Tuesday, February 10, 2015

BG Girls Hang On to Beat Alvirne in Defensive Battle

Alvirne fought hard, nearly coming back to win after being down 12 in the 2nd half. But Bishop Guertin held the Broncos scoreless over the game's final 5 minutes to hang on for the 40-33 win on Tuesday night in Hudson. The BG defense was led by Marie LaPlante and Alissa Zajac up top, Meghan Cramb on the wing, Abbi Field who blocked 5 shots and Molly Dee who blocked 2. Guertin's defense was strong all game and at times was suffocating, especially during a possession in the 2nd half when Alvirne struggled just to get the ball in 3 times on a baseline out of bounds play and that finally when they did BG knocked it right back out of bounds.

"We are a very strong defensive team" said Bishop Guertin head coach Jeremy Faulkner. "We've worked on our spacing and got some good, clean blocks. Alissa Zajac is our motor."

BG is now 11-2 on the season, and this win solidifies their spot as a legit contender in D-I. With all the injuries the Cardinals have though it will be tough for them to beat Londonderry or Bedford. Senior guard Megan Kerutis (a 4-year starter) and sharpshooters Abby Streeter and Sara Sherburne all sat out Tuesday night's game with injuries. Meanwhile Zajac is jow now returning to the lineup from injury.

"Kerutis is out for the season with a torn labrum" said Coach Faulkner. "Streeter is out for 2 more weeks with a high ankle sprain. Sherburne is out with a chipped bone in her shooting hand."

Alvirne was also playing shorthanded as senior wing Emily Barry has been out with a foot injury.

"Barry might be back for the playoffs" said Alvirne head coach Steve Tracy. "She has a stress fracture in her foot."

BG led 23-15 at halftime, and then matched their largest lead of the game early in the 3rd quarter Cramb drove and dished it to freshman forward Caroline Hoffer for a layup followed by pull-up jumper from the foul line by LaPlante (team-high 11 points). That gave Guertin a 27-15 lead.

That's when Alvirne turned it around. The Broncos were really struggling getting looks and hitting shots in the half court. So they started pressing BG full court, to try and force turnovers and get some easier looks. That's exactly what they did, going on a 12-3 run. BG was having problems with the Broncos' press. Alvirne got a steal and got it ahead to 5-foot-11 sophomore wing Amanda Wetmore (game-high 14 points) who pushed it quickly up the floor before drilling an 18-footer off the dribble. Fellow sophomore Nicole Teague hit a runner across the lane to cut the Cardinals' lead to 27-23. On the other end of the floor Teague hustled back and blocked a shot attempt inside by Cramb.

LaPlante (one of the top point guards in the state) answered with a 3-pointer from the left wing against the Broncos' zone but then Alvirne junior guard Jess Baker drove into the lane and banked it in to cut the Guertin lead to 30-27 with 2:00 left in the 3rd quarter and forcing Coach Faulkner to call timeout.

"You can't deny that we fight every time we play" said Coach Tracy. "We forced our share of turnovers. They out-rebounded us in the 1st half but we did better in the 2nd half. Kaycee Carbone (13 rebounds) is only 5-foot-6 and a half but she's our leading rebounder"

Hoffer made a good extra pass to sophomore forward Brianne Nordengren for a layup and then Field blocked her fifth shot of the game on a Teague drive. It was 32-27 BG after 3 quarters.

Alvirne cut their deficit back down to 3, as Baker cut to the rim and sophomore guard Sam Ratte hit her with a good pass for a layup and it was 32-29 BG. Carbone converted a layup off a baseline out of bounds play and the BG lead was now down to just 1, 32-31. Alvirne set their press back up, but BG threw the ball up over the top of the press to Hoffer for a layup. Wetmore countered on the other end, taking it strong the rim with her left hand and finishing with her left. The Guertin lead was back down to 1, 34-33 with 5:15 left in regulation.

Unfortunately for the Broncos, that bucket by Wetmore would be their final points, as BG really buckled down defensively, Alvirne went cold shooting and were held scoreless for the final 5 minutes of regulation. LaPlante hit a floater to make it 36-33 Cardinals. Field blocked her fifth shot of the game (to go with 6 points and 7 rebounds). Alvirne ball, and Wetmore had a good look at 3-pointer which would have tied it up 36-36 with 2:55 left but the shot rimmed out.

Then LaPlante and Dee trapped Baker near the top of the key. Dee stole the ball and threw it ahead to LaPlante for the transition layup. That play was huge, as it put the Cardinals back up by 2 possessions, 38-33. After the Broncos again failed to score late, BG got the ball back and threw a cross court pass to Dee out of a sideline out of bounds play for an easy layup and 40-33 BG lead. The Cardinals held on from there for the hard fought 40-33 win.

"We can't finish around the hoop" said Coach Faulkner. "We've been seeing a lot of zone, so we've been working on ball movement against it and hitting the gaps. But we had a hard time hitting the short corner, we had trouble making layups."

Both teams struggled offensively in the 1st quarter. Carbone (8 points) hit a jumper from just inside the 3-point line and then Ratte hit a 3 as Alvirne took an early 5-2 lead. After those 2 jumpers though, the Broncos began having trouble scoring on BG's 2-3 zone as Field blocked shots on back-to-back possessions. Then Field banked in a jumper from the foul line. Guertin sophomore guard Meghan Donovan finished a layup on one end, and then on 'D' she hustled over to to fight for a steal before forcing a jump ball. The Cardinals ended the 1st quarter with a pair of quick buckets, as Cramb slashed to the rim for a finish in traffic and Field converted a put-back. It was 10-8 BG after 1.

Broncos sophomore forward Marissa Sweeney buried an 18-footer early in the 2nd quarter and the BG lead was back down to 2, 12-10. But BG went on a 10-0 run to take a commanding 22-10 lead. Cramb slashed to the rim for 2. Then after an Alvirne turnover it was senior wing Sarah Shields who drove inside for a lefty bank shot, forcing Coach Tracy to call timeout with 5:06 left in the 1st half and BG now leading 16-10.

That's when Dee really started to take over. First she drove to the rim for a tough finish inside. On the other end she hustled towards the sideline to fight for a loose ball. Then Alvirne got a 2-on-1 fast break chance, but Dee sprinted back to block the shot and take away the scoring opportunity. Then the 5-foot-10 Dee converted a pair of put-backs, as not only were the Broncos struggling to score but they weren't boxing out either.

Alvirne got another fast break opportunity, but again BG showed strong transition defense. This time it was Field hustling back on 'D' to block Sweeney for her third block of the game. The Broncos were hanging tough though and closed the 1st half on a positive note. Baker drove and kicked it over to Wetmore who drilled a 15-footer. Then Alvirne got a quick steal and Carbone made the layup. It was 23-15 BG at halftime.

"We work hard all the time, that's our motto" said Coach Tracy.

The Broncos fall to 7-5 on the season. They are certainly in contention for a home playoff game though.

Watching this game fans have to feel hopeful for the future. 2017 is a very deep and talented class for NH basketball. Much of that talent was playing in this game. 5 of the 7 girls Alvirne played in this game are sophomores and 5 of the 9 girls BG played in this game were sophomores (plus Streeter who is out with an ankle for BG is also a sophomore). Playing particularly well in this game for 2017's were Wetmore, Field, Dee and Cramb.

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