurry. Sophomore sharpshooter Sara Cordova (12 points on four 3-pointers) hit a 3, then senior forward Brittany Desroche made a layup on the break and then North again got the ball right back and this time it was sophomore standout Dezi Okorie pushing the ball on the break and hitting a leaner off the glass. Just like that North had a 34-31 lead.

"We're fast, we need to run and that's what we did" commented Coach Oliver.

Cordova hit another 3-pointer, this time getting the bounce as it almost rimmed out. Then on the next trip down the court Cordova hit yet another 3, this time off the catch from the right wing. Sophomore Ali Nelson (yes, North will be good for the next few years with all these sophomores) made a nice up-and-under move for 2, and it was 45-35 North after 3. The Titans fans were getting loud, and Pinkerton headed to the bench trying to figure out a way to get back in it.

Fortier hit not 1 but 3 threes in the 4th quarter to try and get the Astros back in it but it wasn't enough. She hit her first 3 which cut the North lead to 45-40, and then on the other end Fortier drew a charge on Okorie.

But then Pinkerton went cold on offense against the North zone, and the Titans went on another 7-0 run. Desroche converted a put-back, and then Choate made a layup after North grabbed a steal. That made it 52-40 North with just 3:09 remaining. At the time it looked like Choate's layup may have been the nail in the coffin on Pinkerton, especially considering the Astros' best scorer (Martin was on the bench after picking up an intentional foul.

"We need to keep our emotions in check at key times" said Coach Buskey.

Just when it looked like the game was over, Fortier drills 2 more threes, and just like that the lead was cut in half and it was now 52-46 with still 1:55 to play.

Then came a big call, as there was a scramble for a rebound. 1 official called a jump ball, and the other official called a foul on Pinkerton. They went with the latter, sending North to the free throw line. Emily Kendall (12 points) made a layup late, putting North up 57-48 with just 40 seconds left. They held on from there for the 59-50 win.

Choate dropped a game-high 16 points to go with 5 steals and 5 rebounds. Cordova, Kendall and Desroche (10 points) all scored in double figures for North.

Pinkerton got off to a very slow start offensively in the 1st quarter but that changed completely in the 2nd. The Astrso scored only 6 points in the 1st but then exploded for 21 in the 2nd. Senior point guard Kayla Stacy got things started with a strong drive and lefty finish in traffic. But then North answered with 2 quick hoops as Desroche made a strong baseline drive and and-1. She missed the free throw but Kendall stole the ball back and it in in for 2.

Fortier took her first of 2 charges on the game, but then Kendall made a nice spin move into the lane for 2. There was 3:20 left in the 1st and Pinkerton only had 2 points on the board, and it was 7-2 North. Choate made a steal and layup on the other end for North, but Pinkerton answered back as sophomore guard Marissa Stacy grabbed a loose ball and laid it in. Kendall had an and-1 finish off a nice cross court pass, and it was 12-6 North after 1.

The pace of the game as well as the scoring picked up in the 2nd quarter. Choate grabbed an offensive rebound, then banked in a leaner plus the foul. Then North came up with a steal in the back court and Choate made a quick layup. North now had their largest lead so far, 16-6 with 6:30 to play in the 1st half.

It was time for Pinkerton to wake up and start playing! Well, that's exactly what they did. The Astros broke the North full court press, and Brandi Bonneau made a good extra pass to Kayla Stacy for a layup. Cordova then hit her first 3 of the game for the Titans, but then Pinkerton got another layup against the North press, as this time it was Marissa Stacy breaking free for the score. Marissa Stacy then drilled an 18-footer, followed quickly by a pair of free throws by Martin. Pinkerton was finally starting to find their rhythm, and they now only trailed by 4, 20-16.

North responded though, as Choate zipped a great pass over to Okorie who was cutting back door for a layup to make it 22-16 Titans. The Pinkerton run continued though, as Bonneau laid it in off a nice dish by Marissa Stacy. On the next trip down the floor Marissa Stacy drew a charge on Choate and on the trip after that she got to the line and hit 2 free throws. Fortier then made a layup off a nice dish by Martin, and right after that Martin made a pair of FTs to give the Astros a 24-22 lead and cap an 18-6 run by Pinkerton.

Choate drove and made an and-1 lefty finish to put North back on top 25-24 and it was tied 27-27 at halftime.

This game, plus Alvirne beating Londonderry tonight, Winnacunnet beating Pinkerton a couple weeks ago, Memorial beating BG, Salem beating Memorial and Dover beating Winnacunnet all means one thing - D- girls is wide open this year. Well, let me re-phrase that - Bedford is #1, and then after them it's wide open. Bedford is still the hands down favorite to win a second straight title. Next year though watch out for North. With Choate, Okorie, Cordova, Nelson and Abigail Streeter all back they will be a very tough squad next year.

As for Pinkerton, they had North tonight then they have BG on Wednesday and Bedford on Friday - now that's a tough week!

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