In basketball, if you out-shoot and out-rebound your opponent the chances are you're going to win. That's exactly what happened on Tuesday night at Southern New Hampshire University in the Division III girls basketball semi-finals between Newfound Regional and Fall Mountain Regional.
Fall Mountain shot 51% from the floor compared to just 23% for Newfound, and Fall Mountain out-rebounded Newfound 54-29. As a result, Fall Mountain led by as many as 24 points and cruised to a 61-44 victory to advance to their first championship game since 1983.
The dynamic duo of 5-foot-9 senior wing Bethany Aumand and 5-foot-11 junior forward Morgan Ferland led the way for the Wildcats. Aumand dropped a game 20 points while Ferland poured in 14 points and 17 rebounds.
"I told the girls from the beginning, defense win championships" said Fall Mountain Regional head coach Jon Aumand. "Defense was key. Also they pressed us but we've been working on our press break all year long. And we weren't worried about their 2-3 zone, we were actually happy when they went to the 2-3."
Time and time again, Bethany Aumand found the open spots in the zone, usually right at the foul line or just inside the foul line. Her teammates kept finding her and Aumand kept hitting shots. Right from the start the Wildcats were the sharper team, jumping out to an 18-6 lead after 1 quarter.
Ferland made a nice most move and scored inside, followed by a 15-footer by Marissa Tewksbury. Brittany McArthur countered with a jumper for Newfound, but then Aumand hit back-to-back jumpers near the foul line and it was 10-3 Fall Mountain with 4:40 left in the 1st quarter.
Tewksbury made a nice block, and then Josie Holt came off the bench and hit a pair of quick shots to make it 14-5 Wildcats. Aumand continued to shoot the basketball well, drilling a 3-pointer and it was 17-6 Fall Mountain. So far Aumand had outscored Newfound by herself 7-6.
Fall Mountain kept their run going in the 2nd, as Aumand banked in a shot in the lane, followed by an easy layup for Ferland. The Wildcats had their largest lead of the game so far, 22-6. Aumand again found her sweet spot just inside the free throw line and buried another jumper to make it 24-8. Allison Symonds answered for Newfound with a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 24-11. Then McArthur hit a 3 of her own to cut the lead to 26-16 and force Coach Aumand to call timeout.
Out of the timeout Fall Mt. again came out firing. Aumand and Tewksbury both hit 18-footers, and then Aumand connected on another 3-pointer - she can really shoot it! Kayla Messersmith made a nice steal and layup on the other end for Newfound, who closed to within 33-21 at halftime. Aumand scored 16 of her 20 points in the 1st half.
Newfound came out much sharper in the 3rd quarter, going on an 8-0 run. McArthur had a tough finish in traffic, then senior guard (and 1,000 point scorer) Amber Plummer slashed to the rim on the break for 2, and then Bridget Lavin hit a jumper to cap the 8-0 run and cut the Fall Mountain lead to 33-29 with 4:14 left in the 3rd quarter and force a timeout by the Wildcats.
Unfortunately for Newfound, that's as close as they would get the rest of the way. Give Newfound credit though, as they never stopped battling, and in the 3rd quarter they did turn up their pressure on defense which seemed to rattle Fall Mt. a little bit and force them to throw the ball away a few times.
"I couldn't have asked for them to work harder than they worked" said Newfound Regional head coach Karri Peterson. "We accomplished all 3 of our team goals. We went 16-2, we won the Gilford Christmas Tournament and we made the Final Four. I'm proud of them, they never gave up."
Just when Fall Mountain was really starting to get rattled by the Newfound pressure defense, Ferland made a big play. She caught the ball in the paint, made a strong drop step move, turned and banked in the shot in close. Then the Wildcats pushed the ball on the break, moving the ball well and finding Holt inside for another layup. Ferland made another strong bucket, this time finishing through contact for an and-1 with 2 defenders hitting her as she still scored it. Fall Mt. kept pushing their lead, as Aumand hit a pull-up jumper from the elbow at the buzzer, and it was 44-32 Wildcats after 3.
In the 4th quarter Fall Mt. really started to hit on all cylinders. They started the 4th quarter on a 12-0 run, and it was a 23-3 run going back into the 3rd quarter. Aumand hit another 18-footer, as she was once again heating up! Ferland made a nice extra pass to Peighton Alhberg for a layup. On the other end of the floor on 'D' Ferland dove on the floor for a loose ball, sprinted down on offense and made a layup on the other end. There's no question that with Aumand and Ferland this team has 2 of the top players in girls D-III.
Senior guard Bailey Roberts was another solid player for the Wildcats. The 5-foot-7 senior guard (6 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals) hit a nice floater along the baseline followed by a pair of free throws. Ferland made a nice block, and Tewksbury capped the 23-3 run with a shot in the lane to make it 56-32. That was the largest lead all game for Fall Mountain.
Karissa Bony finally ended the run, scoring Newfound's first points of the 4th quarter with a 3-pointer. Plummer scored a game-high 10 points while Bony chipped in with 8.
"Amber averages 18 points per game and Karissa averages 17" explained Coach Peterson. "Those two combined to score 17 points less than their average, and we lost by 17."
Fall Mountain cruised from there for the 61-44 win. They will take on Campbell in the championship game on Saturday back at SNHU. The 2 teams did not meet during the regular season.
"With myself and Bethany being seniors it will be our last game so we're going to leave it all out on the floor" said Roberts with a smile. "Tonight we knew going in we would be taller so we used our bigs to our advantage."