Mikaela Guertin of Belmont weaves her way through the Gilford defense during the fourth quarter of the Red Raiders’ 43-37 win on Feb. 7. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
February 13, 2012BELMONT – With the game on the line, the Belmont High School girls' basketball team turned to the shoulders of senior point guard Mikaela Guertin on Feb. 7.
Guertin scored eight of her game-high 12 points in the fourth quarter, going a perfect six-for-six from the free throw line down the stretch as the host Red Raiders picked up a huge 43-37 victory over rival Gilford High School in Division III action.
"She played tonight with the intensity we've been looking for all season," said BHS coach Amy West of Guertin. "She was consistent, she got to the free throw line. She was clutch at the end for us."
It was a battle of two teams jockeying for playoff position as the regular season comes to a close. Belmont improved to 8-7 while Gilford fell to 7-9 on the season. The Golden Eagles took the first meeting between the two squads back on Dec. 22 in Gilford, 36-27. But Guertin didn't play in that one due to illness.
"It was a big win for them," admitted Gilford coach Rick Forge. "They needed it…it would've been nice for us to get it. It was one of those games where we controlled the tempo early on, they controlled it at the end. Their senior leadership at the end was the difference."
Gilford led the entire first half, jumping out to a 12-5 lead after one quarter thanks to six points from junior forward Abby Harris. But Belmont crawled closer in the second, with freshman Chayleigh Cadarette providing a spark off the Raider bench. Cadarette scored six points in the second quarter, including a layup in the waning seconds to cut the Gilford lead to 17-15 at halftime.
"She reads the floor very well," said West of Cadarette. "She has that tenaciousness to find the ball and go back up with it. She played well."
Gilford got off to a decent start in the third quarter, as senior Olivia Broderick finished off a three-point play to put the Eagles up 20-15. But Belmont cut into the deficit again, and a Britni Spaulding jumper with 2:50 left in the third gave the Raiders their first lead of the night at 23-22.
"We just couldn't get into a consistent flow," Forge said.
The Eagles regained the lead and took a 28-25 advantage into the fourth quarter. But Belmont opened the final frame on an 8-0 run, with points coming from Cadarette, Lauren Price, Myranda Lewis and Guertin to take a 33-28 lead with 3:30 remaining.
Gilford got within four points on several occasions down the stretch, but Guertin's late-game performance finished things off. The senior sank four straight free throws in the final 31 seconds of the game to secure the 43-37 victory.
"I knew it was an important game so I just relaxed myself," explained Guertin. "It was exciting because we haven't had many close games this year so it was nice to be able to play in one and get the win."
Gilford spent most of the final minute fouling, as the Eagles weren't over the seven-foul limit until the very end of regulation.
"We weren't in an ideal fouling situation so it took a little while to get them to a one-in-one situation," Forge said. "But then they're making two out of two each time and it makes it that much tougher for us when we have to try and get a 3 up on offense."
Kelsey Buckley played well for the Eagles, as the sophomore scored a team-high 11 points and hauled in eight rebounds. Harris was also in double figures for Gilford with 10 points, while Broderick tossed in seven.
"We knew we could be competitive with them," said Forge. "It started out well for us, but it didn't end well for us."
Guertin had 10 of her 12 points in the second half for Belmont, while Lewis dropped 10 points and Cadarette chipped in eight in the victory.
"This was a game that a month ago, two months ago, might've gone differently for us," admitted West. "It was a great win for us. The last time over at their place, they got us. So it was nice to get a little revenge. Every win counts, especially when we get this late in the season. It comes down to the girls having confidence, knowing they can hold a lead like that."