Sunday, March 15, 2015

Coe-Brown Girls Hoops Are Undefeated D-II Champs

The Coe-Brown Northwood Academy girls basketball team lost in a heart-breaker to Merrimack Valley last season in the D-II finals. That team had no seniors though. Everyone came back this year, more determined than ever to get back to the finals and win the title this time.

They did it. Not only are they champions, but they went undefeated. And for their 6 seniors who have been playing together since 4th grade (Jenny Schlim, Abigail Ahern, Sarah Curtin, Debbie Peabody, Haley Ruth and Ashley LeBlanc) they get to go out on top. Curtin set a D-II girls basketball record by hitting five 3-pointers in a title game, and the Bears defeat a very good Goffstown team 50-46.

"It's rewarding because we worked so hard for this" said Curtin, who dropped a game-high 17 points. "It was a fun game to be a part of. Goffstown played great."

"It's a great feeling" said Schlim, who had 8 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal. "We've been playing together since 4th grade, we built the program up. I knew we could get here. It hasn't hit me yet. Sarah was definitely key, she hit big shots and that got our fans into it. Keeping our composure was also key."

Free throws were also key. Coe-Brown shot 7/9 from the line (77.8%), while Goffstown only shot 6/13 (46.2%). At one point in the 4th quarter Goffstown was down by 4, and they had just missed 5 out of their last 6 FTs. The Grizzlies were down by 2 (48-46) with the ball and 19.2 seconds left, needing a basket to either tie or win the game. But if they hadn't missed 5 FTs in the 4th quarter they would have been on top at that time rather than trailing.

They still had a shot, though. Goffstown ball, down 48-46 with 19.2 seconds left. You have to be expecting them to try and free up Katie Howe (hit five 3-pointers in both the quarterfinals and semis) for a 3 or maybe get it inside to 6-foot-2 center Rene Roggenbuck. Instead, shooting guard Molly McQueeney got the ball up top, had a look from beyond the arc but drove it to the rim instead. She put up a shot inside, but Schlim came over on help side defense and blocked it. There was a little contact on the play as McQueeney went up with it, but it was a good no-call by the officials. Coe-Brown recovers the ball, and Ruth is fouled with 1.3 seconds left. She makes both FTs, the buzzer sounds and the Bears are champions.

"It was my job, to come over on help defense" said Schlim, a Player of the Year candidate in D-II. "Then I made the block. I saw we got the ball and how much time was left - it was a great feeling."

"We tried to stop Howe from getting it" said Coe-Brown head coach Joe Vachon, who wins the title in his first year at the helm after previously serving as the school's JV coach. "We thought they'd try to get it to either her or Doherty, their shooters."

This game had an amazing atmosphere. A packed house, and the loudest gym I've heard in a long time. It was a tight, back-and-forth battle. There was a ton of ties and lead changes. Neither team led by more than 3 during the 1st half, and the biggest lead either team had all game was only 5. It was clear that these were the 2 best teams in the division. Both squads played their hearts out and left it all on the floor.

Schlim dished it inside to Ahern (12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block), who made a good move underneath for 2 to open the game. Goffstown guard Hannah Larochelle slashed to the rim for 2 to tie it up 2-2. Ahern made another good move inside, using an up-fake to get Roggenbuck in the air and then laid it in. Ahern already had more field goals than she had in the semis.

Curtin stepped in and took a charge on a drive by McQueeney. Goffstown guard Parker McBride made a nice steal, which led to a pull-up 3-pointer by McQueeney. Goffstown went up 7-4 as they got the ball into Roggenbuck in the post for 2. Curtin drilled her first 3 of the game, tying it back up 7-7. Schlim made another nice dish inside to Ahern for a layup, but on the other end Roggenbuck (team-high 12 points, 20 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks) converted a put-back and we were tied up 9-9 after an intense, hard fought 1st quarter.

The 2nd quarter was also dead even, with both teams scoring 13 points each. Schlim finished an and-1 off a baseline out of bounds play. McBride drained a jumper from the foul line. Goffstown re-takes the lead, as freshman point guard Sarah Doherty makes a nice steal and pushed it hard up the floor to the rim for the layup to make it 13-11 Grizzlies. On the next Goffstown possession, Roggenbuck got whacked on the arm by Schlim as she went up for a shot inside, but no foul call was made. Ouch!

Coe-Brown 6th man Sydney Fisher converted a put-back, finishing strong inside and putting the Bears back on top 15-13 with 3:40 left in the 2nd quarter. Roggenbuck came back and scored 2 more inside. It was an easy bucket. The 5-foot-9 Ahern was guarding the 6-foot-2 Roggenbuck 1-on-1, and Roggenbuck kept getting the ball in good position, 2 feet from the basket.

Schlim countered with another strong and-1 finish. Goffstown may have the size advantage inside with Roggenbuck, but on defense Roggenbuck was usually covering Ahern in the Grizzlies' 2-3 zone which usually left the 5-foot-10 Schlim underneath with a 5-foot-5 defender on her - a match up that certainly favored Coe-Brown. Both teams were doing a good job of exploiting the mismatches they had inside.

Roggenbuck scored another easy 2 inside, as the Bears held a slim 18-17 lead. Ahern hit another shot inside. Goffstown forward Siobhan Pelletier answered quickly on the other end with an inside bucket of her own. Ahern made another nice baseline move, flipping it in with a reverse lay-in. Larochelle drained a 3, and it was all tied up 22-22 at halftime.

Both teams made defensive adjustments at halftime, and in the 2nd half they both did a better job of defending the paint and preventing easy buckets inside. Coe-Brown held Roggenbuck to just 1 field goal and 4 points in the 2nd half. Meanwhile, Ahern and Schlim combined for 17 points in the 1st half, but they combined for just 8 in the 2nd half.

"In the 2nd half we played behind her (Roggenbuck)" said Schlim. "In the 2nd half we switched to front the post and help on defense."

With both teams now doing a better job of defending the inside games, it now left the outside open. As a result, it was raining 3's in the 3rd quarter. Schlim made another nice dish inside to Ahern for a layup (these 2 have tremendous chemistry on the court together, a very tough inside duo to stop). Then the outside shots started coming. Howe buried a long jumper from just inside the 3-point line to tie it up 24-24. Just seconds later Curtin answered back with a 3 from the right wing to make it 27-24 Bears.

Roggenbuck hit a 15-footer and then Howe connected on a 3 to put Goffstown back on top 30-28 with 4:35 left in the 3rd quarter. Again Curtin answered right back, hitting another 3 from the same spot on the right wing to put Coe-Brown back ahead 31-30. The Bears quickly got the ball back, and Peabody drained a 3 from the left wing off the catch off a baseline out of bounds play.

Howe then launched another 3-point attempt, but got fouled. She made 2 of 3 FTs, and then McQueeney hit her second 3 of the game to put Goffstown back on top 35-34. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, that would be the last time they had the lead. Coe-Brown responded as Ruth and Curtin connected on back-to-back 3's as the Bears were now up 40-35. The teams combined to hit a whopping seven 3-pointers in the 3rd quarter alone.

"You just get in a rhythm" said Curtin. "I was feeding off the intensity of my teammates."

Ruth played tough on the ball defense, knocking the ball away and then hustling to force a tie up. Fisher converted an and-1 put-back, and Coe-Brown led 43-39 after 3 quarters.

Goffstown kept fighting - it wasn't over yet. Doherty (one of the top freshman players in the state) connected on an 18-footer, and then Roggenbuck made a nice block. Then Curtin did it again, drilling her fifth 3-pointer of the game to push the Bears' lead to 5, 46-41.

Roggenbuck made a short jumper, cutting the Coe-Brown lead to 46-43 with 4:10 left in regulation. Then Roggenbuck made another nice block, coming over from the weak side. Though volleyball is her primary sport, with her size and ability to score inside, rebound and block shots, Roggenbuck could definitely play basketball somewhere at the next level.

Curtin hit a 15-footer, again hitting a shot to make it a 2 possession lead, 48-43 with 2:13 remaining. Goffstown meanwhile was struggling at the free throw line, as they made just 1/6 FTs so far in the 4th quarter.

After a drive and finish by Doherty it was 48-46 Coe-Brown. Then Howe attempted a 3-pointer with 1:20 left which would have put the Grizzlies back on top. The shot rimmed out though, and then the Bears worked the ball around the perimeter to try and run the clock out. Goffstown was pressuring hard, trying to force a turnover. Finally they did it, getting a deflection on 'D', as the ball went out of bounds, last touched by Coe-Brown. That gave Goffstown the ball with 19.2 seconds left, still trailing 48-46 and you know what happened from there.

A thrilling win for Coe-Brown and a tough loss for Goffstown. The Grizzlies had the best team they've had in a long time, getting to the finals for the first time since 1988. Roggenbuck is their only senior so they will be tough again next year. They'll be tough for the next 3 years with Doherty running the point.

It was fitting that Curtin was the one who hit many big 3's on Saturday night, because she's the one who missed the 3-pointer late in last year's title game loss to MV that would have tied it up and likely would have sent the game to overtime. That makes the championship this year even more sweet for Curtin and her teammates.

"They never gave up" said Coach Vachon, whose assistant John Schlim is Jenny's father. "They're composed. Thabnkfully Sarah came alive. I told her to keep shooting. We hit some big shots in the 2nd half. Hats off to Goffstown."

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