Point guard Mackenzie Burdick dribbles up the floor during the first half of her team’s 56-40 win over Inter-Lakes on Friday night. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
December 19, 2011MEREDITH – On a team filled with talent and experience from its senior class, it was a pair of sophomores that came up huge for the Winnisquam Regional High School girls' basketball team on Friday night.
Sophomores Hannah Chapin (14 points) and Rachel Willcutt (12 points) paced a solid all-around effort as the visiting Bears improved to 3-1 on the season with a 56-40 win over Inter-Lakes High School in Division III action.
"Fifty-six points is a season-high for us so our offense was pretty solid," said first-year Winnisquam coach Everett Andrus. "We're trying to get to the point with our program where we can reload instead of rebuild, and those sophomores are starting to help make that possible."
The Bears came out firing in the first quarter, as a pair of Sara Andrus' three-pointers had Winnisquam up 10-2 with 3:45 left. Alexandra Brewer scored four straight for the Lakers (0-4) to cut into the lead, but back-to-back hoops from Mackenzie Burdick and Willcutt gave the visitors a 16-6 advantage after the opening frame.
"Because we came into the game 0-3, I think the girls might have started out a little down but it's my job to try and get them going and that's what we're working towards," said I-L coach Mike Gallagher.
I-L sophomore guard Lydia Swedberg came off the bench to provide a nice spark for the Lakers in the second quarter, as she scored her team's first three points to get within 20-11. A layup from sophomore Reilly Donovan had I-L within 22-14 with 1:45 remaining before halftime, but the Bears would close out the half on an impressive run, led by a dominating stretch from Chapin. The sophomore scored three straight hoops, and teammate Elyssa Clairmont added four points of her own as Winnisquam closed out the final 1:35 on a 10-0 run to take a commanding 32-14 lead at intermission.
"That was a big run for them," said Gallagher. "They scored pretty quickly at the end of the half so all of a sudden we're down pretty big instead of being right there."
Undaunted, I-L came out with a purpose defensively in the second half, as a full court swarming press gave Winnisquam some trouble getting the ball past midcourt. Allison Brown hit a layup and a free throw and Brewer knocked down a 3 to cut the lead to 32-20 with 5:38 left in the third.
"The kids responded out of halftime and that was a huge testament to them," said Gallagher.
It was a stop-and-go half of basketball, with plenty of jump balls and bodies flying around the gymnasium. Winnisquam led 43-29 after three quarters, though Swedberg and Brewer hit back-to-back jumpers to start the fourth and cut the lead to 43-33 with 3:37 left. But Andrus dropped in another three-pointer, her fourth on the night, and Willcutt sealed the deal from the free throw line in the final minutes for the 56-40 victory.
"(I-L) probably played the best they have all year on defense in that second half," said Andrus. "And to our girls' credit, they only cut into the lead from halftime by two points. But (I-L) played really well and they made us step our game up in the second half."
Willcutt had 10 of her 12 points after intermission for the Bears, while all 12 of Andrus' points came from behind the three-point line. Chapin scored 10 of her team-high 14 points in the second quarter when Winnisquam put the pedal to the metal.
Brewer finished with a game-high 16 points for the Lakers, while Brown was also in double digits with 10. Swedberg chipped in eight for I-L.
"We lost 75-percent of our scoring from last year and trying to replace that in four games it tough," admitted Gallagher. "But we got to the basket quite a bit so that was a positive. We just didn't capitalize on the turnovers we were able to force."
The teams meet again on Jan. 6, when I-L travels to Tilton for a 6:30 p.m. tip-off with the Bears.
We apologize for the incorrect caption above, but we are having trouble changing it... it should read: Winnisquam sophomore Hannah Chapin shoots over I-L's Jenn Pelczar in Meredith.