Senior guard Hannah Seidner shot the lights out, connecting on seven 3-pointers but unfortunately no one else on Pembroke scored more than 4. As a result, the Bishop Brady girls basketball team (3-0, 5-0 including holiday tourney games) defeated Pembroke 46-39. The Giants advance to the Capital Area Holiday Tournament finals, where they will take on Merrimack Valley in what could be a D-II Final Four preview match up.
Down the stretch in a tight game it's nice to have seniors who have players like Sarah Thomas and Melissa Mallahan. Both are seniors for Brady who have played in a lot of big games over the past few years.
"It's nice to have a player like Thomas, as well as Mallahan who may not score a lot of points but plays mistake-free basketball for us" said Bishop Brady head coach Aaron Brochu.
Thomas, Mallahan and sophomore guard Riley Bennett all started for Brady last year when they made the Final Four in Division III. Now Brady has moved up to D-II and is one of the early favorites. Not only do they have those 3 starters back, but they have also added a standout freshman in Sam Will. Will is 6-foot-1, she is quick, skilled and tough. Will was out there taking people off the dribble, finishing strong inside, blocking shots and rebounding. She made some good passes, defends well, went hard to the rim and also showed a soft shooting touch. Will (13 points and 6 rebounds) is definitely a player to watch over the next four years.
"Sam is starting to come into her own" said Coach Brochu.
Seidner hit a pair of 3-pointers early as Pembroke took a 6-5 lead in the 1st quarter. Then Thomas knifed her way to the bucket for 2 off a nice feed by Will. Bennett his a pull-up jumper from the elbow and Brady went ahead 9-6. Thomas slashed to the rim hard, converting a tough lefty finish in traffic as Brady led 11-6 after 1.
The Giants' lead increased to 13-6, but then Seidner ended the Pembroke scoring drought by hitting her third 3-pointer of the game to cut the Brady lead to 13-9. Will made a nice steal, took it hard all the way to the rim before drawing a foul. Brady is definitely one of the bigger teams in D-II - at one point they had a lineup that included Will (6'1), Mallahan (6-foot) and Shannon Drouin (6-foot). Will slashed to the rim for 2 and it was 18-9 Brady with 4:15 left in the 2nd quarter. Will then made another strong drive, this time finishing inside with a nifty scoop shot in traffic. It was 22-13 Giants at halftime.
"They have good size and quickness" said Pembroke first-year head coach Jason Button. "They have a quick first step. We didn't stay fundamentally sound in our man-to-man defense."
In the 1st half it seemed like Brady was the aggressor, they seemed more in sync whereas Pembroke didn't seem to be all on the same page. Rather than the ball moving seamlessly or trying to take it to the rim the Spartans were just throwing it around and then hoisting up 3's.
"With the talent we have we should be scoring in the 50's or 60's" said coach Button. "Our offensive execution needs to improve."
Pembroke cut the Brady lead to 22-17 early in the 3rd quarter, as Olivia Langevin picked up a loose ball from 3/4 court and raced up the floor with it before scoring on a lefty finish on a defender. Meghan Kissinger countered for Brady with a long 2-pointer (had foot on the line) to extend the lead to 26-17. Will came over from the weak side for a nice blocked shot. Junior forward Madison Allen converted a reverse layup put-back and then Seidner buried another 3 to cut the deficit to 28-22. Bennett answered for Brady with a long 2 (another Giants shot with a foot on the line). Seidner hit her fifth 3-pointer of the game, doing everything she could to keep Pembroke in it as it was now 30-25 Brady. Seidner was left wide open on that last shot - Brady needs to do better than that at closing out, especially on a kid who is on fire like that.
"Usually we try a box-and-1 on a player like that" said Coach Brochu. "But my thought was if we could limit her and rebound we'd be okay. But we kept getting caught under screens and we need to work on that."
Seidner grabbed a steal and raced up the floor with the ball towards the rim, but Bennett made a great hustle play to sprint back on defense and block Seidner's shot. Brady led 32-25 after 3 quarters.
Thomas made a circus shot and-1, and the Giants went up 35-25 early in the 4th quarter. Pembroke was fighting to stay in it, but one of their better players junior forward Karli Loiselle picked up her 4th foul with 7:04 left in regulation and had to sit. Seidner (game-high 23 points) continued her outstanding game, driving into the lane and hitting a floater.
Then Molly Hamilton hit a floater of her own for Pembroke, and the Brady lead was down to 35-31. Will drove to the bucket for 2 to push the lead back to 37-31 but Hamilton hit another shot inside to again cut the Giants lead to 4, 37-33 with 3:30 remaining in the 4th quarter.
Then Hamilton grabbed a steal, giving Pembroke possession and a chance to make it a one possession game with a score. The Spartans got 2 good looks (a shot in close by Hamilton and a mid-range jumper by Loiselle) but both shots just barely rimmed out. With time ticking down Pembroke was forced to chase and foul. Thomas made 1 of 2 at the FT line, then got fouled again and this time made both shots. Benntt went to the line and sank both shots, as Brady took a commanding 42-33 lead with just 1:20 left to play.
Give Pembroke credit though, as they battled until the very end. Seidner hit another 3 to cut the Brady lead to 42-36 with 1:10 left. Bennett missed a pair of foul shots and then Seidner hit yet another 3 ball (her seventh 3 of the game) to make it a 1 possession game, 42-39.
"With Hannah's shooting we're never out of a game" said Coach Button.
Unfortunately those would be the last points the Spartans would score. Thomas sank 2 more free throws to make it 44-39, and Brady held on for the 46-39 win.