Gilford’s Abby Harris goes strong to the hoop during her team’s 35-33 win over Winnisquam. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
January 09, 2012GILFORD – It was déjà vu all over again on Jan. 3.
But this time, the Gilford High School girls' basketball team was the one coming out on top in the final seconds of a tight ballgame.
GHS junior Abby Harris banked in a shot from close range off an inbounds pass from Kelsey Buckley with just five seconds remaining, leading host Gilford to a 35-33 win over Winnisquam Regional High School in Division III action. The Golden Eagles improved to 5-1 on the season while the Bears fell to 5-2 after dropping their first game since a season-opening loss to White Mountains.
"Overall I'm very pleased with the outcome," said Gilford coach Rick Forge. "You're going to get games that are low scoring but you have to find a way to win and we did that in the end. We were able to get a play run and a shot that went in our favor."
It was the second close game between the two teams in a week, as Winnisquam pulled out a 28-27 victory over the Eagles in the first round of the Lakes Region Holiday Basketball Tournament on Dec. 27 thanks to a Mackenzie Burdick free throw with one second remaining.
"We got the break at the end of the last game, they got the break at the end of this game," said Winnisquam coach Everett Andrus. "It's two pretty evenly matched teams."
Gilford broke a tie game with 59 seconds left in the fourth quarter, as Buckley sank a pair of free throws after going in strong for a basket. The two freebies gave the Eagles a 33-31 lead, and the points were the first all quarter for the hosts after being held scoreless for the first seven minutes of the frame.
"When you have a sophomore standing at the line in that spot, it can be tough but we have faith in her and she came through," said Forge of Buckley. "We lost our focus a little bit in the fourth quarter. We gave up a transition basket and it kind of went from there. We can't let that happen."
Gilford got the ball back after a Winnisquam missed shot on the other end, and Forge called timeout with just under 30 seconds remaining. But with the Bears having fouls to give before sending the Eagles to the foul line, the squad could afford to be more aggressive defensively. That paid off in a big way, as Sara Andrus stole the ball from Molly Dietrich as part of a double team in the back court, and the senior guard went in for an easy layup to tie the game with just 14 seconds left at 33-33.
"Our plan wasn't even to get the ball over half court," Forge explained. "Our plan was to run it down, call a timeout, run it down again, call another time out. Obviously that didn't happen. Molly got double teamed and they made a nice play."
Following another timeout, Buckley was fouled with five seconds left on her way to the basket, and the Eagles were forced to take the ball out from under the basket. That set the stage for Harris' hoop, and Gilford stole the ensuing inbounds pass to run out the clock for the 35-33 win.
"We talked about if you get beat, then foul because we had some to give," explained Andrus of the final seconds. "So we did a good job fouling the first time. But they ran a good inbounds play and executed for the win. Those last few seconds after they scored were pretty helter-skelter on our part. We kind of didn't know what to do when they scored."
Harris finished with 13 points in the win, including 11 in the second half to go along with six rebounds.
"It was definitely nerve-wracking down the stretch," said Harris. "But the play we called at the end, that's mean for me. I need the ball in that situation so I knew what was going to happen and I was just waiting for my chance to take a shot."
Forge had faith in his team's execution on the game-winner.
"We knew it would work," the coach said. "We had run it earlier in the game and we didn't run it to the second cutter. We knew that was going to be open."
Olivia Broderick paced the Eagles with 10 points and six rebounds, while Buckley had a strong game with a team-high eight boards and six steals.
"Kelsey Buckley was just in the right place at the right time all night for us," said Forge. "She led us in rebounding, had a bunch of steals."
Sophomore Hannah Chapin led Winnisquam with 10 points, including eight in the second half when the Bears played from behind almost the entire way. All told, seven different players scored in the loss.
"If you only give up 30 points a game, you feel like you'll have a good chance to be in it at the end," said Andrus. "We just didn't quite have enough."
The teams meet again for what is now a highly anticipated third meeting in Tilton on Jan. 31.