It's been a roller coaster ride for the Goffstown High girls basketball team. They were picked as a preseason favorite since they return four starters from a squad that made the finals last year - plus they added one of the best freshmen players in the state (Sofia Piriz).
But it hasn't been all roses for the Grizzlies. They had a stretch during the middle of the season when they only went 3-4, with 3 of those 4 losses coming to teams below them in the standings. And heading into their final regular season game on Thursday night they hadn't even clinched a home playoff game.
But Goffstown has righted the ship. Tonight they took on Bishop Brady (a team the Grizzlies lost to earlier in the season) and they left no doubt about who was the better team or whether they'd get a home playoff game. Piriz (team-high 17 points) and Katie Howe (14 points) were on fire shooting the basketball, as Goffstown took a commanding 35-16 lead at halftime and cruised to the 54-40 win.
"I think we're all coming together better as a team now" said Piriz. "Our team chemistry is really good now. We spent all day together as a team, we all get along great."
"We're progressing really well" added Howe. "We all felt really prepared for this game."
What was the difference in tonight's game? Well, a couple of things. First off, Goffstown has more weapons. They had four different players hit 3-pointers, six different players hit long jumpers and 8 different players scored. Meanwhile, Bishop Brady had just one player do most of their damage, sophomore forward Sam Will (game-high 25 points).
"We don't really rely on just one player" said Piriz. "We have a lot of good players. We all read the court really well."
The other major factor was the lack of pressure and intensity on defense by Bishop Brady. Last Tuesday night when Goffstown got beat by Hanover it was in large part due to the fact that Hanover pressured the heck out of Goffstown defensively, they got right up on them, they pressed full court, forced some turnovers and got the Grizzlies out of their normal offensive rhythm. But tonight Brady didn't do any of that. They sat back on defense, let Goffstown do whatever they wanted. They let Goffstown run their offense, get open looks from the outside and they let the Grizzlies get numerous offensive rebounds. That (along with having more weapons) is why Goffstown won this game.
It was a back and forth battle early on. Howe drained a catch and shoot 3-pointer off a baseline out of bounds play. Bishop Brady went ahead on a put-back by Will, followed by a layup by Will which came off a nice pass by Lily Rivera. Howe buried another 3-pointer, putting Goffstown back on top 6-5. Then Bishop Brady went back ahead, as Will faced up from the perimeter, put the ball on the floor and drove baseline before pulling up and hitting a 15-footer to put the Giants back in the lead 7-6 with 4:03 left in the 1st quarter.
Then it was Goffstown's turn to re-take the lead, as Hannah Larochelle connected on a 3-pointer off the catch from the left wing, as the Grizzlies went back ahead 9-7. That would be it for all of the lead changes - after that 3-pointer by Larochelle it was all Grizzlies, as they led for the rest of the game. Piriz came off the bench and immediately drilled a 3-pointer off a drive and kick-out by Larochelle.
Brady put on a full court press, but Goffstown beat the press, turning it into a transition opportunity on the other end with Howe hitting the 15-footer off the dribble. Piriz followed that up with an 18-footer off the bounce, and then Piriz ended the 1st quarter by driving and scoring on 2 defenders with just 3 seconds left. It was 18-8 Grizzlies after 1.
Piriz came off the bench and scored 7 points in less than 2 minutes of action. She is clearly one of the top freshman players in NH, and would start for pretty much any other team in the state.
Bishop Brady tried to get back in the game early in the 2nd quarter. They ran a nicely executed pick-and-roll, with junior guard Riley Bennett dishing it to Will for the layup. Goffstown answered right back though, as Piriz drained another 3-pointer, this time off the catch from the left wing. Then Howe buried another 3 - they were on fire! It was now 24-12 Grizzlies, and the game was quickly getting away from Brady. Piriz and Howe had combined to score 21 of Goffstown's first 25 points.
Molly McQueeney connected on an 18-footer off the catch from the left wing, extending the Grizzlies' lead to 27-12 with 4:37 left in the 1st half, forcing Bishop Brady head coach Aaron Brochu to call a timeout. Goffstown kept on rolling though, as Gabby Cass came off the bench and hit a 15-footer, followed quickly by a layup by McQueeney to put Goffstown up 31-12. They were on a 25-5 run.
Piriz buried a pull-up jumper from 18-feet,giving her 12 points off the bench in the 1st half. Larochelle hustled for an offensive rebound, then slashed to the rim for 2. It was 35-16 Goffstown at halftime.
Would Bishop Brady make a big comeback? Nope. They did outscore Goffstown in both the 3rd and 4th quarters, though. They just didn't outscore them enough in those quarters to come back from such a large (19 point) halftime deficit.
Grizzlies guard Peyton McBride drilled a 3-pointer early in the 3rd quarter, making it 38-16 - the largest lead of the game for Goffstown. But then Brady responded with an 11-2 run. Will hit a smooth 15-footer off the dribble. Goffstown sophomore point guard Sarah Doherty countered with an 18-footer off the catch, showing good balance and form on her shot.
Bennett made a hard drive, getting by her defender (Larochelle) off the dribble and getting to the rim for a strong and-1 finish. That capped the 11-2 run by the Giants, but Goffstown still led 40-27 with 2:00 left in the 3rd quarter. Larochelle ended the run with a nice slash to the rim for 2. Will was helping to keep Brady in it, as she got position in the post, turned and scored. On the other end Piriz slashed to the rim for a layup, and it was 44-29 Goffstown after 3 quarters.
Howe drilled another 3 (her fourth of the contest) early in the 4th quarter, as the Grizzlies went up 47-29. Howe is never shy about pulling the trigger from beyond the arc! Soon after that Doherty took it strong to the hole for 2. McQueeney took a charge on Bennett. Then with the game out of reach, both teams began emptying their benches. Will hit an 18-footer from the right wing, showing good range for a kid her size (especially one who's only a sophomore). Piriz drained yet another 3-pointer (her third of the game). Give Rivera credit for continuing to play hard and give 100% till the end. Goffstown cruises to the 54-40 win.
This was senior night for the Grizzlies. Their seniors are Howe, McQueeney, Larochelle, Siobhan Pelletier and Emily O'Hara.
Goffstown ends the regular season with a 12-6 record, while Brady ends at 9-9. There are still teams who have one more regular season game left to play on Friday night, but as it stands now Goffstown is the #7 seed and Brady is the #10 seed. This of course means that there's a chance that these same two teams will meet next Tuesday night, back at Goffstown High in the D-II prelims. If that happens the Grizzlies will definitely be the favorites. Also, you can bet Coach Brochu will be using this article as bulletin board material.