By: Ross Laorenza
It was a special night for the Hopkinton girls basketball Team as they recognized the 5 senior co-captains in a pregame ceremony. Senior night is always memorable, but getting a win over a team that knocked you out of the post season last year makes victory even sweeter.
“We came into this season knowing Fall Mountain was our senior game and we wanted it really bad,” said Sloan White.
“We’ve been practicing so hard just for this moment,” added Callie Chase. “We’re psyched to go into the playoffs with a win like this.
Hopkinton edged out a very good Fall Mountain team 32-31 inside 'The Nest.' Coach Pat Roye started all five of his seniors Friday night. Christine Spaulding (#11), Sarah Ewing (#24), McKayla Reale (#15) started alongside Sloan White (#3) and Callie Chase (#10).
Fall Mountain countered with their powerful senior duo Morgan Ferland (#25) who recently went over 1000 points for her high school career, and Peighton Ahlberg (#32), the 6’2’’ center with a dominating presence down low. Also starting for the Wildcats were Sophie Bushey (#1), Josie Holt (#24) and Brooke Aumand (#33).
Fall Mountain jumped out to an early 3-0 lead with a free throw from Holt and a big basket from Ahlberg. Hopkinton got a burst of energy from some of its younger players. With Spaulding in early foul trouble trying to guard Ahlberg and Ferland, freshman Abby Houston (#21) stepped up and helped slow the Wildcat attack. Freshman Taylor Signor (#32) and sophomore Maddie Clark (#13) added a spark offensively as the Hawks’ looked to climb out of an early hole.
Callie Chase scored first for Hopkinton. Then Maddie Clark found a cutting Houston for a basket inside and the Hawks’ first lead of the night, 4-3. Ahlberg put the Wildcats ahead getting position on a smaller defender. Christine Spaulding returned for the Hawks.
“I thought Christine Spaulding did an excellent job of battling their two bigs underneath all night long,” said Coach Roye. “She was diving on the floor and fighting on the glass. This is a really special senior group,” he added.
With time winding down in the first quarter it was Spaulding who put the Hawks back in the lead 6-5 with a basket down low. Maddie Clark started to assert herself in the second quarter. She opened the scoring in the second with a nice outside jumper. Later with Fall Mountain setting up their offense, Clark came from behind to steal the ball and head back the other way. Peighton Ahlberg met her at the hoop and blocked her shot. Time out Fall Mountain.
Out of the timeout Fall Mountain kept their starting five in, while Hopkinton chose to keep some speed on the floor with Clark, Signor and outside threats Houston and Katie Symonds(#33). Ahlberg hit two from the stripe to cut the lead to one, but the Hawks’ got baskets from Clark and Houston to push it back to 5, 12-7.
Fall Mountain ended the half with a 4-2 run; both baskets came from Peighton Ahlberg. Maddie Clark scored on a nice feed from Abby Houston and Hopkinton went into the half with a 14-11 lead. The Hawks defense held standout Morgan Ferland scoreless in the first half.
This game was far from over. The Wildcats came out with a renewed sense of confidence in the third quarter. They opened on an 8-2 run. Ahlberg scored first, followed by a basket from Spaulding. Then Josie Holt and Morgan scored on back-to-back possession to give Fall Mountain their first lead since the 3:30 mark in the first quarter. Ahlberg added another to cap the run, 19-16 Fall Mountain; timeout Hawks.
Out of the timeout we have starting five for the Wildcats and Chase, White, Houston, Signor and Clark for the Hawks. Showing some impressive defensive skills, Clark stole another ball and this time wouldn’t be denied on her way to the basket. Symonds and Spaulding returned to lock down the Wildcat bigs.
A lob pass found its way into the hands of Ahlberg who scored to give Fall Mountain a 21-18. The Wildcats tried this play frequently in the second half to varying degrees of success. Houston and Spaulding were able to time their jumps to either disrupt the pass or steal the ball and outlet it quickly to Signor, Clark and White. But if Ahlberg got control it almost always ended in two points.
Trailing by three the Hawks would have to look deep if they wanted to avenge last year’s loss in the playoffs. “I knew if I got out of control it would have been bad for all of us,” said Sloan White. “I know the timeouts are coaches called helped us stay calm.”
White sparked an 8-0 run at the end of the third for the Hawks with a bank shot coming of a screen. After a Fall Mountain turnover Maddie Clark connected for 3 putting Hopkinton out in front 23-21. She added three more, one from the free throw line and another with a layup after running the length of the floor to give Hopkinton a 26-21 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Starting the fourth were Bushey, Maddie Lord, Holt, Ferland and Ahlberg from Fall Mountain. Coach Roye deployed Chase, Spaulding, Clark, Signor and Symonds for Hopkinton.
Taylor Signor ran the offense well in the fourth. She stayed out high allowing Chase and White to move inside with Clark, and Symonds along the perimeter. When they were able to find an opening Signor slipped a pass to Clark who drove inside for two. Christine Spaulding picked up her fourth foul and Abby Houston returned in her place.
Fall Mountain grabbed 4 more points from Peighton Ahlberg who was their only real source of offense on the night. With half the quarter gone Hopkinton held a slim three point edge 28-25. Their next possession took over a minute off the clock and ended to Callie Chase for two. Down five Fall Mountain called a timeout with 2:04 to play. Coach Aumand drew up a great play. With Ferland screening out high the ball came to Sophie Bushey who drilled a three-pointer and breathed life into the Fall Mountain cheering section.
With 54.7 remaining Morgan Ferland was at the line for one-and-one, but she missed her first and the Hawks pounced on the rebound. A loose ball down the other resulted in in a technical foul on Fall Mountain. Maddie Clark was put in near headlock and thrown to the ground. There was also a push called prior to the technical so Clark would shoot two for the technical and then be at the line for one-and-one. She missed three in a row. Still a two point game.
Spaulding and Houston were now rotating in on offensive and defensive possession for Hopkinton. With 20.7 seconds left Clark was at the line again for one-and one and again missed the front half. The anxiety was palpable inside 'The Nest.'
With 15.3 Peighton Ahlberg got called for a blocking foul to the dismay of several Wildcat fans, but it was a good call and Taylor Signor headed to the line to shoot two. She sank the first but missed the second. Three point game. Spaulding in, Houston out.
After a turnover by Fall Mountain Signor was grabbed and headed back to the stripe for two shots with 11 second left and the outcome of the game hanging in the balance. She missed the first, but nailed the second. 32-28.
Ferland drove up the court, getting the ball to Ahlberg who got the basket and the foul. Christine Spaulding had just picked up her fifth. There is less than 3.0 second left. Fall Mountain could have Ahlberg intentionally miss and trying to grab the rebound to force up a quick shot or option B make the free throw and then pressure the inbound to try and force a turnover. They went with option B. Ahlberg made her free throw to convert the three point play, but the inbounds pass made its way over the Wildcat defense. Hopkinton has it. Buzzer sounds. Bench explodes in joy! Final Score Hopkinton: 32, Fall Mountain: 31.
“I’m really proud of the way they gutted it out,” said Coach Roye. “This is a good win for us, and that is a very good team.”
Maddie Clark led the Hawks in scoring with 16 points. Callie Chase, Christine Spaulding and Abby Houston all added 4 points each. All four girls and Sloane White had 5 rebound each as they battled inside against a bigger Fall Mountain team.
Peighton Ahlberg scored 23 for the Wildcats, but the Hawks defense held the rest of her team to 8 points. Hopkinton’s win snapped an 11 game winning streak for Fall Mountain who finish the regular season 14-4. Hopkinton improved to 10-8 with the victory. Good luck to both teams as they move on to the post season.
From Hopkinton, Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook