It was an even, back-and-forth battle through the 3 quarters but Nashua South dominated the 4th quarter to come away with a 51-37 win over Merrimack on Saturday in Division I action. South outscored the Tomahawks 20-5 in the final quarter to improve to 4-7 on the season, while Merrimack falls to 2-10.
The Purple Panthers were led by junior point guard Jocelyn Chaput, who scored a game-high 21 points to go with 5 assists and 4 steals. Chaput hit three 3-pointers and can score but also looks to distribute the basketball and find the open teammate. She controlled the tempo, knows when to push it up the floor and when to set up the half court offense. Chaput sees the floor well and plays tough defense.
Merrimack was also led by a junior, as Lauren Dubois scored 10 of her team-high 15 points in the 2nd half (including a pair of 3's). Dubois banked in a runner to end the 3rd quarter and put the Tomahawks ahead 32-31 headed to the 4th.
The 4th quarter belonged to South. The Purple Panthers really picked up their defensive intensity, holding Merrimack to just 5 points in the final frame. Tenysha Garvin (8 points) made a good steal in the back court and finished the layup and then Chaput drilled a clutch 3-pointer to make it 38-33 South with 3:43 left in the 4th quarter. Off the made basket Merrimack quickly pushed it up the floor, getting the ball inside to Sara Wozniak for a layup to cut the South lead to 38-35.
Chaput converted an easy layup off a sideline out of bounds play to increase the South lead to 42-37 with just 1:36 remaining. Merrimack was unable to score the rest of the way. Meanwhile Chaput and Abigail Hearn-Gordy (12 points) both hit a pair of free throws. The Purple Panthers cruise from there for the 51-37 win.
South jumped out to an early 8-4 lead in the 1st quarter, as Hearn-Gordy went to the rim, took a bump and still finished. Chaput pushed it hard up the floor and kicked it over to freshman Amber Hedquist who hit a 15-footer. Holly Gaudet made a good dish to Chaput for a layup in traffic and an 8-4 lead for the Purple Panthers with 3:12 left in the 1st quarter.
Merrimack then started making some shots, as sophomore guard Amanda D'Amico hit a 3-pointer from the left wing. It was all tied up 9-9 after 1 quarter. The Tomahawks turned defense into offense, as Julianne Mayville grabbed a steal in the back court and then went in for a strong lefty finish. That made it 14-9 Merrimack, capping a 10-1 run by MHS.
The Tomahawks were really hustling for offensive rebounds. Wozniak converted an and-1 put-back as Merrimack went up 18-11 (their largest lead of the game). South answered right back though, breaking the MHS press for a layup as Chaput zipped a pass to Daija Gianitsis who dished it to Garvin for the layup.
Chaput then hit back-to-back 3's to end the 1st half, and it was 23-22 South at halftime. Chaput made it 8 consecutive points for herself, hitting a jumper from just inside the 3-point line to start the 2nd half. Dubois answered right back with a 3 to tie it up 25-25 and then Hearn-Gordy connected on a 3 of her own to put the Purple Panthers back on top 28-25. The 3's kept on coming, as Hearn-Gordy buried another followed quickly by another 3-pointer by Dubois. The South lead was now 31-30. That's when Dubois banked in a runner to put the Tomahawks back ahead 32-31 heading to the 4th quarter.