By: Ross Laorenza
Gilford will face Conant, Saturday night for the Division-III girls basketball championship; a game that will feature two undefeated teams. The Golden Eagles advanced after knocking off 6th seeded Laconia 37-34. The Orioles advanced by beating 5th ranked Pelham 53-43.
Gilford vs. Laconia
Laconia started off strong with great shooting from Kailey Nute (#3), Calyce Swotmstedt (#34), and Helen Tautkus (#3). The three combined for 8 points in the opening 2:13 to give the Sachems an 8-0 advantage. Freshman Brooke Beaudet (#4) got the Golden Eagles on the board with a three pointer. Nute would answer with a three of her own.
A Cassidy Bartlett (#11) free throw would get Gilford within 7, and then Bartlett would score on a fast-break feed from Madison Harris (#14) to close the lead to 5 points at the end of the 1st quarter.
Laconia scored the first basket of the second quarter and looked poised to upset the undefeated Golden Eagles. But, Gilford would battle back. Mariah Nelson (#10) and Madison Harris scored back-to-back baskets to bring Gilford within 3 of the lead. Time out Laconia. Out of the timeout Calyce Swormstedt got an open look for three, coming off a screen
and sank the shot to give Laconia a 16-10 edge. Harris responded with a nice move down low on Gilford’s ensuing possession, catching the feed from Bartlett and turning to score. A lay-up from Helen Tautkus made it a 6 point game with 3:00 to play in the half.
Madison Bartlett grabbed a bit of momentum for Gilford stealing the ball and taking it to the hoop. The Golden Eagles ended the half on a 5-1 run, fueled by Bartlett’s effort play. At the end of the first half, Laconia: 19, Gilford: 17.
“It just took us a little while settle down,” said Gilford head coach Rick Forge. “I told the kids to just relax, play your game. We knew were going to have some opportunities, and after that first quarter I thought we played some really good basketball.”
Gilford carried over their momentum into the second half, scoring the first 7 points of the half to take a 24-19 lead. Brooke Beaudet scored 5 of those 7, with a 3 pointers and solid drive through the lane. After Beaduet’s three, Laconia called a timeout.
Out of the timeout, Natalie Compoton (#22) got called for a travel. At the other end of the floor a shot by Madison Harris just rimmed out. Swormstedt scored for the Satchems bringing them back withing 3 points, 24-21.
Cassidy Bartlett went to the line, making both free throws with half the time gone by in the 3rd quarter. Both teams traded tough shots later on, with Helen Tautkus fighting hard to the basket, and then Bartlett floating one of the Laconia defense, 28-23.
A charge by Stevie Orton (#25) brought Mariah Nelson back into the game for the Golden Eagles with less than two minutes to play in the third. Nelson would then score with a nice jump shot to give Gilford a 30-23 lead at the end of three. Gilford outscored Laconia 13-4 in that crucial third quarter.
But Laconia refused to go away. Natalie Compton to an inbounds feed and cashed in for two. Shortly thereafter Cassidy Bartlett picked up her 4th personal foul on a charge. Timeout Gilford.
With 5:28 to go in the 4th Tautkus was at the line for two. She went 1 for 2 keeping Laconia within 4 points. Stevie Orton returned for Gilford and picked up a basket right away, 32-26. Compton countered for Laconia as she battled down low. Still playing with her four fouls, Madison Bartlett stepped to the charity stripe and made both shots. Another solid shot by Compton kept the Sachems close.
With 2:45 remaining Laconia trailed 34-30 with Helen Tautkus as the line. She made her first, but a lane violation negated her second free throw. Stevie Orton made huge basket for Gilford, drawing contact to pick up the and one. A free throw from Kailey Nute brought Laconia within 5 points, 37-32. The Satchems a chance for more with 1:35 to go in the game, but shots from Nute and Meya Minor wouldn’t fall. Timeout Gilford with 1:08 remaining.
Coach Forge said after the game that he told his girls to “keep composure” in the final minute plus as they tried to avoid letting Laconia’s outside shooters make an impact late. The Golden Eagles did a great job of forcing extra passes which ran off valuable seconds for Laconia. With 46.6 remaining Natalie Compton went 2 for 2 from the line to make it a 3 point game.
After a turnover by Brooke Beaudet, Nute had a chance to tie but her three pointer missed. Helen Tautkus came down with the rebound and Gilford forced a jump ball, but possession was still with the Satchems. On the inbounds play, Laconia looked to get the ball into the hands of Nute for a shot to tie. After several Satchems touched the ball, Nute finally got her chance but she was way out behind the arch and heavily guarded. Shot missed and Jordan Dean grabbed the rebound for Gilford as the buzzer sounded. Final score, Gilford: 37, Laconia: 34.
Cassidy Bartlett scored a game high 11 points for the Golden Eagles. Brooke Beaudet scored 9 points in the win. Madison Harris was a force on the boards bringing down a game high 12 rebounds.
Natalie Compton led Laconia scoring with 9 points. Kailey Nute and Calyce Swormstedt finished with 7 points each.
Conant vs. Pelham
Madison Springfield is a machine that cannot be stopped. Her athleticism and pure shooting ability are like no else I’ve seen this season and it was all on display as the Conant Lady Orioles took down the Pelham Pythons 53-43.
Springfield scored early an often and Conant opened up a 10-4 lead. Two from long range, one down inside and two from the charity stripe as Springfield dominated play. Pelham hung tough however. Jess Lessard (#4) and Katelyn Surprenant (#44) scored back-to-back to get the Pythons within two points.
Springfield was called for a charge that would have put Conant up 4, but Pelham couldn’t capitalize on the change of possession. When the Pythons were able to set up their defense inside against Springfield she was challenged a little, but when Madison was able to dribble up the floor and get to her spot behind the arch, it was a three points every time she shot in the first quarter. At the end of one Conant: 13, Pelham: 8.
Jess Lessard came up with a steal on Conant’s opening possession. She took the ball the rest of the way for the Python score. Lily Shlimon (#3) followed with a shot of her own, to bring Pelham within one. After a Springfield free throw, Shilmon connected from long range giving Pelham their first lead since the opening minutes of the game, 15-14.
The lead was short lived, as Springfield tied the game 3 second later from the free throw line. Conant also saw great play from Megan Wheeler (#5) and Eva Hodgson (#10) in the 2nd quarter. Wheeler scored from long range putting Conant on top 18-15. She stole the ball away from Pelham soon thereafter and was fouled, making both shots from the line.
After a Lauren Anderson free throw cut the lead to 4, Madison Springfield calmly dribbled up court, got to her spot and swish, three more points for the Lady Orioles. Sarah Ratcliffe (#21) for Pelham saw a majority of the duty guarding Springfield and she really held her own. Madison has a 5" height advantage, but Ratcliffe was able to limit her touches inside as the game wore on.
With 2:25 to go in the half Katelyn Surprenant rattled home a free throw for Pelham, 23-17 Conant leads. Megan Wheeler added to that with her second three pointer of the contest. A minute later it was Madison Springfield with a heads up play, grabbing the offensive rebound and calling timeout as she fell to the floor. Out of the time out, Sarah Gonsalves used her 6’ frame to grab her own miss and sink the put back. Caitlin Riordan sank home a shot for the
Pythons. Springfield capped the first half scoring going 2 for 2 from the free throw line. At the end of the half, Conant: 30, Pelham: 19. Springfield had a double-double in the first half with 20 points and 10 rebounds. This girl is incredibly talented and a must see.
“Pelham’s a wonderful team,” said Coach David Springfield. “They’re rugged, they’re quick and they’ve got a freshman big girl who’s going to be something to be reckoned with.”
The freshman he referred to is Danielle Sirois (#41) who had a big second half for the Pythons. She used her size to rack up 8 points as Pelham tried to battle back. After stealing the ball in the opening minutes of the third quarter, Katie Chadbourne passed the ball to Madison Springfield who was fouled. Maddie made them both to push Conant
out in front by 13 points. Later Springfield would feed Eva Hodgson for a nice inside lay-up, 34-21 Lady Orioles.
With 3:12 remaining in the 3rd Lauren Anderson went 1 for 2 from the line. At the other end Springfield battled for a rebound, grabbed it and scored with contact. 36-22. Madison missed the free throw, proving she is human. But she didn’t miss many tonight.
A jump ball gave possession to Conant with 2:20 to play and on the ensuing possession Eva Hodgson found herself all alone behind the Python zone and scored east taking it to the hoop. Pelham closed the 3rd with baskets from Sirios and Surprenant. At the end of three, Conant: 38, Pelham, 26.
The fourth quarter highest scoring of the game as both teams vied for a spot in the finals. Danielle Sirios opened the scoring with a shot down low. Eva Hodgson countered for Conant. Pelham would have a brief 5-0 run, with 2 free throws from Surprenant and a three-pointer by Lilly Shlimon. 40-33 Conant still leads.
Madison Springfield hit two more from the line to grow the Conant lead, but Lilly Sclimon took the ball the length of the floor, scoring with her right hand for a tough basket. Megan Wheeler went to line for two, as Katelyn Surprenant picked up her 4th foul. Wheeler made both, 44-37. After a Sirios basket, Madison Springfield got inside position and out-muscled everyone to the basket for two. The Pythons would get within 4 points after a 6-0 with less than two minutes to play. Sirious, Shlimon and Surprenant scored. Springfield picked up her 4th.
Eva Hodgson closed the door of the comeback. She made two huge baskets in the final 1:15 and went 2 for 4 from the foul line as the Conant defense held Pelham scoreless the rest of the game. Final score, Conant: 53, Pelham: 43.
Conant remains undefeated and advance to play undefeated Gilford in Saturday’s Championship Game. Madison Springfield finished with 29 points and 16 rebounds to lead the game in both categories. Eva Hodgson totaled 12 points and Megan Wheeler finished with 10 for Conant.
Lilly Schlimon was the only Python in double figures with 12 points. Katelyn Surprenant finished with 9 point and 5 rebounds. Danielle Sirois finished with 8 points and 6 rebounds.Coach Springfield talked about the pressure of trying to remain perfect and how his team dealt with the thought of losing throughout the year:
“We just decided after about 15 or 16 wins that we’re not going to lose. We were done, were going to run the table, we were going to do it. It wasn’t going to be easy, and we played very average tonight,” said Coach Springfield after the game. “Maddie stepped it up first half and carried us and Eva, who’s a freshman, is going to be phenomenal…Who is phenomenal, in the second half showed why she is one the best, if not the best freshman in the state.”
It’s going to be a great match-up Saturday when Conant battles Gilford for the D-III title. Best of luck to the Lady Orioles and Golden Eagles; and congratulations to the Pelham Pythons and Laconia Sachems on two excellent seasons. On to the final!
From Southern New Hampshire University, Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook.