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MEGEN POLLINI puts up two of her six points during Kingswood’s home opener on Dec. 20. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
December 26, 2011
WOLFEBORO — As far as opening games go, one could do much worse than the Kingswood girls' basketball team did in christening the new gym at the renovated high school on Tuesday, Dec. 20.

The Knights dominated the third quarter, outscoring Laconia 20-5 to push an eight-point lead to 13 and rolled to a 54-35 win.

"When the shots start going in, we can press and good things happen," said coach Grady Charland. "We're better at the press when we have confidence and we're scoring points."

The shots didn't all fall in the first half, as the Knights missed a bunch of chances in close, but good solid defense allowed them to maintain the lead for a good portion of the half before the shots really started falling in the third quarter.

Nicole Matarozzo was the key cog in the offense, particularly in the third quarter, as she dropped 10 of her game-high 22 points in the third frame, including a pair of three-pointers.

"They (Laconia) knew that (Brittany) Roy and (Megen) Pollini can score down low, so that opens it up for Nicole, Danielle (Wilkins) and Morgan (Ekstrom)," Charland said.

Things were fairly even in the first quarter, as the Knights and Sachems both had some missed shots and the teams were tied at nine after eight minutes of play.

Matarozzo got the first points in the new gym, as she converted her own steal and Ekstrom followed that right up with a steal and hoop of her own to give Kingswood a 4-0 lead out of the gate.

Laconia came back with a free throw and a hoop to cut the lead to one, but a Matarozzo bucket pushed Kingswood to a 6-3 lead. Laconia then drilled a pair of hoops to take a 7-6 lead, but a Roy free throw tied the game at seven. Danielle Wilkins found the bottom of the net to give Kingswood a 9-7 lead, but Laconia scored the final seconds of the frame to tie the score at nine.

The Sachems scored the first points of the second quarter, but two hoops in a row from Pollini, the second after pulling down an offensive rebound, put Kingswood back on top by a 13-12 score and the Knights never relinquished the lead after that.

Laconia hit a free throw to cut the lead to one, but a Matarozzo three-pointer pushed the lead to four. After another Laconia free throw, Ekstrom finished off a great steal and nice feed from Matarozzo to up the lead to 18-13. Laconia hit two from the charity stripe and drilled a field goal to again cut the lead to one, but another Matarozzo three-pointer gave Kingswood some breathing room and a Roy block at the other end kept the Sachems off the board.

Roy and Matarozzo hit hoops, the second coming off a nice steal by Wilkins, upping the lead to 25-17 before the Sachems hit two from the line. However, Roy and Rachel Lapar each drained free throws to close out the half, giving Kingswood a 27-19 lead at the break.

The Knights didn't let the Sachems on the board for the first four minutes of the second half, stretching the lead to 40-19 with a 13-0 run to open the quarter.

Wilkins and Matarozzo hit field goals to get things started and Matarozzo hit another three-pointer. Ekstrom converted from the foul line and Pollini hit a bucket. Matarozzo closed out the 13-0 run with another three-pointer before Laconia finally got on the board, converting a three-point play to make it 40-22.

Ekstrom and Matarozzo followed with hoops and Wilkins drilled a three-pointer for a 47-22 lead. Laconia scored the final hoop of the quarter, but still trailed 47-24 with eight minutes to play.

Lapar scored the first hoop of the fourth quarter and after a Laconia bucket, Jen Simpson hit for two. Simpson followed with a free throw for a 52-26 lead, but Laconia scored the next three points.

Emma Tierney put in a bucket for the 54-29 lead and the Sachems closed out the game with consecutive three-pointers to account for the 54-35 final score.

Charland praised his bench for doing a solid job stepping in during the second quarter when a few of the starters found themselves in foul trouble.

"The subs did a nice job," he said, pointing out Lapar, Wilkins, Tierney and Simpson. "That could've been disastrous when we got in that foul trouble.

"It was a real team effort tonight," he continued. "At halftime we adjusted to a full-court 2-2-1 and it worked."

The veteran Knight coach pointed out that while the bench didn't necessarily light up the scoring sheet, the players did an impressive job holding the Sachems on the defensive end and getting the ball to the hot hand, Matarozzo.

"They're doing their roles, whether it be for just a few minutes or more," Charland said. "And they definitely did those roles tonight."

He mentioned that the majority of the bench is also young, which means the younger players are starting to gain confidence, which will help the program move forward.

Charland noted it was great to christen the new home with some points and couldn't remember a time when Kingswood scored 50 or more points in back-to-back games, or, when the Knights were going into the holiday break with a winning record.

"We didn't use the post (Roy) in the third quarter," Charland said. "Having Brit in the middle really gets open looks for others."

Ekstrom also earned her coach's praise for her tenacious defense, which resulted in a number of turnovers.

"She really pesters people," he said. "She has to be one of the top defensive point guards in Division II. And she can go the full 32 minutes that way."

Matarozzo finished with 22 points, while Ekstrom and Wilkins each had seven and Pollini chipped in with six.

The Knights will return to regular season action on Tuesday, Jan. 3, when they play hit the road to Plymouth for a 6:30 p.m. varsity start.

JV action

The Kingswood JV girls defeated Laconia 41-22. Simpson led the way with 22 points.

Joshua Spaulding can be reached at sportsgsn@salmonpress.com or 569-3126

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