SHANNON MEYER puts up a shot over Belmont's Chayleigh Cadarette in playoff action Feb. 25. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
March 02, 2014BELMONT — With just more than three and a half minutes to go and trailing by six points to Belmont in opening round playoff action, Prospect Mountain senior Hope Carazzo stood her ground and drew an offensive foul on Belmont's Chayleigh Cadarette.
The foul was Cadarette's fifth and suddenly, with their opponent's leading scorer out of the game, it looked like the Timber Wolves might be able to get the run they needed to close out the game and get a playoff victory.
But coach Brian Contorchick's kids weren't quite able to put all the pieces together and Belmont's Cassie Contigiani stepped up and filled the scoring role for her teammate, allowing Belmont to escape with a 33-27 win in their first round tourney tilt.
"There were a couple of problems with fundamentals," Contorchick said. "We just couldn't get our footing."
Turnovers were the story, with unofficial stats at more than 50 combined for the game and Contorchick noted that a number of those were unforced turnovers, the kind that can frustrate a coach.
"I don't know if it was so much running out of gas or just pressing too hard, trying to do too much," the first-year Timber Wolf coach said. "But the biggest part about it, the girls didn't quit."
The two teams were about as even as two teams could be through the first 24 minutes of the game, but it was the final eight minutes that the Timber Wolves weren't able to stay with the Raiders and dropped the 33-27 decision.
The offenses were both a little slow getting started, with Prospect's Ella Montminy getting the game's first hoop with 3:20 gone in the game.
Belmont came back and hit the next two hoops to go back on top, but after a Shannon Meyer block (her second of the young game), Brianna Burley came up with a steal and finished it off to tie the game at four.
Meyer then put back a rebound for a 6-4 lead with the Timber Wolves, which held until the final seconds of the quarter. However, Cadarette hit two free throws with seven seconds to go to send the game to the end of the first with the Timber Wolves and Raiders tied at six.
Cadarette came out and scored the first five points of the second quarter, allowing Belmont to jump out to the lead, but Prospect fought back. Montminy drained a three with 2:15 to go for the team's first points of the quarter and after a Belmont free throw, she drilled another three to tie the game at 12 with just more than a minute to go in the half.
Belmont took the lead with 45 seconds to go, but an Anna Hingston free throw with seven seconds left in the half allowed the Timber Wolves to cut the lead to 14-13 at the halftime break.
Belmont started the third quarter strong as well, putting in the first six points of the frame for a 20-13 lead before a Burley jumper with 3:55 to go in the quarter got the Timber Wolves on the board.
Carazzo followed that up with a three-pointer to cut the lead to two. Belmont got a bucket to go up by four, but a Meyer hoop off a Burley steal allowed the Timber Wolves to go into the fourth quarter trailing by just two points, 22-20.
Montminy made it a one-point game with a free throw to open the fourth quarter, but a huge three 1:15 into the frame got the Raiders a little more room and a minute and a half later, another three from the corner seemingly put a dagger in Prospect's chances.
"That play in the fourth, that sealed it for them," Contorchick said, noting the Raiders came away from a scrum with the ball and kicked it for the big three. "I tried calling timeout to get them to regroup, but it never materialized."
Carazzo was able to draw the foul on Cadarette to force her out of the game and Montminy responded by getting a steal and a hoop to cut the lead to just four with just more than two minutes to go.
However, after Burley fouled out seconds later, Belmont's Contigiani went coast to coast for a bucket with 1:35 to go and a minute later hit a free throw to put the lead at 31-24.
Abby Mucher drained a three with 21 seconds to go, cutting the lead to just four, but Contigiani hit two more free throws to close out the win for the Raiders.
Contorchick noted that the game was a lot like his team's season, which was filled with games that easily could've gone either way.
"It was a Jekyl and Hyde kind of season," Contorchick said. "The ball bounces one way here or bounces one way there, it's a completely different situation."
He noted that part of that could fall on the fact that the players and coach were new to each other.
"That has to do with the fact that I'm a new coach for them and they're new for me," he said.
That being said, Contorchick didn't fault his team's effort a single bit.
"They came in every day in practice like the wanted to win every game," he said. "They played hard tip to buzzer."
Montminy finished with 11 points to pace the Timber Wolves in her final game in the uniform.
Prospect finished the regular season at 9-9, including a win over previously-unbeaten Newfound, the team that entered the tournament as the top seed with just that one loss on their record.
Prospect Mountain 27
Hingston 0-1-1, Mucher 1-0-3, Montminy 4-1-11, Meyer 2-0-4, Carazzo 1-1-4, Burley 2-0-4: Totals 10, 3-27
Contigiani 3-4-11, Donovan 1-0-2, Cadarette 4-3-11, Clairmont 3-0-7, Russo 1-0-2: Totals 12-7-33
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or email@example.com