Laney Hadlock gets the Littleton offense rolling in the second quarter, hitting a three from the corner.
Corey McKean. (click for larger version)
March 07, 2018PLYMOUTH — The Littleton Crusaders girls' basketball team registered an impressive 18-0 record throughout the 2017-18 regular season, with the majority of their games being won by a large margin, but even in the few close games that they had, the Crusaders fought and persevered to pick up the victories, developing a championship mentality that they carried into the NHIAA Division IV tournament, where they held on to a perfect record of 21-0, up until the championship game.
On Saturday, March 3, the top-ranked Crusaders took on the second-ranked Hinsdale Pacers for the NHIAA Division IV championship at Plymouth State University, where Littleton was tested once again, but this time the outcome would be different. A 3-2 zone defense by Hinsdale and no answer on the defensive end by Littleton for Hinsdale's Angelina Nardorillo, resulted in the Crusaders' first loss of the season by a score of 32-30, a loss that mattered the most.
"We didn't get the start offensively we hoped for, we got good shots, we just didn't make them," explained Littleton coach Dale Prior. "Again, this group showed grit and came out to score the first seven points of the second quarter to tie the game. We tried to make a few changes defensively at halftime to apply more pressure but Hinsdale took advantage and stretched their lead to eight.
"Being down 28-22 in the fourth, I thought the steal by Jasmine Brown, who fed Laney Hadlock for the three-point play and gave us our first lead was huge. Battling back is never easy but I thought getting the lead was going to be the turning point. Give Hinsdale credit, they made a tough fall away shot to tie the game and then got the steal and basket for the lead again. It was a tough battle but they made one more play than we did when it mattered the most," Prior added.
Hinsdale came out in a 3-2 zone defense, which hindered the Littleton offense early, so much so that the Crusaders went scoreless throughout the entire first quarter. The Pacers went inside to Nardorillo early and often and she got the Hinsdale offense going by knocking down a pair of free throws while Delany Wilcox knocked down a three from the corner, giving the Pacers an early 5-0 edge with under two minutes left to play in the first quarter.
Nardorillo registered the only basket in the final two minutes as she hit a tough turn-around jumper in the paint, extending the Pacers lead to 7-0, heading into the second quarter.
Littleton tallied their first basket of the game at the 6:09 mark in the second quarter, as Lexi Walker hit a jumper from the baseline, which sparked a 7-0 run for the Crusaders as Hadlock nailed a three from the top of the key and on the next possession, hit a baseline jumper, bringing the score to 7-7 with 4:42 left to play in the first half.
A drive and finish by Wilcox for Hinsdale was answered by one of two free throws from Brown, keeping the Crusaders within a point but a baseline three by Olivia Pangelinan extended the Hinsdale lead to 12-8 with 1:56 left to play in the half. Littleton's Gabbie Leavitt and Hinsdale's Nardorillo traded baskets in the final 1:56, as the Pacers took a 14-10 advantage at halftime.
Out of the half, the two teams stayed neck and neck as Hinsdale and Littleton both registered 10 points apiece in the third quarter, with the Pacers continuing to go inside to Nardorillo, who led the way with six points. The Crusaders got a nice balance with Brown hitting a baseline three, Madisen Dumont knocking down a pair of free throws, Fallyn Russell coming up with an offensive rebound and putback, and Hadlock knocking down a huge baseline three as time winded down, but Littleton continued to trail, 24-20, heading into the fourth quarter.
Back to back layups by Hinsdale's Mariah Nichols and Nardorillo put the Pacers up eight points to start the fourth, but the Crusaders responded in a huge way, going on a 10-0 run, led by Hadlock with eight points, giving Littleton their first lead of the entire game at 30-28, with 2:38 remaining in the game.
The scoring by Littleton would end there, however as down the stretch it was Hinsdale who came up clutch as Nardorillo scored off a layup inside and Delany Wilcox came up with an offensive rebound and putback, giving the Pacers a 32-30 lead with 1:32 left to play.
Hinsdale would stall, forcing Littleton to foul and in the final seconds, Hinsdale missed back to back one and one opportunities, keeping Littleton alive. With 7.6 seconds remaining, a final heave from just over half court by the Crusaders fell short of the basket as Hinsdale hung on for the two-point win and the NHIAA Division IV championship.
"I want to thank the seniors in Emily Daine, Darcy Horne, Brookyln Odell and Sara Whitcomb for dedicating four years to our program and being good leaders. They will be truly missed. They can keep their heads high going to four final fours and two championship games," said Prior. "This team is arguably the best team I've had the joy of coaching. Zero drama, kids worked hard every day, they accepted their roles, and were truly happy for each other's success. I have no doubt the underclassmen will put in the time in the off season to fight their way back next year."
The Pacers were led by Nardorillo, who scored 16 points and had 12 rebounds while Wilcox added nine points. The Crusaders were led by Hadlock with 16 points while Brown added six.
Hinsdale finishes off the season as the NHIAA Division IV girls' champions with an overall record of 21-1 while Littleton finishes off the season with an overall record of 21-1.
Hinsdale: Nardorillo 16, Wilcox 9, Pangelinan 3, St. John 2, Nichols 2
Littleton: Hadlock 16, Brown 6, Walker 2, Dumont 2, Leavitt 2, Russell 2