D-III girls’ basketball: No. 6 Hopkinton upsets No. 3 Newfound for seat in final four

Monitor staff
Sunday, February 25, 2018

BRISTOL – The list of teams to enter the gym and beat the Newfound girls’ basketball team on its home court over the last few years is a short one. Campbell did it during the second round of the 2016 tournament. Every other team since then has tried and failed.

Until Saturday, when Hopkinton added one more name to the list.

In a matchup featuring two of the better defensive teams in Division III, No. 6 Hopkinton held No. 3 Newfound to a season-low in points and senior guard Taylor Signor iced the game at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter as the Hawks punched their ticket to the final four with a 33-31 victory over the Bears in the quarterfinals of the D-III girls’ basketball tournament.

“Thursday night Newfound put 72 (points) on somebody. They are so explosive and we needed an ugly game,” Hopkinton coach Pat Roye said after securing the Hawks a seat in Wednesday’s semifinal contest against No. 2 Gilford at Southern New Hampshire University. “We needed a low-scoring, tough game and that’s been our M.O. all year. We have the No. 1 scoring average against in Division III and that’s what we hang our hat on.”

The Hawks (16-4) needed every bit of that defensive effort in the final frame. In a quarter that saw three ties and three lead changes, it was Hopkinton freshman Maurgan McGrath who uncorked the biggest shot of the game.

With the score tied at 25-all and 1:26 remaining, McGrath took a pass at the left wing and drained a 3 – her second of the game – that put Hopkinton on top for good. The Bears (17-2) attempted to get it back even, but Signor went 4-for-4 from the charity stripe in the game’s final 42 seconds to lock up the victory.

“She really saved us there,” Signor said of McGrath’s shot. “She’s got ice in her veins tonight. She stepped up huge and she was really nervous but put it all out there for the team.

“Since summer ball, we’ve all been talking about final four, final four, final four and every single practice it’s all we talk about and it’s finally come together. I think everybody put their heads down and went for it tonight.”

Newfound, which defeated Hopkinton by 15 points during a regular-season meeting on Feb. 2, dealt with a team-wide struggle for much of the contest.

The Bears scored a single point in the first quarter, didn’t convert their first make from the floor until nearly 10 minutes into the game and found themselves trailing, 10-7, at halftime.

Part of that was Hopkinton’s defensive approach, which stifled the offensive execution of Newfound’s top scorers – Ashlee Dukette, Jasmine Peterson and Savanna Bony.

“I knew it was going to be a defensive battle and I knew if we could hold them down, we’d give ourselves a chance,” Newfound coach Karri Peterson said. “But I also know that they are a strong defensive team. With us, you can’t have weaknesses, and when you have a team that can expose your weaknesses, it makes it difficult.”

Dukette, the reigning Division III Player of the Year, didn’t register her first points until the fourth quarter and finished with eight to go along with 12 rebounds. Meanwhile, Jasmine Peterson and Bony combined for 10 points in what was an off night for the entire offense.

“Defensively they held them to the same amount of points, but offensively we just needed one of those girls to basically do their normal job,” coach Peterson said. “Savanna, Jasmine and Ashlee, we needed one of to do their normal jobs and it would of been a different game.”

When asked why his team had so much success this time around stopping Dukette, Roye didn’t hesitate: “I have what a lot of people don’t. I have Abby Houston.”

While Signor (nine points) and Amelia Thomas (eight points) led the offensive charge, it was Houston along with sophomore center Katie Meserve who spurred the defensive intensity.

“(Dukette) is very challenging to guard because she can shoot the 3 and take you to the hoop,” Roye said. “Abby just works her rear end off. She’s a great defender and she’ll watch tape and look for tendencies of who she’s going to guard. … Katie did such a great job in the lane helping out on defense and that was crucial to the game tonight.”

Hopkinton will now turn its attention toward the semifinals against Gilford, which beat the Hawks, 46-42, on Jan. 30. The tip is slated for 5:30 p.m.

(Jay McAree can be reached at 369-3371, jmcaree@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JayMcAree.)


No. 2 Gilford 51,
No. 7 St. Thomas 31

Key players: Gilford – Shelby Cole (15 points), Hannah Perkins (14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks), Brooke Beaudet (11 points, 8 assists, 7 steals, 3 blocks), Olivia Harris (13 rebounds, 5 points), Lauren Dean (6 points, defense)

Highlights/key moments: The Golden Eagles took a 32-21 halftime lead and their stingy defense held the Saints to just 10 second half points in the quarterfinal matchup. Gilford will play No. 6 Hopkinton in the semifinals.

Records: Gilford 18-2; St. Thomas 14-6