Sunday, March 9, 2014

Pinkerton Edges BG, Headed to Final Four

By: Jeremy Leveille
Both Pinkerton and Bishop Guertin are great teams, they're evenly matched and in their D-I quarterfinal game on Saturday night both teams gave it everything they had. It's a shame that one of the teams had to lose, and that only one of them would be able to advance the Final Four next week at SNHU.

Many players stepped up on both teams, but in the end it was Pinkerton's unsung hero Melissa Martel who hit the game-winning shot. BG had just taken a 49-48 lead, and Pinkerton had the ball. Martel drove into the lane, finishing in traffic to put the Astros back up 50-49 with 28 seconds remaining. The Astros held on for the 52-49 win.

"We're not about running a play for just one player" said Pinkerton head coach Lani Buskey. "We're a good team with lots of weapons. Lots of kids stepped up. Melissa Martel came off the bench and made some big plays."

Martel was able to gain redemption after she missed a pair of free throws with 53 seconds left and Pinkerton leading at the time 48-47. Right after that BG senior Jamie Sherburne threw a pass over to Megan Kerutis for a layup on a sideline out of bounds play as the Cardinals went back ahead 49-48.

After Martel's bucket BG got the ball back with 28 seconds left, down 50-49. Paige Parkinson got a good look at 3 but it rimmed out. Sherburne grabbed the offensive rebound and put up a follow attempt inside but it was no good either. Pinkerton got the rebound, and BG was forced to foul. They fouled senior point guard Kayla Stacy, who went to the line and hit a pair of clutch free throws to make it 52-49 Astros.

BG got the ball back with one last chance, trailing 52-49. Parkinson went up for a shot but was blocked by Val Martin. Pinkerton senior Brandi Bonneau picked up the loose ball, the buzzer sounded and the Astros bench stormed the court in celebration along with their teammates.

It will be Pinkerton vs. Londonderry in the D-I semi-finals at SNHU in a rivalry match up. The other semi-final will be undefeated Bedford vs. Nashua North.

This was the final game for Bishop Guertin seniors Sherburne, Parkinson and Gigi Piercy. Sherburne and Piercy won a D-I state title as sophomores. Sherburne scored over 1,000 points, dished out over 500 assists and won NH Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior. She is one of the best players to come out of NH in recent years, and will continue her career at Niagara University next year.

"I'm truly blessed to have gone to this school" said Sherburne, who had a team-high 13 points to go with 8 assists in defeat. "It's been an amazing four years here with this program."

Even after suffering a heartbreaking loss to end her career, Sherburne stood tall and kept her head up. She's a class act and a good role model for younger players coming up.

"Jamie makes my job easier" said Bishop Guertin head coach Jeremy Faulkner. "She's a great team leader, a coach's dream. She will be missed."

The 2nd half of this game was tremendous, with a ton of lead changes and neither team leading by more than 3 points. Pinkerton led 28-27 at halftime, and they went up 30-27 as Martin made a strong drive along the baseline for 2. BG answered, as freshman wing Molly Dee (11 points) made a great steal, then pushed it up the floor for an and-1 finish on the break. Then BG sophomore guard Marie LaPlante played some tough on-the-ball defense to force a 5 second violation. Martin raced towards the bucket in transition, but Sherburne made a great hustle play to spring back on defense and strip the ball out of her hands to prevent the layup.

BG however was in foul trouble which made it tough for them to hang in there. Both Kerutis and Alissa Zajac picked up their 4th foul. Pinkerton took advantage, as Colleen Fortier zipped a pass over to Bonneau for a layup off a flex cut. Dee answered right back with a layup for BG to cut the Astros' lead to 35-34. LaPlante gave BG the lead back with a strong drive and finish in traffic and it was 36-35 Cardinals. Pinkerton took the lead right back, again running a flex cut to get a layup for Bonneau, this time it was Martin with the assist. That gave Pinkerton a 37-36 lead with 2:20 left in the 3rd quarter.

BG went back ahead with another layup by Dee, with this one coming off a nice dish by Sherburne and it was 38-37 BG.

"My goal is always to drive all the way to the basket and score, but they stopped my drives so I had to pass it" Sherburne explained. "Molly stepped up big."

Pinkerton answered right back, as Fortier drove inside for 2 and it was 39-38 Astros. That was the score after 3, as Sherburne drew a charge on Martin right before the buzzer.

The teams continued to battle each other and trade the lead in the 4th. Sherburne hit a pair of free throws to give BG the lead back, 40-39. Just seconds later Pinkerton goes back ahead 41-40 on a layup by Martel. Pinkerton was in foul trouble also though, as Martin picked up her 4th foul when Sarah Shields drew a charge on her.

With the game tied 41-41, LaPlante again made a clutch drive and finish in traffic to put BG back ahead, and it was now 43-41. Dee stepped up once again, driving inside fr 2 more and BG had a 45-42 lead. Speaking of charges, Kerutis went back in the game and took a charge. It was a gutsy play by Kerutis since she had 4 fouls. Martin answered for Pinkerton with a drive and finish to cut the BG lead to 46-45.

Then out of a timeout Pinkerton had the ball, still trailing 46-45. They swung the ball around the perimeter to a wide open Fortier, who is a deadly spot-up shooter. Fortier's 3-point attempt rattled in, and the Astros went ahead 48-46 with just 1:20 left in regulation. Martel may have hit the winning shot, but that 3 by Fortier was huge.

"The shot felt good" said Fortier, a 5-foot-8 senior wing. "I think I was so open because they came out in a zone. We just try to play as a team and play aggressive."

BG tried to answer back and either tie or re-take the lead. LaPlante made a nice dish to Sherburne who got fouled and made 1 out of 2 FTs. Pinkerton was now clinging to a 48-47 lead. That's when Martel went to the line, missed both free throws, and you know how the rest went.

"An advantage we had is we've had a lot of intense, close games like this" commented Coach Buskey. "We had a close game vs. Bedford, and we learned from that game."

While the 2nd half was a tight, back-and-forth half of basketball the first half was a half of runs. BG went up 11-4 early in the 1st quarter, as both Kayla Stacy and Sherburne hit 3-pointers early on. But then Pinkerton answered with a 10-0 run that happened in the blink of an eye. Martin went hard to the rim, got fouled and went to the line for 2. She made the first shot but missed the second. The Astros got the offensive rebound, Bonneau put up a shot, got her own rebound and scored the put-back. Pinkerton got the ball right back and Bonneau banked in a 3. Then Bonneau stole the ball, Martin made a pair of free throws and then Pinkerton stole the ball again as BG was struggling with PA's pressure defense. Senior Andrea Albrecht made a layup to put Pinkerton up 14-11 and cap the 10-0 run.

BG then answered with an 11-0 run of their own. Kerutis got the run started with a layup after BG was able to break the press. The Cardinals again were able to break the press for a layup, as this time LaPlante made a nice pass to Zajac for the score. Sherburne hit a 3-pointer from the right wing, and it was 19-14 BG after 1 quarter. The run continued in the 2nd, as LaPlante again made a good extra pass, this time finding Dee for a layup. That capped the 11-0 run for BG, as they now led 22-14. Pinkerton was going through a drought on offense. Martin was getting good looks inside but they just weren't falling.

Bonneau ended the Guertin run with a nice dribble drive move into the lane before hitting a turnaround leaner. That started a 14-3 run for the Astros. Marissa Stacy drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing, Bonneau hit a 15-footer and Fortier made an and-1 put-back to cap the run and put Pinkerton back on top 28-25.

BG ended the run as Piercy made a strong finish on the break off a nice pass by Sherburne. It was 28-27 Pinkerton at halftime.

"We fought hard and stayed in it with a young group" said Coach Faulkner. "Free throws were the difference. We only made 17/31 at the line. We got out-rebounded 2-to-1 on the boards in the 1st half, but did better in the 2nd. Paige and Molly did great on the boards in the 2nd half. With 3 freshman playing big minutes for us we have a bright future."

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