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Joyce Endee

Lady Panthers fall to Pittsfield in quarters

MA finishes its season 11-9 overall

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

MA’s Jessica Hiittner looks to make a pass despite tight coverage from a Pittsfield defender during the Panthers’ 50-21 loss in the Division IV quarterfinals on Feb. 24. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
February 27, 2012
PITTSFIELD – It was a disappointing end to a season chock full of eventfulness for the Moultonboro Academy girls' basketball team, as the 10th-seeded Lady Panthers saw their postseason come to a close with a 50-21 loss to number two Pittsfield Middle High School in the quarterfinal round of the Division IV Tournament on Feb. 24.

The loss came just three days after an upset win on the road against seventh-seeded Woodsville, as the Panthers came back from a double-digit deficit to earn the 45-41 win in the preliminary round.

"I told the girls in the locker room afterwards that there was nothing to hand their heads about," said junior tri-captain Megan Uehlein. "We didn't give up. That's kind of been our statement of the entire year. We stayed together as a family through some tough situations."

MA coach Joanne Baker was disappointed with the outcome but noted the future should be bright for the relatively young squad of Panthers.

"They're proud of themselves, I'm proud of them…they're happy they got here but they wanted to win this badly," said Baker, who took over for the stretch run after former coach Mike Andriski parted from the team earlier this month. "They're taking it as an achievement that they made it this far."

Pittsfield (19-1), which knocked off MA twice during the regular season, came out firing on its home floor. The tournament's second-seeded team jumped out to an 8-0 lead, forcing Baker to call timeout.

Courtney Delaney got the Panthers on the board for the first time with a layup, and point guard Lexi Welch followed with a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 8-5 with 2:20 left in the first quarter.

Pittsfield led 12-7 after one quarter, and extended the advantage to 18-7 midway through the second before Kaitlin Slippy scored to pull MA closer. Despite controlling most of the first half, Pittsfield missed multiple free throws to keep them from running away with the game early. The hosts led 23-10 at intermission.

"I thought in the second quarter we could've put the game away early but we missed some free throws and they were still hanging around a bit," said Pittsfield coach Steve Langevin. "I was kind of worried coming in because (MA) had played us pretty tough during the regular season."

The Panthers (11-9) tried to fix their offense coming out of halftime, as Pittsfield's 1-3-1 zone defense gave MA fits throughout the first half.

"We tried to make some changes with our offense (at halftime)," said Uehlein. "We were down pretty much the same score against Woodsville and went on a big run so we tried to keep our spirits high and do the same to start the third quarter."

But Pittsfield started the third quarter the same way it started the first, as the hosts went on an 8-0 to grab a commanding 31-10 lead before Welch sank a jumper to stop the bleeding.

"Offensively we tried to get everybody in the right position coming out of halftime but we got frustrated when things weren't working and it kind of fell apart," said Baker. "The girls weren't cutting through the zone the way they were supposed to."

Delaney and Jessica Hiittner hit back-to-back buckets to get MA within 33-16 with 2:53 left in the third, but that was as close as the Panthers would get the rest of the way. Pittsfield point guard Jen Tyrell scored 10 of her 15 points after intermission, including a trio of three-pointers, and the hosts pulled away for the convincing 50-21 victory to advance to the semifinal round and a game with third-seeded Hinsdale.

"We came out after halftime and had a consistent effort all the way through," said Langevin, whose team lost just once during the regular season to Derryfield. "I thought our zone defense was really strong and did a good job containing their offense. We wanted to key on the Welch girl, and we left her open I think three times and she hit all three shots. But the 1-3-1 zone has pretty much been our trademark this year."

Welch led the Panthers with seven points, while Delaney chipped in four.

MA graduates just two players in Brittney Hale and Julia Schmidt, so the hopes of another solid postseason run next season are within sight for the Panthers with a talented junior class that will hope to make the leap as seniors.

"I think next year could be a very big year for us," said Uehlein.

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