Magical ride comes to an end for MA girls
Three-time defending champion Groveton bests Panthers in Division IV finals
|Megan Uehlein looks for an open teammate during first half championship action against Groveton. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)|
March 07, 2011PLYMOUTH – The experience of playing in a state championship game was brand new to the Moultonboro Academy girls' basketball team. That wasn't the case for their opponent however, as perennial power Groveton picked up its fourth straight Division IV title with a 51-38 win over the Panthers at Foley Gymnasium on the campus of Plymouth State University Saturday.
"They were just a better team than we were today," said MA coach Chuck Kenney. "The girls have nothing to be ashamed of though they never gave up and they made it all the way to the state finals."
After dispensing of top-seeded and undefeated Derryfield School in the semifinals, fourth-seeded Moultonboro found itself matched up against a Groveton squad that has played in 11 of the last 13 state title games. The second-seeded Eagles won five straight championships from 1999-2003, and entered Saturday winners of three consecutive crowns.
"They're a big, strong team and they're very efficient," said Kenney. "There's a tradition up there and they win a lot of championships. We haven't faced a team like them all season."
MA certainly wasn't intimidated by Groveton in the early going, as a 9-0 run in the first quarter gave the Panthers an 11-6 advantage. Morgan Fuller got the run going as she converted a three-point play after being fouled and sinking a layup. That set the stage for Brittany Hale, as the junior forward stepped outside the three-point line and drained back-to-back treys that got the large MA contingent on its feet.
"Brittany's come along nicely as the season's gone on," said Kenney. "It was a nice time for her to hit a couple big shots like that."
MA led 11-10 after the first quarter, but Groveton settled into an offensive rhythm in the second frame and built a nice lead. Kelley Jo Collins (17 points) scored eight points in the second period for the Eagles as they used their size advantage and got to the free throw line 14 times, compared to just three attempts for MA. The Eagles led 27-17 at intermission.
"They had height on us and they had some good post moves that we had trouble stopping," said MA point guard Ashley McDonald. "They also did a good job stopping our inside game on defense."
The lead grew in the third quarter, as the inside-outside combo of Collins and Jessica McKenzie (12 points, seven rebounds) continued to cause problems. McKenzie hit back-to-back layups late in the quarter before Megan Uehlein drained a three for Moultonboro in the final minute as Groveton led 41-23 heading into the fourth.
Down but not out, the Panthers stayed tough in the final period, with McDonald scoring seven of her team-high 14 points in the quarter. McDonald's three-pointer cut the deficit to 45-33 with 3:42 left but free throws down the stretch secured the 51-38 win.
"It just feels good to be here and to experience this with all the girls," said MA senior Ashley Fuller. "Even when we were down by 15 points, we kept playing hard and just stayed tough as long as we could."
Morgan Fuller had 12 points, five rebounds and four steals for the Panthers, who finished the season 18-4 overall. Hale had nine points on a trio of threes and Kaitlin Slippy hauled in a team-high six rebounds in MA's final contest.
"Our fans were with us all the way and they never stopped being there for us," said McDonald. "They were so supportive. And being able to play at Plymouth State for my last game was an amazing experience."
Kenney said his team surpassed everyone's expectations, including the ones he had early in the season.
"If you had told me before the season that we'd be in the finals and go 15-3 during the regular season, I'd have said 'Yeah, right," he revealed. "The girls took me for a great ride though and coaching them has been a lot of fun for me."
GAME NOTES: McDonald and Morgan Fuller each played the entire game before coming out in the final seconds… The Panthers shot 29.8-percent from the field for the game, while Groveton hit 45.9-percent of its shots… Groveton won the battle of the boards, 39-22… MA did a nice job taking care of the ball and finished with just 11 turnovers… MA was just five-for-19 from the three-point line while Groveton took (and made) just one three… Attendance was listed at 675.