Anytime you beat a team that was 8-2 coming in you consider it a quality win. It's even more impressive when you lead by double digits for the entire 2nd half. That is the case for the Pinkerton Academy girls basketball team, which bounced back from a tough loss to arch-rival Londonderry less than 24 hours earlier to defeat Manchester Memorial 59-43 on Saturday night in Derry.
Pinkerton came back from a 10-0 deficit to start the game, as Crusaders' senior forward Makenah Grisson dominated early on. The Astros responded with a 19-0 run of their own. Basketball can often times be a game of runs but this was extreme. A 10-0 run by Memorial to start, followed immediately by a 19-0 run by Pinkerton. The Astros went up 24-12 early in the 2nd quarter and they led by double digits for the rest of the way. Pinkerton was led by senior forward Val Martin, who dropped a game-high 20 points on a combination of strong drives to the rim, put-backs and free throws.
"I thought we played well last night vs. Londonderry, so even though we lost by 5 it was a victory in my mind" said Pinkerton Academy head coach Lani Buskey. "I kept telling them to bring the same intensity to this game as we had against Londonderry."
Grisson and Martin both showed why they are 2 of the best players in the state. Grisson led Memorial with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 6 blocks. Martin took over in the 2nd half, scoring 14 of her 20 points. Both players carried their teams. Grisson had some silly fouls and Martin forced things on offense at times, but overall they had standout performances. Martin got more help from her supporting cast though, and that was the difference. Marissa Stacy, Melissa Martel, Sara McLeman and Nicolette Arnold all had strong games for in the win. It was a big victory for the Astros, especially since they were only 2-3 in their last 5 games coming into this one.
"I needed them to know they could compete, use each other and be a team" said Coach Buskey. "We just had to stick to the game plan."
It was all Memorial early on. Freshman guard Haleigh Shea slashed to the rim for 2 and then Grisson took it to the bucket for a scoop shot. Grisson was also dominating on defense, with 2 steals and 2 blocks in the opening minutes. The steals created transition opportunities for the Crusaders. Grisson scored again inside, hit a pair of free throws and just like that it was 10-0 Memorial.
Finally Pinkrton stopped the bleeding, as McLeman went to the rim for an and-1 finish. Grisson blocked her third shot of the quarter, but then Martel drilled a 3 from the top of the key. McLeman and Martin converted quick transition layup and in the blink of an eye it was 14-10 Astros. Martin pushed it hard up the floor on the break for a tough finish, and then Martel buried another 3. That made it 19-10 Pinkerton, capping their 19-0 run. Memorial finally ended the run, as junior guard Abbey Morrison drove to the bucket for a tough scoop shot across the lane. It was 19-12 Pinkerton after 1 quarter.
Grisson blocked her fourth shot early in the 2nd quarter, but then Martel made a nice pass to Courtney Velho for a layup. Then Stacy (7 points) hit a 3, giving the Astros a 24-12 lead. It was their first double digit lead of the contest, and Pinkerton led by double digits for the remainder of the game.
Arnold hit a 3, but Memorial countered as they got a steal in the back court and senior wing Jessica Sweetser converted the layup. Arnold connected on a smooth pull-up jumper from 18 feet, and Martin drove to the rim for an and-1. Memorial was hanging tough though, as they got another steal in the back court and Grisson finished an and-1 of her own. Arnold hit a jumper from the elbow, to give the freshman 9 points in the 1st half (she had 11 for the game). It was 38-28 Pinkerton at halftime.
"When we're not getting steals and getting buckets we get down on ourselves" said Manchester Memorial head coach Lindsay Gundy. "We got down by so much and it put too much pressure on our offense."
The Astros sustained the lead in the 2nd half. Martin took it hard towards the rim on the fast break, there was a defender waiting to try and take the charge but instead Martin pulled up and hit the jumper. Grisson hit a nice lefty hook shot inside. Stacy was hustling all over the court for rebounds and diving on the floor for loose balls. Taylor Frost hit a bucket inside with 1 second left in the 3rd quarter, and it was 46-31 Astros as we headed to the 4th.
Grisson continued her strong game in the 4th, slashing to the rim for another tough scoop shot. Then Grisson blocked her fifth shot of the game, preventing a transition layup by Martel. Martin countered with another strong bucket inside to make it 48-33 Pinkerton with 6:00 left in regulation. Stacy continued to hustle and do the dirty work, drawing a charge on Morrison. It was Morrison's fifth foul, so she fouled out with 5 minutes left.
Grisson blocked her sixth shot of the game, and Shea converted an and-1 as Memorial kept on battling. But Martin finished another strong put-back, as Pinkerton continued to lead by a comfortable margin, now leading 54-39 with 2:20 remaining. Shea was playing well for the Crusaders - with her and Arnold you had 2 of the better freshmen players in the state in this game. She was going hard after rebounds and taking it strong to the rim and also hitting the mid-range jumper.
"She can score from the outside or the inside, which is nice" said Coach Gundy of Shea.
Martin made a nice crossover dribble from the top of the key, blowing by her defender and getting to the rim where she got fouled and then hit both FTs. Pinkerton cruises from there for the 59-43 win.