Littleton’s Dori Horne launches a three-pointer at the end of the first quarter in the Crusaders 46-29 victory over Pittsfield in the D-IV championship game. Charlie Lentz/The Littleton Courier. (click for larger version)
March 07, 2012PLYMOUTH — Destiny visits only so often per lifetime. The planets align and gravity pulls like a pit bull on prime rib. Last November's opening day of basketball practice marked the countdown in a hungry quest for Littleton's five returning starters — finishing the journey derailed in two previous trips to the state tournament final four.
"A hundred and 11 days to be exact," said Littleton senior center Alyssa Keefe of the steps on the road to Saturday's state championship game.
Starved for a title —the Crusaders ran roughshod through the regular season and then won the first three games of the state tournament by an average of 44 points.
"We wanted it and we were going to do whatever it takes to get it," said Littleton senior point guard Julia Winn.
Only Pittsfield stood in the way of destiny last Saturday and the Panthers got run over in the crosswalk.
"(Pittsfield) wanted to slow the game down right from the beginning and obviously we're an up-tempo team and we've been that way all season," said Littleton coach Dale Prior. "I thought that they looked a little hesitant with what they were trying to do offensively which allowed us to jump passing lanes, get deflections, get steals."
Top-seeded Littleton raced to a 15-0 lead after one quarter en route to a 46-29 victory over second-seeded Pittsfield in the Division IV Tournament state championship game at Plymouth State University's Foley Gymnasium — 111 days and the climb was complete.
"We got stuck a few years and it just feels good to finally get to the top," Keefe said.
Keefe finished with a game-high 15 points and scored eight in the first quarter to pace the early surge. Destiny was in Littleton's lineup when senior forward Taylor Glidden found junior forward Dori Horne beyond the three-point arc with two seconds left in the first quarter. Horne swished the only three-point attempt of her high school career to push the margin to 15-0 — destiny?
"I don't think I've ever taken one (three-pointer). I didn't really even realize where I was. I just knew we had to get a shot up at the end," Horne said. "It happened. I didn't even know where I was."
Littleton's smothering defense shut out Pittsfield in the first quarter.
"To start the game I don't remember them getting many shots early on," said coach Prior. "We were active. We got a lot of deflections. And I thought we limited them to one shot in the first quarter. Any shot they got we seemed to get the rebound."
The Panthers shot just 4-of-18 from the field in the first half.
"Our defense was really good. That's what created our offense," said Winn after scoring 14 points including 8-of-8 from the free throw line. "We just continued with it and it didn't stop. It's kind of a big booster to have that big of a lead — just to run away with it."
Littleton led 22-9 at the half and pushed its cushion to 16 points with a 6-3 run to open the third quarter. Keefe scored the Crusaders first two buckets of the second half and senior forward Lindsey Glines' putback with 5:45 left in the third frame gave Littleton a 28-12 lead. Littleton led 35-20 after three quarters and Pittsfield (20-2) never cut Littleton's lead below 11 points the rest of the way.
"We couldn't really get under that 10 — but the girls didn't stop playing," said Pittsfield coach Steve Langevin. "Littleton's been steamrolling teams all year. We didn't crumble. They're a really good team. We stayed with them as best we could. That's how we've won all year, playing good defense and scoring enough to win. We just had a little harder time scoring today."
A space is reserved for a state championship banner on Littleton High's gymnasium wall. The Crusaders (21-1) came home empty after trips to the final four the last two seasons. Destiny came knocking last Saturday. This time Littleton kicked the door down.
"We finally did it. We got to the other side," said senior Lindsey Glines. "We know what it feels like now to be a winner — and be on the top — and have a banner on our wall. That empty spot won't be empty any more."
D-IV state final
Pittsfield 0-9-11-9 — 29
Littleton 15-7-13-11 — 46
Brooke Vien 1 0-0 2, Corleen Corliss 1 4-4 6, Sage Anthony 3 0-0 9, Jennifer Tyrell 0 0-0 0, Jillian Towle 3 1-2 7, Stefani Gauthier 1 3-7 5. Three-point goals: Tyrell 3. Totals 9-31 8-13 29.
Lindsey Glines 1 0-0 2, Dori Horne 4 0-4 9, Taylor Glidden 1 3-4 5, Julia Winn 3 8-8 14, Alyssa Keefe 7 1-1 15, Maggie Hadlock 0 0-0 0, Bianca Verret 0 1-2 1. Three-point goals: Horne. Totals 16-40 13-19 46. Attendance: 606.