MV girls outlast Pembroke for Capital Area crown, 42-37
Merrimack Valley sophomore Mayson Kimball (21) fights for a rebound with Pembroke sophomore Madison Allen during the Capital Area Holiday Tournament girls' basketball championship game held at NHTI on Saturday, December 28, 2013. The Pride held on for a victory.
(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
Pembroke sophomore Karli Loiselle weaves through two Merrimack Valley opponents during the Capital Area Holiday Tournament girls' basketball championship game held at NHTI in Concord on Saturday, December 28, 2013.
(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
Merrimack Valley couldn’t pull away, Pembroke Academy wasn’t going away, and that was exactly what Marry Mullen expected.
“We thought it was going to be a close game, absolutely,” the MV senior said. “Also, it’s just a classic PA and MV rivalry, it’s always a good game, no matter what the sport.”
This time the sport was girls’ basketball, and the rivalry was showcased in the final of the Capital Area Holiday Tournament last night at NHTI, where Mullen and her MV teammates pulled out a 42-37 victory. That tournament title, the third in five years for MV, plus a 3-0 regular-season record, is just the kind of fast start every team wants.
“We’re very happy with the start,” first-year MV Coach Dave Huckins said. “We’re undefeated so far, and that’s the goal, to win.”
These two teams faced each other in another non-regular season setting this year – a preseason jamboree at Oyster River. The Spartans (3-1 regular season) got the better of MV during that 16-minute scrimmage, but they saw a different Pride team last night.
“We took that first game into consideration,” said Mullen, who was named the tournament MVP after scoring a team-high 14 against PA and 37 in the three tournament games, “but we knew that we have completely transformed into a brand new team. We were not that team that played them back in November.”
Pembroke pressed and ran in that preseason scrimmage, forcing the pace. But last night’s game was methodical, defensive and tight from start to finish. MV took a 34-27 lead in the first minute of the fourth quarter after Mullen hit a pair of back-to-back jumpers, and that seven-point spread was the largest margin of the game.
The Spartans responded with a five-point run of their own, capped by a driving layup from Karli Loiselle (game-high 18 points, six rebounds) to make it 34-32 with 2:20 left on the clock. The Pride answered quickly with a pair of free throws from Mayson Kimball, and after a Pembroke turnover on the other end, the Spartans were forced to come out of their zone and look for a steal or, eventually, to foul to extend the game.
MV handled the pressure perfectly, spreading the floor and passing the ball to kill time without turning it over, and then going 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the final 43.3 seconds to seal the win. That end-game execution was a welcome sight to Huckins, who hasn’t spent much time preparing his team for those situations this early in the season, but was glad to have the learning experience and the win all rolled into one.
Pembroke didn’t make it easy on the Pride in those final seconds. Loiselle converted a conventional three-point play with 19.6 seconds remaining and then hit a jumper with 3.9 seconds left, keeping the Spartans within striking distance and adding pressure to MV’s free throws. The Pride rose to that challenge, but it was a valuable growing experience for Pembroke, nonetheless.
“You always want to win, but we’re consistently laying the foundation for the future,” PA Coach Josh Goldstein said. “You could be in a state tournament game and be down three points with four seconds to go and they have the ball, and now we’ve been in that situation. We didn’t come out on the right side of it today, but now it won’t be anything new. There’s nothing bad about playing close games this early.”
The Pride took an 18-17 lead into halftime and pushed that to 30-24 midway through the third quarter thanks to the long-range shooting of Cassidy Huckins (six points) and Emily Mulleavey, who had a strong all-around game and finished with eight points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals. But a 3-pointer from Pembroke’s Aleanna Clairmont (five points, eight rebounds, two steals) cut that lead to 30-27 heading into the fourth.
Pembroke’s Hannah Seidner finished with seven points and three steals while Marissa Kibbee added four points and six rebounds off the bench for the Spartans. Kimball finished with eight points, seven rebounds and two blocks for the Pride, and hit both of her free throws in the final minute along with Mullen and Olivia Thurber (four points, three rebounds, two assists) to account for the 6-for-6 shooting from the charity stripe.
The all-tournament team consisted of Mullen, Kimball, Loiselle, Clairmont, Concord’s Janessa Luciano and Bishop Brady’s Riselly Deoleo.
(Tom O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)