If you're going to go undefeated, the wins aren't always going to be easy. Sometimes you'll face some adversity and need to battle back from it in order to keep that perfect season going. That's exactly what happened on Wednesday night in Portsmouth, as Coe-Brown remains the only undefeated team left in D-II. The Bears trailed by as many as 15, and they were down 32-20 at halftime. But they stormed back, led by senior forward Jenny Schlim who scored 14 of her team-high 16 points in the 3rd quarter. Coe-Brown outscored Portsmouth 36-16 in the 2nd half, en route to a 56-48 win.
"Jenny does it every game for us" said Coe-Brown Northwood Academy head coach Joe Vachon. "She's our catalyst. Her and Abby (Ahern) underneath have a special connection."
Ahern chipped in with 9 points, while senior guard Debbie Peabody scored 15 and played excellent defense.
"Debbie kept us in it in the 1st half with her defense" said Coach Vachon.
Schlim played just 4 minutes in the 1st half due to foul trouble, scoring 0 points. But she came out to start the 3rd quarter, immediately hit a 3-pointer and that set the tone for the rest of the game.
"I fed off Debbie's intensity" said Schlim, a 4-year varsity player and 3-year starter. "I wanted to come back out with the same intensity to get the win. We're a 2nd half team."
Also playing a factor in the Bears' comeback was being able to contain Clippers star sophomore guard Libby Underwood, who exploded for 14 points in the 4th quarter but was held to just 7 points over the final 3 quarters (and 5 of those 7 came late in the game after Coe-Brown made their comeback).
"Sydney Fisher played great 'D' on her in the 2nd half" said Coach Vachon, referring to his 5-foot-8 sixth man.
After Schlim hit that 3 to start the 2nd half, Portsmouth freshman wing Sadie Shore (15 points) converted a put-back. Then her teammate Eliza Provost drove into the lane and dished to sophomore wing Heather Durand for a layup as the Clippers went back up by double digits. On the other end Coe-Brown senior point guard Haley Ruth made a nice pass to a cutting Schlim for the layup. Shore countered with a tough baseline drive and hit the leaner on 2 defenders.
Portsmouth senior guard Izzy Pafford showed good unselfishness, passing up an open look at a 3 and instead zipping a pass down low to Underwood for an inside bucket.
That's when Coe-Brown really got rolling. Schlim finished a put-back, then scored again inside off a nice pass by Fisher. The Clippers lead was down to 40-33, with 1:16 left in the 3rd quarter. Portsmouth head coach Dan Parr called timeout to try to stop the bleeding.
Out of the timeout the Coe-Brown run continued, as Schlim buried another 3 and Fisher converted a put-back. That gave Schlim 14 points in the 3rd quarter, and it was 40-38 Portsmouth as the teams headed to the 4th. The Bears outscored the Clippers 18-8 in the 3rd quarter.
"Every time there was a timeout some us players just kept saying to stay composed" said Schlim, a returning all-state player. "Even when Abby and I got in foul trouble, we still stayed positive and cheered on the team."
Early in the 4th quarter the Clippers had a tough no-call go against them. Provost clearly got hit, but no foul was called. Instead the Bears stole the ball and Ahern went to the rim for 2, giving Coe-Brown their first lead of the game, 41-40.
"At halftime I told them Portsmouth was on pace for 64 points and they've never done that" said Coach Vachon. "We knew they couldn't keep that pace up. It was on Portsmouth to hold the lead. Hats off to our girls, they worked their butts off."
Coe-Brown senior guard Sarah Curtin drained a clutch 3 from the right corner. The Bears put their full court press on, Peabody stole the ball in the back court and dished it to Ruth for a layup to make it 46-41. With her performance tonight, Peabody solidified her status as one of the top defensive guards in the state.
Underwood connected on a 15-footer to cut the Coe-Brown lead to 46-43, but then Schlim countered with a tough leaner on the other end. The Bears got the ball back and were now looking to run some clock. They showed some good ball movement, then got it to Fisher inside for a layup to make it 50-43 with just 2:22 left in regulation and forcing Coach Parr to call a timeout.
"They're seniors, they've been in games like this, they didn't lose composure" said Coach Vachon. "They've been playing together for so long now, they were even pointing things out to each other about where to go inside in order to get open. We know Portsmouth is young, we just had to chip away at it."
Down the stretch Coe-Brown didn't turn the ball over, made enough of their free throws and held on for the 56-48 win. he Bears are a fun team to watch. They have toughness, unselfishness and senior leadership - that's a winning formula. They're certainly the favorites in D-II. It will take a heck of an effort if anyone is going to beat them.
Early in Wednesday night's contest, it looked like Portsmouth was going to pull it off. Provost made a good post entry pass to Underwood, who had inside position and scored on the smaller Ruth. After Peabody banked in a 3 against the Clippers' zone, Underwood hit a 3 of her own followed by an 18-footer by Shore. It was 12-5 Portsmouth halfway through the 1st quarter.
Ruth made a good dish to Ahern, who scored inside. Then Schlim picked up her 2nd foul and sat for the rest of the 1st half. Once Schlim went to the bench, drilled another 3 and it was 15-7 Clippers.
Ruth hit a 3 off a baseline out of bounds play to get the Bears closer, but then Portsmouth answered with a quick run of 3 baskets in a row. First Underwood hit a pull-up jumper from 15 feet, then Underwood cut back door with Pafford making a nice pass to her for the layup. Shore then hit an 18-footer off the dribble. It was 21-12 Clippers after 1.
"They definitely came here to play" said Schlim. "They started off hot, and weren't missing any of their shots."
The hot shooting continued in the 2nd quarter for Portsmouth, despite the fact that Underwood picked up her 2nd foul late in the 1st quarter and sat the first few minutes of the 2nd. Provost sank a 3-pointer off the bounce to make it 24-12 Clippers. Then Ruth took it hard to the basket in transition, but Pafford made a nice defensive play to take the charge. You need to take the pull-up jumper there, rather than driving through the defender.
On the other end Shore hit a baseline jumper, and then converted an and-1 to give Portsmouth its largest lead, 29-14. The Clippers had all the momentum, and things were looking bleak for the heavily favored Bears (who bear the Clippers by over 30 in the first meeting between the 2 teams).
At this time point the game could have gotten out of hand, but instead Coe-Brown hung around and started chipping away at the lead - led by the strong play on both ends of the floor by Peabody. First she made a nice effort by grabbing a steal, pushed it up the floor to create a 2-on-1 break. She dished it to senior guard Ashley LeBlanc for a layup. On the Clippers' next possession Peabody continued to wreak havoc on 'D', pressuring the basketball and forcing a tie up. After 2 FTs by Curtin, the Bears got another steal with their press, resulting in another layup by LeBlanc. A quick 6-0 run by Coe-Brown cut the Portsmouth lead to 29-20 with 2:52 left in the 1st half and forced Coach Parr to call timeout.
"We were doing okay against their zone press, but with Schlim and Ahern on the bench with fouls they went to a man press" said Coach Parr. "It sped the game up, after the 1st half which was played at our tempo. They pushed the pace and we had some turnovers."
After the timeout Peabody made another steal. On the next Clippers' possession Peabody made a deflection, causing a loose ball and then dove on the floor for the loose ball to force a jump ball. Peabody was playing outstanding defense, she is tough as nails. Durand hit a long jumper from just inside the 3-point line, and it was 32-20 Clippers at halftime.
Portsmouth nearly pulled off the big upset, but instead falls to 9-6 on the season.