By: Ross Laorenza
The Gilford Golden Eagles are headed back to the D-III title game after a thrilling 53-46 win over Fall Mountain. Madison Harris led the way for the Golden Eagles with 18 points and 10 rebounds. "We tried to keep up with them in the first half," said Harris about facing the fast paced Fall Mountain offense. "We started to notice that we weren't running as fast as we could, so in the second half we really picked it up and sprinted, literally, the whole court," she added.
Starting alongside Harris in tonight's game were Brooke Beaudet, Cassidy Bartlett, Jordan Dean and Stevie Orton. Fall Mountain started Sophie Bushey, Ella Stewart, Maddie Lord, Josie Holt and Brooke Aumand.
Stevie Orton opened the scoring to give Gilford an early 2-0 lead. Brooke Aumand would tie the game a two minutes later. With 5:30 remaining in the 1st quarter, Madison Harris took an inbound feed and quickly turned to the hoop and got her shot off. 4-2, Gilford. Josie Holt went 1 of 2 at the free throw line after being fouled by Jordan Dean. Fall Mountain grabbed the rebound of Holt missed free throw and freshman Ella Stewart scored giving the Wildcats their first lead of the contest, 5-4.
Cassidy Bartlett scored to put Gilford briefly ahead, but Sophie Bushey knocked down a three-pointer at the other end of floor to put Fall Mountain right back on top. A few second later Madison Harris grabbed and offensive rebound and scored on the putback to tie the game at 8-8. A steal by Bartlett led to points for the Golden Eagles as the ball found its way to Dean who scored in transition. Next, Bartlett was able to feed Stevie Orton who knocked down the open shot expanding the Gilford lead. Two free throws from Jordan Dean would close out the scoring in the first quarter. The Golden Eagles ended on a 8-0 run. After the 1st quarter, Gilford: 14, Fall Mountain: 8.
Fall Mountain had a great second quarter offensively they racked up 18 points, while holding Gilford to only 9. Ella Stewart started the scoring in the 2nd with a jumped at the 7:25 mark. Zoey Loupa saw some time off the bench and grabbed a three point play after knocking home a shot in tight and picking up the foul. A Madison Harris putback pushed the Gilford lead back to 3 points, but the Wildcats kept charging. Back-to-back baskets from Kellie Walker and Maddie Lord gave Fall Mountain a 17-16 lead. Another putback by Harris had the Golden Eagles in front seconds later.
With 2:56 remaining in the half Ella Stewart made 1 of 2 free throws tying the game at 18 apiece. Sophie Bushey would break that tie with her second three-pointer of the game. Harris scored again, inside for Gilford. Kellie Walker hit from down town for the Wildcats. Then, Harris snatched another offensive rebound and scored. A hook shot from Brooke Aumand closed the scoring in the second quarter. At the end of the first half, Fall Mountain: 26, Gilford: 23.
After getting out scored 18-9 and losing their lead, Gilford came out with a reviewed sense of urgency in the second half. "Halftime gave us a second to catch our breath and gain momentum and get fresh legs for everybody that was out there," said Madison Harris. She continued," We've got eight seniors on this team. Do you want this to be your last game? No, let's go out there and run your hearts out."
Harris picked up where she left off in the first half grabbing a pass from Bartlett in position for a high percentage shot. Brooke Beaudet, who was 0-9 from the field in the first half started to get in rhythm. She was fouled during a fast break attempt as she tried to lay the ball in off glass. She converted 1 of the 2 free throws. She scored again seconds later after a Bartlett steal to put Gilford back on top 28-26. Fall Mountain would counter with 5 straight points including another Sophie Bushey 3-points.
Cassidy Bartlett scored for Gilford cutting into the deficit. A Madison Harris steal gave Beaudet another chance for fast break points, and she delivered. 32-31 Golden Eagles.
Bartlett would extend the lead going 1 of 2 at the line and then by feeding Mariah Nelson for an easy two points. With 2:51 remaining in the 3rd Brooke Aumand stepped to the charity stripe. She missed both attempt but Zoey Loupa grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled. She made 1 of 2. With less than 40 seconds to play Maddie Lord sank a basket getting Fall Mountain within 1 point, but Madison Harris came through again for Gilford grabbing a rebound and scoring on the put back. After 3 quarters, Gilford: 37, Fall Mountain: 34.
Harris scored again to open the 4th quarter as both teams battled for a place in the D-III finals. Sophie Bushey knocked down another 3-pointer to get Fall Mountain within 2-points of the lead. Ella Stewart tied the game at the free throw line and then put the Wildcats in the lead with a deep two pointer. With 5:35 remaining Jordan Dean tied the game at 41 with two free throws of her own. Brooke Beaudet converted another fast break opportunity with a lay-up and 1, 44-41 Gilford.
Brooke tallied 13 of her 14 points in the 2nd half, including 6 of 8 from the stripe. With 2:48 remaining she made another three point play after getting pushed from behind by Aumand. The free throw gave Gilford a 50-43 lead. Fall Mountain would only score three points the remainder of the game as the Golden Eagle defense held strong. Great ball movement and free throw shooting from Bartlett and Beaudet sealed the victory for Gilford. Final score, Gilford: 53, Fall Mountain: 46.
"When you get to the semi-finals anything can happen," said Gilford head coach Rick Forge. "The teams are good; they didn't get to the semi-finals by mistake. Like I told the kids, there are 27 teams that start out on day 1 and only two teams get to play on the last day. We get to extend our season to the very last possible time and for anybody that's a lover of basketball, that's what it's all about."
Gilford now has to finish the season on top of D-III with one more win. They'll play the winner of Game 2: Conant vs. Laconia.
After shooting under 30% from the field in the first half, the Golden Eagles converted almost 50% of their second half field goal chance (10 of 21). Madison Harris led the team with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Brooke Beaudet finished with 14 points and 5 rebounds. Jordan Dean finished with 8 points, Cassidy Bartlett totaled 6 points.
Sophie Bushey was the only Fall Mountain Player in double figures. She scored 12 points. Ella Stewart finished with 9 points and a game high 11 rebounds.
From SNHU, Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook