What the backcourt of freshman Brooke Rooney (5'3") and junior Ally Ruth (5'1") lack in size they make up for with quickness and play making ability. They're one of the fastest backcourts in the state, always looking to push the ball and keep pressure on the opposition, and on the other end they pressure the heck out of people on defense. Ruth can flat out shoot the basketball, off the dribble or off the catch. Rooney is a play making point guard with the ability to get into the lane and either score or make a great pass for the assist.
The backcourt duo of Rooney and Ruth led Timberlane to a 32-17 halftime lead over Windham on Friday night. Windham made a resilient 2nd half comeback, cutting the Owls' lead to just 3. But Windham turned it over 3 times and missed a pair of free throws in the final minute and a half, as Timberlane held on for the 49-43 win in Division II. Ruth dropped a game-high 19 points, including five 3-pointers. Rooney had 12 points to go with 6 assists and 3 steals.
"I'm confident in her (Ruth), she can shoot really well" said Rooney. "We definitely played a really good 1st half. We wanted to come out strong in the first 2 quarters and get a big lead. We have good chemistry, I love the team."
Windham was playing without one of their better players, sophomore forward Lexi Sawyer who watched from the sideline on crutches.
"Lexi has a high ankle sprain, she rolled it at the end of the Pelham game" explained Windham first-year head coach Anne Haky, who served as an assistant under previous head coach Joe Mason. "We sat her tonight as a precaution. She should be back sometime in the next couple weeks."
One player who really stepped up in Sawyer's absence was 5'8" guard Kaleigh Walsh, who led the Jaguars' comeback by scoring 12 of her team-high 14 points in the 2nd half. Walsh got whistled for 3 traveling violations in the final minute. Those miscues hurt Windham's chances, but they wouldn't have made that comeback and pulled within 3 points without her strong play. Walsh's older sister Courtney went to Central Catholic in Lawrence, MA and is now playing on a basketball scholarship for Stonehill. You can bet Coach Haky is glad Kaleigh decided to come to Windham instead.
With Walsh and Rooney you had 2 of the best freshmen guards in NH battling it out in this one. Both are definitely players to watch over the next four years. Windham is a very young team, with only 1 senior.
Timberlane led 32-17 at halftime but Windham came out firing in the 3rd quarter. Walsh hit a 3, Kelsey Kendzulak (9 points) drained a 15-footer, Amanda Carey connected on a 15-footer and Danielle Fischer hit a jumper in close to cap a quick 9-0, cutting the Owls' lead to 32-26 and prompting Timberlane head coach Bruce Johnson to call a timeout.
"My halftime speech was about confidence and intensity" said Coach Haky. "In the 2nd half we played with more confidence, picked up the intensity. I told them the shots were there we just had to go to the hoop."
Then Rooney made possibly the play of the game. She pushed the ball hard on the break, with just one player to beat (Walsh). Rooney drove right, got Walsh to lean that way, showed the ball on the right side and brought it back to the left side while doing a euro-step move to the bucket for the layup. An outstanding open court move, and one that not many freshmen could pull off.
Ruth followed that up with another 3-pointer, which Walsh quickly answered with a nice take in transition and finger roll. Kendzulak made a strong take and finish on the break of her own, and we finally had some tempo and flow to the game after a slow, methodical 1st half. Carey drew a charge, and it was 41-32 Timberlane after 3 quarters.
In the 4th quarter Ruth hit a step-back 3, her fifth shot of the game from downtown. At the time it seemed like that shot may be the dagger that knocks out the Jaguars, but Walsh answered right back with her second 3 ball of the game just seconds later. Walsh then hit a floater in the lane and Carey took another charge. Windham wasn't going away.
Rooney hit a pair of free throws and Kendzulak missed 2 FTs, as Timberlane went back up 46-39. Walsh countered again, this time with another great move down the lane and scoop shot in traffic. Kendzulak hit a pair of free throws, and the Owls' lead was down to 3, 46-43.
Then Kendzulak jumped the passing lane, stole the ball and raced towards the rim. She got fouled went went to the line with a chance to cut the Timberlane lead to just 1 with 1:20 remaining. But she missed both shots, the Jaguars turned it over 3 times in the final minute and Rooney added 2 more free throws for the 49-43 final.
Even though she is only a freshman, Rooney is the last player on Timberlane you want to send to the line late in the game. She's calm under pressure and has a smooth shooting stroke. She was 6/6 on free throws in this game and I wasn't at all surprised. I coached Rooney at a basketball camp 4 years ago and she was the best free throw shooter at camp as a 10 year old.
"He (Coach Bruce Johnson) is very key on free throws" said Rooney. "He has us shoot 100 free throws before the game."
Timberlane played tough defense in the 1st half, moved the ball well and behind the hot shooting of Ruth jumped out to the 32-17 halftime lead. Janelle Colon hit a 3 with 1 second left in the 1st quarter as Timberlane ld 15-7 after 1 and Ruth buried a 3 with 2 seconds left in the 2nd quarter off a kick out by Rooney.