On Thursday night at SNHU, the Coe-Brown girls basketball team took one step closer to a perfect season, advancing to the D-II title game with a 39-32 win over #5 seed Pembroke.
It wasn't easy, though. Despite the fact that Coe-Brown crushed Pembroke by 30+ points during the regular season this time it went down to the wire. The Spartans ended the 3rd quarter on a 10-0 run, cutting the Bears lead to just 22-21 after 3. In the 4th quarter Coe-Brown was able to right the ship in order to get to the ship', outscoring Pembroke 17-11 in the final frame.
"We knew it was going to be close" said Coe-Brown senior guard Debbie Peabody, who tallied 8 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. "We just gave it our all. We wanted it really bad in the 4th quarter."
"We're very motivated" added Coe-Brown senior forward Jenny Schlim, who had a team-high 10 points and 9 rebounds. "For our 6 seniors, this is our last chance. We're focused."
Pembroke only scored 3 points for the entire 1st quarter and had just 9 points at halftime. Then in the 3rd quarter Peabody and teammate Sarah Curtin hit 3-pointers to make it 22-11 Bears (their largest lead). But give Pembroke credit for the the way they kept on fighting. Coe-Brown is now 21-0, but tonight the Spartans gave the Bears their toughest game yet.
Kaylee Montiny got the Pembroke run started with a 3-pointer from the right wing. Then junior forward Karli Loiselle (11 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks and 3 steals) took it strong to the rim for 2. Loiselle then dished it inside to junior forward Madison Allen for a strong finish. Senior point guard Hannah Seidner drilled a 3 from the left wing to cap the 10-0 run and cut the Coe-Brown lead to 22-21. As the teams headed to the 4th quarter the Spartans had the momentum and the Bears looked shocked.
"We weren't being patient on offense, we forced some things" said Coe-Brown head coach Joe Vachon. "Our offensive rebounding was very poor, and that's something we usually dominate at."
"The 1 point difference motivated us even more" explained Schlim, a Player of the Year candidate in D-II. "We haven't had many games that close. It was a wake up call."
Schlim dished it inside to senior forward Abigail Ahern for 2, and it was 27-21 Coe-Brown with 4:40 left in regulation. Seidner answered with another 3 though, and just like that the lead was down to 27-24.
Then came possibly the biggest move and finish of the game for the Bears. Schlim got the ball in the post, turned towards the bucket and hit a tough scoop shot with a defender all over her. That pushed the Coe-Brown lead back to 6, 31-25 with just 3:40 remaining.
Again though, Seidner buried a 3 ball to cut the Bears' lead back down to 3, 31-28. Coe-Brown countered, as senior point guard Haley Ruth picked up a loose ball in the lane and hit the jumper to make it 33-28 with 3:07 left to play. Pembroke ball, down by 5 with just 2 minutes left - they needed a bucket to cut it back to a 1 possession game. But Ruth played tough on-the-ball defense on Seidner, deflecting the ball away. It went out of bounds, last touched by Seider - a huge defensive play by Ruth.
The Bears got clutch free throws at the end by Peabody and Schlim. Loiselle then fouled out, and Coe-Brown holds on for the 39-32 win.
Coe-Brown has been a team on a mission all year. Last season they came within 1 shot of a state title but lost in a heart-breaker to Merrimack Valley. But this season the Bears have their entire team back from last year. They're now 21-0 and have one more game left in order to finish what thy came so close to accomplishing last year.
"These girls went on that bus ride home last year and weren't going to accept anything except getting back here" said Coach Vachon.
The Bears jumped out to the early lead on Thursday night, as Schlim drained a quick 3-pointer on the game's opening possession. Loiselle tied it up 3-3 by hitting a 15-footer off a screen and roll. Schlim made a good weak side block, as we now had ourselves a defensive battle with both teams shooting it ice cold.
Coe-Brown junior wing Sydney Fisher (one of the top 6th men in the state) came in and gave the Bears instant offense. She converted a tough inside bucket in traffic, and then hit a foul line jumper. It was 8-3 Coe-Brown after 1.
Fisher continued her strong play, drilling a 3 from the left wing early in the 2nd quarter, giving her 7 points in less than 3 minutes. It was 11-3 Bears. After going scoreless for the first 4 minutes of the 2nd quarter, Pembroke finally found some offense, as Olivia Langevin came off the bench and hit a jumper from the elbow off a baseline out of bounds play. Loiselle made a good spin move into the lane for a strong finish, and it was 15-9 Coe-Brown at halftime.
Only one more team stands between Coe-Brown and history - Goffstown. The Bears beat the Grizzlies 65-54 back on January 9.
"Goffstown likes to rebound, they like to run" said Peabody.
The Grizzlies' main rebounder is 6-foot-2 senior center Rene Roggenbuck, who had 17 rebounds in the semi-final win over Milford.
"We've matched up against tall players before" said Schlim. "We just need to get the ball inside to myself and Abby, we have good chemistry. Then we can kick it out to the guards."
Goffstown girls basketball is in the finals for the first time since 1988. Coe-Brown just played in the finals last season and has everyone back from that team.
"We want it really bad" said Peabody. "It's what we've worked for the entire season."
Both coaches in this game (Vachon and Pembroke's Jason Button) are in their first season at the helm after previously serving as the JV coach for their respective programs.
On Saturday at SNHU, both the Coe-Brown girls and Pelham boys will attempt to complete undefeated championship seasons. We've already had 2 undefeated champions crowned this basketball season (Sunapee and Conant girls).