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High Schools: Merrimack Valley girls pull off improbable quarterfinal comeback

  • Merrimack Valley's Mary Mullen shoots over Lebanon defense to score a point in the quarterfinal game between the schools on Friday night, March 7, 2014 at Merrimack Valley High School. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Merrimack Valley's Mary Mullen shoots over Lebanon defense to score a point in the quarterfinal game between the schools on Friday night, March 7, 2014 at Merrimack Valley High School.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Merrimack Valley's Cassidy Huckins shoots a three-pointer over Lebanon's Lindsey Clark in the quarterfinal game between the schools at Merrimack Valley High School  on Friday night, March 7, 2014.   <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Merrimack Valley's Cassidy Huckins shoots a three-pointer over Lebanon's Lindsey Clark in the quarterfinal game between the schools at Merrimack Valley High School on Friday night, March 7, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Merrimack Valley's Mary Mullen shoots over Lebanon defense to score a point in the quarterfinal game between the schools on Friday night, March 7, 2014 at Merrimack Valley High School. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Merrimack Valley's Mary Mullen shoots over Lebanon defense to score a point in the quarterfinal game between the schools on Friday night, March 7, 2014 at Merrimack Valley High School.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Merrimack Valley's Mary Mullen shoots over Lebanon defense to score a point in the quarterfinal game between the schools on Friday night, March 7, 2014 at Merrimack Valley High School. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Merrimack Valley's Cassidy Huckins shoots a three-pointer over Lebanon's Lindsey Clark in the quarterfinal game between the schools at Merrimack Valley High School  on Friday night, March 7, 2014.   <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Merrimack Valley's Mary Mullen shoots over Lebanon defense to score a point in the quarterfinal game between the schools on Friday night, March 7, 2014 at Merrimack Valley High School. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

With :02 on the clock, her team down by two and a trip to the Division II semifinals at stake, Mary Mullen stepped to the line. She had to step away when Lebanon called timeout, but the extra time to think didn’t ice Mullen, it calmed her.

“It definitely helped me to take a break and clear my head,” Mullen said. “Every day in practice after we run we shoot foul shots, so I just thought to myself, it’s just anther day in practice, just focus and shoot.”

Mullen rattled home both free throws to force overtime, and Merrimack Valley didn’t waste the opportunity. The fourth-seeded Pride (16-4) took its first lead of the game after scoring the first points of the extra session, Mayson Kimball scored six of her team-high 18 after regulation, and the Pride earned a 67-61 win over the Raiders and a date with No. 1 Milford in Monday’s semifinals at Southern New Hampshire University.

“They came out strong and then we ended up finishing strong,” said MV junior Cassidy Huckins, who scored all 13 of her points in the fourth quarter and overtime. “They didn’t have as much gas as we did and we went for it.”

It was the second overtime game of the year between these two. The No. 5 Raiders (14-6) won the first one, 52-48 in Lebanon on Jan. 15, but early on it looked like they were going to make sure the rematch wouldn’t need those extra four minutes.

Point guard Sam MacDonald scored nine of her game-high 21 points in the first quarter to help the Raiders to a 17-7 lead after one. They pushed that to 26-11 midway through the second, but the Pride closed the half with a 12-4 run, keyed by five points off the bench from Erin Frost (10 points, five rebounds) to cut Lebanon’s lead to 30-23 at halftime.

The Raiders doubled their advantage in the third, pulling ahead 39-25 on an offensive-rebound putback from Vanessa Fleury (12 points) with 2:20 left in the frame. Frost hit a 3 after that to make it 39-28 going into the fourth, but she was the only one connecting for the Pride, which shot 9-for-46 through the first three quarters.

“We couldn’t throw it in the ocean,” MV Coach Dave Huckins said. “But I told the girls before the fourth, ‘You haven’t made your run yet, but you’re gonna.’ And they did.”

Cassidy Huckins sparked that fourth-quarter run. She hadn’t made a shot all night, but that didn’t bother her as she buried a pair of 3s from the left wing to open the final frame and force Lebanon to call a timeout.

“I wasn’t thinking about anything at that point, I just all of a sudden had that spark,” Huckins said. “I knew it was now or never, and I got ’em.”

Those six points began a 19-8 roll that included two 3s from Sammi Osborne and ended with another 3 from Huckins that tied things at 47-47 with 2:18 on the clock, the first tie since it was 0-0. And those final two minutes didn’t disappoint the full house in Penacook.

Lebanon quickly retook the lead on a pair of free throws from MacDonald with 1:55 left in regulation, but Mullen (13 points, nine rebounds, three steals) answered with a step-back jumper. Heather King (18 points) pushed the Raiders back on top with an offensive-rebound putback, but Mullen responded again with a jumper in the lane. After a timeout, King found MacDonald for a layup with 16 seconds left, but the Raiders had no answer for Mullen. The MV senior missed on her first shot to tie it, but grabbed the offensive rebound, went up again and was fouled with :02 showing on the scoreboard. Her first freebie bounced around and in, and her second hit the back of the rim hard, but it had enough spin, and luck, to drop home.

“The first one looked good, the second one I didn’t think was going in,” Coach Huckins said. “There must have been someone in the stands who wanted it to drop pretty hard. I can’t believe it dropped.”

The Pride rolled the momentum from those free throws into overtime. Kimball, the sophomore who had 38 points in MV’s first round win, hit a jumper to put the Pride on top for the first time all night, and then Emily Mulleavey and Huckins drained back-to-back 3s to give MV a 61-53 lead with 2:35 left. After that there was no stopping the Pride, or missing from the floor.

MV’s field goal shooting improved to 9-for-18 in the fourth, and was a perfect 5-for-5 in overtime. The Pride was just 2-for-4 from the free throw line in overtime, but it collected the offensive rebounds on both misses as it dominated the final four minutes all over the floor.

“We were going to sprint and keep sprinting and shoot and keep shooting until we won,” Mullen said. “We were on our home court, we worked hard to get it here, and we weren’t going to waste it.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at tosullivan@cmonitor.com or 369-3341 or on Twittter @timosullivan20.)

D-II GIRLS’ BASKETBALL

No. 6 Coe-Brown 48, No. 3 Souhegan 39

After spending the past week implementing and refining their zone defense, the Bears (15-5) saw immediate dividends, hustling out to a 9-2 lead after the first quarter to set the tone, then finishing strong in the fourth quarter to pull off the quarterfinal upset.

“Souhegan is a bigger team than we are. Matching up against them man-to-man wasn’t going to work, so we decided to implement a 2-3 zone,” said Coe-Brown Coach David Hartnett, whose team lost to Souhegan in its season-opening, 49-44.

Souhegan (15-5) outscored Coe-Brown 14-13 in both the second and third quarters, but the Bears finished with a 13-9 run through the fourth.

Coe-Brown’s Jenny Schlim led all scorers with 23 points and Abby Ahern contributed 16.

Coe-Brown plays No. 2 Hanover at SNHU on Monday at 7 p.m.

No. 1 Milford 44, No. 8 Pembroke 28

Both Pembroke (13-7) and Milford played a defensive first half in their quarterfinal matchup, with Milford (18-2) taking an 18-12 lead going into the second half.

Pembroke made a comeback during the third quarter, taking a 22-20 lead, but Milford closed out the third with a 4-0 run for a 24-22 lead. Milford pulled away in the fourth, making nine free throws to secure the win.

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