By: Jeremy Leveille
The Alvirne High Girls basketball team is a good team - BG is just better. In fact, Bishop Guertin playing better than any girls basketball team in the state right now. The Cardinals improved to 11-1 on the season with a 42-25 win over Alvirne on Tuesday night in Nashua. It was the 8th win in a row for BG. That's the best record and longest winning streak in D-I. Their only loss was to Londonderry, but the Lancers just lost by 20 to Winnacunnet, a team that BG just beat on the road without one of their best players (Molly Dee). Meanwhile, preseason favorite Bedford has lost twice, including as loss tonight to a 4-loss Nashua North squad.
What it all means is that Guertin is the team to beat - for now.
"I try not to talk about that stuff" said Bishop Guertin first-year head coach Brad Kreick, who took over for Jeremy Faulkner. "We still have some tough games left to play."
If they keep playing like they did on Tuesday night they'll be in good shape. BG jumped out to a 12-2 lead in the 1st quarter and never looked back. They played suffocating defense, controlled the boards and pounded the ball inside on offense. They led 37-20 after 3 quarters and cruised to the 42-25 victory.
"Pressing and running in transition - the kids like to play that style" explained Coach Kreick.
Ironically, that's the way the Cardinals played in 2011-2012 - when they won the D-I title.
"We finally really clicked tonight" said junior forward Abbi Field, who tallied a game-high 10 points to go with 10 rebounds and 2 blocks. "Everyone was in position, especially on the press. On defense we were being aggressive."
Wait, so they've won 8 games in a row and they're just NOW starting to click? That's bad news for the rest of Division I. Right right from the opening tip the Cardinals were playing a tough, in your face man-to-man defense. Still, the Broncos managed to get on the board first as senior guard Jess Baker slashed to the rim for 2. BG scored the next 12 points in a row, however. Dee grabbed a loose ball underneath the basket and laid it in. Sophomore wing forward Caroline Hoffer made a nice block on defense. Junior guard Meghan Cramb kept the run going by slashing all the way from the mid-court line through the Alvirne defense to the rim for a strong finish.
Field drained a baseline jumper from 15-feet. That's when Guertin really started to work their press. They got a steal with the press and quickly turned it into a layup, by Cramb (8 points). Field hit a runner in the lane, making it 10-2 Cardinals and forcing Alvirne to call a timeout with 2:16 left in the 1st quarter. Out of the timeout junior Meagan Morelli connected on a 15-footer to cap the 12-0 run.
"We didn't play well offensively" lamented Alvirne first-year head coach Scott Szuksta. "They pounded the ball inside and that hurt us. No excuses, we need to come out better prepared."
Alvirne got a steal and transition layup by Emily Ratte, and it was 12-4 BG after 1 quarter. BG junior wing Rachel Marion made a nice block early in the 2nd quarter. The Broncos hung tough, as Baker cut to the rim, caught the pass in traffic and finished for an and-1. Alvirne was also keeping it close early in the 2nd quarter as their zone defense was giving BG problems. The Cardinals went scoreless for the first 3 minutes of the 2nd quarter.
That changed however, as Marion caught a pass inside for a strong finish, and-1. Then Field had a block on 1 defensive possession, a steal on the next and then was fighting hard for loose balls. Junior wing forward Amanda Wetmore drilled an 18-footer for the Broncos, but BG junior guard Meghan Donovan answered on the other end with a tough baseline drive and finish. Then Donovan missed a shot inside, but got her own rebound and converted the put-back, and-1. Donovan dropped 9 points off the bench, as Guertin led 22-9 at halftime.
"We really have been working on our zone offense, because a lot of teams play zone against us" said Field, who is one of the top bigs in the state. "We're making sure we're in the right space. My teammates look for me at the foul line, and they make it easy for me to drive and kick it to them."
The Cardinals lead increased to 24-9 early in the 3rd quarter, as Cramb got the ball inside for 2 more. Nicole Teague and Marissa Sweeney both scored inside for Alvirne, while Hoffer buried a 3-pointer off the catch from the corner. The Broncos were trying to hang around, as junior guard Sara Siteman hit a 15-footer off a dish by Wetmore.
BG wouldn't let that turn into an extended run for Alvirne, though. Field and Cramb converted quick layups, and after a put-back by Teague the Cardinals ran a fast-break off the made basket and got it ahead to Donovan for 2. It was 37-20 BG after 3 quarters.
"I've been talking about it all year long - it all starts on the defensive side of the floor" pointed out Coach Kreick. "We hit some shots to get out to the early lead and stayed with it."
Field took it hard to the rim for an and-1 early in the 4th quarter. Donovan converts a layup off some good ball movement by BG, and the Cardinals have their largest lead of the game, 42-22 with 3:00 left in regulation. Teague hit a 3, Hoffer took a charge, both teams start emptying their benches, and BG rolls to the 42-25 win.
"Abbi had a good game" said Kreick. "Kids know defensively that if they get beat Abbi is back there. On offense we emphasized getting her to the high post and running our offense there through her."
With the loss, the feisty Broncos fall to 9-4 on the season.