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Coe-Brown headed to D-II girls’ championship with 56-52 win over Hanover

  • Coe-Brown's Deborah Peabody and Hanover's Lexi Hamilton battle for the ball in the Division II semifinal game at SNHU in Manchester on Monday, March 10, 2014. Peabody was one of the team's top scorers that helped secure the Bears' 56-52 victory.  <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown's Deborah Peabody and Hanover's Lexi Hamilton battle for the ball in the Division II semifinal game at SNHU in Manchester on Monday, March 10, 2014. Peabody was one of the team's top scorers that helped secure the Bears' 56-52 victory.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown's Abigail Ahern fights for the ball against Hanover's Cathleen Beliveau in the Division II game between the schools on Monday, March 10, 2014. Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown's Abigail Ahern fights for the ball against Hanover's Cathleen Beliveau in the Division II game between the schools on Monday, March 10, 2014. Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Aidan Ahern, a seventh-grader at  Barrington Middle School, cheers with Coe-Brown's student section during the Division II semifinal game against Hanover at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014.  Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52.  Aidan's sister Abigail Ahern is on Coe-Brown's team. <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Aidan Ahern, a seventh-grader at Barrington Middle School, cheers with Coe-Brown's student section during the Division II semifinal game against Hanover at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014. Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52. Aidan's sister Abigail Ahern is on Coe-Brown's team.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014. <br/><br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014.


    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014. <br/><br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014.


    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014. <br/><br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014.


    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown's Deborah Peabody and Hanover's Lexi Hamilton battle for the ball in the Division II semifinal game at SNHU in Manchester on Monday, March 10, 2014. Peabody was one of the team's top scorers that helped secure the Bears' 56-52 victory.  <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown's Abigail Ahern fights for the ball against Hanover's Cathleen Beliveau in the Division II game between the schools on Monday, March 10, 2014. Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Aidan Ahern, a seventh-grader at  Barrington Middle School, cheers with Coe-Brown's student section during the Division II semifinal game against Hanover at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014.  Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52.  Aidan's sister Abigail Ahern is on Coe-Brown's team. <br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014. <br/><br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014. <br/><br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014. <br/><br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown defeated Hanover 56-52 in the Division II semi final at SNHU on Monday, March 10, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

MANCHESTER – The glowing red numbers lied. Coe-Brown did not lead 106-14 early in the second quarter of last night’s Division II girls’ basketball semifinal.

So while the Bears couldn’t rely on a scoreboard malfunction to give them some breathing room, they absolutely could rely on Debbie Peabody and Abby Ahern.

The junior tandem combined for the Bears’ first 12 points of the fourth quarter, turning a nail-biting one-point lead entering the final period into an 11-point cushion in a span of three minutes. Sixth-ranked Coe-Brown (16-5) needed most of that as No. 2 Hanover (18-3) scrapped back to pull within four but got no closer, as the Bears prevailed, 56-52.

“When we were in our huddle (before the fourth quarter) we talked about keeping composure and not letting them rattle us,” said Ahern, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds. “We didn’t let them get in our heads.”

The upset victory sends Coe-Brown to the championship game for the first time since winning it all in 2000. The Bears will take on No. 4 Merrimack Valley, a 51-43 winner over top-ranked Milford, on Friday at 7 p.m. at Southern New Hampshire University.

Ahern started the decisive surge with a close-range shot after a nice entry pass from Sarah Curtin. Hanover answered that bucket, but not the next five. Ahern drained another, then scored on a layup after a steal by Jen Schlim and suddenly it was 40-35, matching the Bears’ biggest lead of the game. Hanover was called for a back-court violation, and when the Bears got the ball, Peabody was fouled and coolly sank both shots. Ahern grabbed a rebound at the other end of the court, leading to a Peabody jumper from the left wing. Then after a Hanover offensive foul, Peabody pulled up in the lane and downed another jumper for a 46-35 lead.

“They hit those back-to-back shots and got separation, and in a game like this, if it stays close, these are high school kids, and who knows; it’s anybody’s game,” Hanover Coach Dan O’Rourke said. “But once a team gets a little separation, they get a little confident and they play a little looser and it’s just easy.”

The Bears maintained a 10-point lead until the final 65 seconds, when a pair of 3-pointers helped the Marauders pull close, but Coe-Brown made good on 12 of 19 free throws in the final quarter to ice the game.

“Our kids, at the beginning of the year, might have been one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the state,” Coe-Brown Coach David Hartnett said. “These kids worked extremely hard at it. And the other thing that they had to do because of our lack of size is they had to be tougher kids. … I think in that fourth quarter these kids just wanted it.”

The shots weren’t falling that easily early on, however, as both teams battled a case of final four nerves. The first nine possessions of the game went steal, airball, turnover, turnover, missed shot, turnover, free throw, turnover, turnover before Schlim (10 points, nine rebounds) scored the first points from the field on a layup 2:60 into the game.

“The kids are kind of in awe of being in the building, the band and everything else. It’s expected,” said Hartnett, whose team took an 8-5 lead after the first quarter.

“Everybody had the jitters,” Peabody admitted.

Things started to open up in the second quarter, with both teams raining 3s. Christine Croitoru (11 points, seven rebounds) and JJ Daniell (12 points, six rebounds) both hit from beyond the arc for Hanover, which grabbed its biggest lead of the game at 17-11 midway through the second quarter. But Coe-Brown responded, with Ashley LeBlanc and Curtin (11 points, four assists) both scoring from long range before Peabody (12 points, six steals) nailed a 3 with 27 seconds to play to regain the lead, heading into halftime up 24-23.

The Bears never relinquished that lead, either, thanks to a defensive scheme installed just the day before in practice. Moving to a 3-2 zone to combat Hanover’s penchant for 3-pointers, Peabody blanketed the Marauders’ top scorer, holding Lexi Hamilton to zero points on 0-for-7 shooting. Eileen Daley picked up the slack, finishing with 15 points and 16 rebounds to lead Hanover.

“Debbie was on (Hamilton’s) side and she absolutely shut her down,” said Ahern, with Peabody adding: “And the other people on our team made sure no passes were open for the other players.”

So the Bears, a team with not a single senior on the roster, are headed to the title game.

“I’ve believed in these kids,” Hartnett said. “I tell them all the time, I believed in them from the first day they walked into the gym three years ago.”

(Sandy Smith can be reached at 369-3339 or ssmith@cmonitor.com.)

Related

Merrimack Valley girls beat No. 1 Milford to reach Division II final

Saturday, March 15, 2014

MANCHESTER – The first three quarters were a mess of missed shots, deflected passes, floor burns, turnovers and tie ups. Merrimack Valley muddled through that disorder with 24 total points. And then the Pride dropped 27 in the fourth. “I don’t understand,” MV junior Cassidy Huckins said. “I really don’t understand how we did that.” Her confusion was understandable. After …

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