Gilford's Abigail O'Connor (33) has the ball knocked away by Hopkinton's Amelia Thomas during the Division III girls' basketball semifinal at SNHU in Manchester.
Joe Souza. (click for larger version)
March 07, 2018MANCHESTER — For 18 straight games, the shots dropped in and little went wrong for the Gilford girls' basketball team.
That all changed in the opening eight minutes of the NHIAA Division III girls' basketball semifinal contest against a determined Hopkinton squad. The second-seeded Golden Eagles struggled from the start with their shots and never found a rhythm offensively in watching their dream season come to a disappointing end with a 49-25 loss to No. 6 Hopkinton at Southern New Hampshire University.
The Hawks, who fell short in the title game (36-30) to No. 5 Conant, avenged a 46-42 setback to the Golden Eagles with the win.
"It just wasn't our night," said Gilford coach Rick Forge after his Golden Eagles (18-3) had their 18-game winning streak snapped in the final four.
"We answered the call 18 times in a row and tonight we didn't answer the call," the veteran coach added. "The difference tonight from the last time was we shot the ball well. We hit our first couple of shots and we got out to a big lead in the first half. And tonight, we had an off night."
The Hawks, who missed the tournament a year ago, came out on fire from the floor and played tough defensively against Gilford guards Shelby Cole and Brooke Beaudet, who did much of the damage against them in the first meeting. Hopkinton limited Cole to five points on two of seven shooting, and Beaudet to three on one of 12 from the floor.
While forcing the Golden Eagles into a tough shooting night, Hopkinton got its offense in gear immediately to jump on top. Two straight buckets by Maurgan McGrath ignited a 12-3 spurt to give the Hawks a 16-7 edge they would only build on.
"I think (Hopkinton guard Taylor) Signor played a great game," Forge said. "Hopkinton played well and they did a nice job.
"They didn't do anything different. They didn't do anything we didn't expect," added Forge. "We knew this would be a tough game for us coming in. We knew we'd have to play well and shoot well, and we didn't."
Gilford looked to respond in the second quarter, and did on the defensive end, but the offense didn't follow. The Hawks outscored the Golden Eagles, 4-3, in the frame to take a 20-10 into the halftime break.
It got away from the Golden Eagles for good in the third quarter though.
Hopkinton, playing with more and more confidence, got a three-pointer to open the third quarter from Amelia Thomas and never looked back. Thomas' long bomb ignited an 11-2 Hopkinton run that helped the sixth-seed open up a 19-point edge (31-12). Signor knocked down two three-pointers in the run.
Little went right for the Golden Eagles during that stretch. Gilford never seemed in sync on either end of the court, shooting just 20.6 percent for the game and turning the ball over 13 times while getting outrebounded 40-23.
"It started with the off-night shooting," Forge pointed out. "You start pressing to get back into the game, then the turnovers start. You start second guessing some of the things you are trying to do, and you start trying to get it all back at once.
"Hopkinton played well, but it wasn't any different from the last time we played," added Forge. "It was the same game plan. Our first few shots just didn't fall."
The Golden Eagles found more offense in the final quarter, but Hopkinton matched them to coast into the title game.
Signor led the Hawks on both ends of the court, hitting two of four from behind the arc and finishing with a game-high 17 points. McGrath finished with 12 points, while Thomas had 10 points to go with seven rebounds.
Abby Houston also played well for the Hawks, hauling down 15 rebounds to go with her six points, two assists and three steals. Ellie Owen also had seven rebounds and two points.
Gilford's rough offensive showing on the court was clear on the scoresheet. Lauren Dean led the Golden Eagles with nine points and six rebounds. Cole and Hannah Perkins finished with five points apiece.
Also scoring for the Golden Eagles were Beaudet (three points), Olivia Harris (two), Olivia Trindade (one).
The disappointing showing though doesn't take away from a sensational season for the Golden Eagles.
"We had one starter back and Brooke (Beaudet) was coming back after missing all of last year with an ACL injury, so I don't think anyone expected us to get this far," Forge said. "And to make it here (SNHU) in three out of four years is a credit to these seniors."
Those seniors are Beaudet, Emily Smith, Harris, Trindade and Dean.