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24th straight win brings title for Bow girls

  • Bow's Suzanne Barry celebrates after they defeated White Mountain Regional School to win the Division III Basketball Championship on Saturday, February 2, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Bow's Suzanne Barry celebrates after they defeated White Mountain Regional School to win the Division III Basketball Championship on Saturday, February 2, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Bow defeated White Mountain Regional to win the Division III Basketball Championship on Saturday, February 2, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Bow defeated White Mountain Regional to win the Division III Basketball Championship on Saturday, February 2, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Bow's Dina Tischofer attempts to fend off White Mountain players for control of the ball during the Division III Basketball Championship on Saturday, February 2, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Bow's Dina Tischofer attempts to fend off White Mountain players for control of the ball during the Division III Basketball Championship on Saturday, February 2, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Bow's Suzanne Barry celebrates after they defeated White Mountain Regional School to win the Division III Basketball Championship on Saturday, February 2, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Bow defeated White Mountain Regional to win the Division III Basketball Championship on Saturday, February 2, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Bow's Dina Tischofer attempts to fend off White Mountain players for control of the ball during the Division III Basketball Championship on Saturday, February 2, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

MANCHESTER – Lindsey Nerbonne couldn’t wait. Before the clock and packed crowd at Southern New Hampshire University had finished counting down the last seconds of yesterday’s Division III girls’ basketball final, Nerbonne dropped her dribble, released a celebration scream and was mobbed by her team.

“It was just so exciting because we knew we finally had it,” Nerbonne said. “We knew all the hard work had finally paid off.”

The No. 2 Falcons (21-1) put in extra work on the defensive end in their 29-17 championship victory over No. 4 White Mountains (18-4), Bow’s first girls’ basketball title since 2000. The 17 points is the lowest championship game total in the 42-year history of D-III (formerly Class A and Class M). The defending champion Spartans shot 3-for-30 from the floor and didn’t convert a field goal in the second or third quarters, a stretch that lasted 21 minutes, 47 seconds all told.

“We tried to do a few different things, switched on non-ball screens a lot, and switched on the perimeter a lot, and we knew we had to close out on their 3-point shooters (White Mountains was 0-for-11 beyond the arc),” Bow Coach Bill Vermette said. “We focused on defense all year long. I told the kids that defense and free throws win championships. So at least we got the defense right (Bow was 5-for-16 from the charity stripe).”

“I think hustle-wise and being able to communicate over the loud crowd, it was definitely one of our better defensive games,” said Nerbonne, who finished with a game-high nine points to go along with six rebounds, two assists and two steals.

The Falcons have actually had four other games where they held opponents to fewer than 17 points, the lowest total coming in a 52-9 victory over Sanborn on Jan. 9. Bow gave up just 26.6 points per game in the regular season and then lowered that average to 24.5 during its four playoff games.

So playing that kind of shutdown defense is nothing new to Bow, but the Falcons did have extra motivation to put the clamps on the Spartans, who beat Bow in the semifinals last year.

“It was definitely a revenge game, but the biggest thing that was different for us was that we were in that situation last year, so when we came into this game we weren’t as nervous or jittery, and we knew what we wanted to do,” Nerbonne said. “I just think we really wanted it bad, because we had lost to them last year.”

White Mountains dealt best with the Bow defense in the game’s opening minutes and took a 5-2 lead on a short jumper from Katie Wood (team-high six points) with 5:02 left in the first. But the Spartans didn’t hit another shot from the floor until Karisa Bergman made a layup 45 seconds into the fourth quarter.

“You could definitely sense some frustration from them,” Nerbonne said. “I watched yesterday’s game (White Mountains’s 46-31 win over top-ranked Conant) and they were hitting everything, so I think there was some luck for us today, too.”

Luck played a role, but the Falcons earned most of it with hard work. Guards Kirsten Bresson (three points, eight rebounds), Taylor Marston (six points, three rebounds) and Nerbonne applied relentless ball pressure, and forwards Suzanne Barry (three points, eight rebounds) and Dina Tischofer (four points, four rebounds) controlled the paint and glass with their physical presence.

The Falcons needed all that work because the Spartans’ zone defense was in lockdown mode, as well. Bow shot just 30.6 percent from the floor (11-for-36) and committed a whopping 25 turnovers. The Falcons scored only eight points in the first quarter and had one lonely field goal in the second, but still held the lead, 11-7, at halftime.

Despite the success it was having with its 2-2-1 zone in the first half, Bow switched to a man defense in the second half, but the results were about the same. White Mountains scored just one point in the first 4:41 of the third and missed all 11 of its shots in the quarter.

The results didn’t change much for the Bow offense after halftime, either. The Falcons’ first six second-half possessions ended in turnovers and they didn’t get a second-half score until Bresson hit a jumper with 3:34 left in the third. That bucket did, however, spark an 8-2 run and helped Bow to a 19-11 advantage going into the fourth, an eight-point lead that seemed more like 28.

“It definitely felt like we were up by a lot more than we were,” Nerbonne said. “We knew with the defense we were playing and with that lead that we could hold it there. And I think it really pumped us up to be up by that much going into the fourth.”

The White Mountains defense finally showed some cracks in the final quarter as Nerbonne drove for two baseline layups to put Bow ahead, 23-13, with 6:55 left in the game. The Spartans cut that lead to eight, but never got any closer. The Falcons even missed a horde of free throws in the closing moments (1-for-10 in the last 1:36), but they kept chasing down the long rebounds and the Spartans were forced to keep fouling in desperation.

It was nearly a perfect season for the Falcons, who won 24 straight games (including three in the Capital Area Holiday Tournament) after losing an ugly season-opener to Bishop Brady, 43-24. That loss prevented an undefeated season, but in the end it proved pivotal to Bow’s championship.

“I told them at the end of that Brady game, I think this could be the best thing that ever happened to us,” Vermette said, “and it was.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3371 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)

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