Team effort nets Eagles Class I title
Kennett hoop girls knock off top-seeded Lebanon in championship game to win first title since 1989
|THE KENNETT girls’ basketball team celebrates its Class I championship Friday, March 12, at Southern New Hampshire University. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)|
March 15, 2010MANCHESTER — The Lebanon Raiders learned the hard way one of the biggest secrets in Class I basketball: The Kennett girls' basketball team is more than just Allie Wagner.
In the quarterfinals and semifinals, Wagner, the team's junior point guard, picked up the Eagles and essentially carried the team to victory on her shoulders.
In the Class I championship game on Friday, March 12, at Southern New Hampshire University, the remainder of the team picked up Wagner and together they bolted across the finish line for the team's first state championship since 1989.
"The guards beat the pressure and dumped it off," coach Peter Ames said. "Tonight, in the biggest of games, Moriah (Heath), Sam (Meader) and Lauren (White) hit a couple and Kasey (Cavanaugh) did a great job inside.
"We've been waiting to get that complete game and we got it tonight," the veteran coach noted.
Lebanon, the tourney's top seed, entered with an unblemished record of 18-0 in the regular season and three wins in the tournament along the way. And they came out strong, scoring the fist four points of the game, taking a 4-0 lead with 4:35 to play in the first quarter.
Heath got the Eagles on the board with 4:13 to play, but the Raiders responded with a three-pointer to push the lead to 7-2.
Heath then hit a baseline jumper with 3:30 to play in the quarter to cut the lead to 8-4. After a Lebanon free throw, Melissa Frase hit back-to-back buckets, one off her own steal and another off of a Heath steal, tying the game at eight with one minute to go.
White drained a bucket with 25 seconds on the clock to give Kennett its first lead of the game and Meader came through with a hoop at the buzzer off a Heath steal and was fouled in the process. She hit the free throw to complete the three-point play and the Eagles had a 13-8 lead after one quarter of play.
Heath upped the lead to 15-8, converting on her own steal 1:20 into the second quarter. After the Raiders hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to four, Meader hit a hoop and Wagner drained two free throws for a 19-11 lead with 5:55 to play. The Raiders got another hoop, but White finished off a nice pass from Frase to keep it an eight-point lead.
Frase then sunk a three-pointer with 2:50 on the clock to push the lead to 24-13. The Raiders hit a free throw, but Meader came up with a hoop for a 26-14 lead with 2:05 to play in the half. Lebanon added a free throw in the final minutes for a 26-15 score at halftime.
Lebanon cut the lead to nine with a hoop 1:30 into the second half, but a three-point play by White upped the lead to 12 just 15 seconds later. After a Raider free throw, Meader hit a hoop for a 31-18 Kennett lead. Lebanon hit another hoop to keep within striking distance, but Frase hit a hoop with 3:30 on the clock to make it 33-20.
After another Lebanon bucket, White hit a hoop on a nice feed from Frase for a 35-22 lead, but the Raiders hit two hoops in a row to bring the game within nine at 35-26 with 1:47 to play.
Frase hit a three-pointer to make it 38-26 with 1:30 to go and following a free throw from the Raiders, Frase hit a hoop with 14.6 seconds on the clock for a 40-27 Kennett lead after three quarters.
The Raiders opened the fourth quarter with a run, scoring eight points in a row, taking advantage of Kennett turnovers to cut the lead to 40-35 in the first 1:08 of the final frame.
White finally got Kennett on the board with six minutes to go with a hoop, but the Raiders got a field goal and a three-pointer to pull within two, 42-40, with 4:35 on the clock.
At that point, the game came down to free throws and where the Eagles found success, the top-seeded Raiders were miserable.
Wagner hit nine free throws in the final 4:06, while the Raiders missed eight from the foul line in the same time frame. All told, Lebanon was nine of 27 from the line.
Wagner hit two free throws for a 44-40 lead with 4:06 to play, then hit two more with three to play for a 46-40 lead. She hit another two with 1:41 to go to make it 48-40 and added two more with 1:10 to play for a 50-40 lead. Lebanon got a hoop to cut the lead to eight with 55 seconds left, but Wagner hit another free throw for a 51-42 lead with 49.5 seconds on the clock. A Raider three-pointer made it 51-45 with 37 seconds on the clock and following a big White defensive rebound, Heath hit a free throw with 2.5 seconds on the clock as the Eagle fans celebrated the first girls' hoop championship in 21 years.
"We knew they were physical coming in," Ames said. "But we handled it (the full-court pressure) pretty well early, and also played good defense so they didn't have a chance to set it up early.
"We've got two pretty good ball-handlers, it's tough to corral them," Ames said of Wagner and Frase.
Ames praised Frase for stepping up after battling illness and a tough game against Portsmouth in the semifinals.
"Really, she's done that all year and tonight it was her time to step up," the veteran coach said.
He also praised White and Cavanaugh for a strong game inside against a physical Raider front line.
He also knew his team would have to weather the storm from the Raiders at some point in the evening.
"At this level, they're going to make a run at some point in the game and they did, but we were able to stop it before it got away from us," Ames noted.
Frase led the way with 14 points, while White and Wagner each had 11 and Meader added nine. Heath chipped in with seven, including the final basket of the season for the Eagles in her final game in the uniform.