Bianca Verret celebrates after her game-winning lay up that sent her team to the semifinals. James Barrett. (click for larger version)
March 02, 2014WOODSVILLE — The friendly yet small quarters of the Woodsville Community Building were packed to the brim on Friday, Feb. 28 for the Division IV girls' hoop quarterfinal match up between the fifth-seeded Littleton Crusaders and the fourth-seeded Woodsville Lady Engineers. Last time the two teams met in the Woodsville Community Building, the 24-17 score did not impress, but this time around there was no doubt that these two northern rivals were going to duke it out with their seasons on the line.
In the first quarter of the game the Crusaders and the Lady Engineers both came out looking to bulk up on points early. Littleton Head coach Dale Prior felt as though both teams "couldn't miss an open shot if they tried." The Crusaders and Engineers traded points for much of the first quarter. The struggle for the lead got the capacity crowd rocking, which never ceased for the game's entirety. The first quarter ended close but the Crusaders were able to head into the first quarter intermission up 15-12.
In the second quarter the Crusaders picked up where they had left off. The Crusader offense was moving the ball effectively along the perimeter. The Crusader ball movement led to Woodsville having trouble keeping up with the speed of the game on defense.
Littleton's offense was a force to reckoned with, primarily due to the scoring exploits of Bianca Verret and Emma Bogardus, who were able to win a large chunk of rebounds while playing physical in the paint. As a result of the Crusaders' continuous success on offense, they were able to extend their lead by halftime to 26-19.
In the halftime intermission is was clear that the Crusaders were running away with the game and that if nothing was changed, the Engineers would fall off the wagon and see their season come to a very disappointing end.
"At half time I tried to express to the girls how important the third quarter was," Woodsville head coach Jim Kinder explained. "We have a young core of players that took heed but we didn't necessary get the results we wanted."
In the third quarter the two teams continued to battle for their seasons. The Crusaders continued to work the ball effectively against the Engineers. But now the fans were getting more involved which seemed to spark the Lady Engineers in the final moments of the third quarter as they were able to put up four points late to keep the game close, with the score heading into the fourth quarter 35-25.
Despite the 10-point deficit, the Engineers came out in the fourth quarter intent of coming back and winning. Woodsville opened up the scoring with help from their fans in attendance. The two teams battled but the Engineers had a clear momentum edge. That momentum edge led to the Lady Engineers trying the game up 38-38 with just over 15 seconds to go. With the Crusaders inbounding the ball, the Engineers would just need to come up with one final defensive stop to take the game to overtime. As the Crusaders dribbled the ball into the offensive end, the ball was passed to Nealy Mason on the right side. Mason then quickly tapped the ball to Verret who was driving baseline. Verret dribbled past a Woodsville defender and then went up for the layup. While Verret was in the air a Woodsville defender fouled Verret with a hard block but Verret sent the ball towards the basket. The ball tapped off the backboard and slicked through the netting, sending the crowd into bedlam. With 2.1 seconds to go the Crusaders had the 40-38 lead and Verret was on the line with a chance to turn her baseline drive into three-point play. Verret took the free throw quickly and missed but time expired before the Lady Engineers could get a shot off.
The Crusaders then gathered around their teammates and fans, excited after a victory that will not be forgotten for quite some time.
After the game Kinder said, "My girls play okay today. It was not our best game but the team showed guts."
He also went on to say, "These girls have really set a precedent of success for the town and this school that we will continue for years to come. New players coming up see what these girls have done in softball, soccer, and now basketball and they will look to continue the tradition."
As for the Littleton Crusaders, the season will continue when the team travels to Plymouth for their next match up against the undefeated Hinsdale High School.
"We will need to slow down their shooters," Littleton head coach Dale Prior started. "We will be working harder in the practices for the game to prepare for Hinsdale, but we are not going to change our game. We are going to keep doing what has got us to this point."
The Crusaders have had a great fan following all season long and Prior "knows that the fans will continue to follow us."
Prior also went on to add, "Our team really feeds off of our fans. The Littleton community does a great job at supporting the athletics and it shows in the team's successes."
#5 Littleton: B. Verret 1-5-9, E. Bogardus 3-4-9, M. Hadlock 2-4-8, L. MacNamara 1-5-7, S. Hasselman 1-2-3, A. McKay 0-0-2, M. MacNamara 0-0-2.
#4 Woodsville: S. Thurston 1-2-9, C. Valliant 2-4-8, D. Martin 1-2-8, M. Kinder 1-4-5, T. Clough 4-8-4, L. Page 2-2-4.