No. 13 John Stark holds on late to beat Bishop Brady, advance to D-II final

  • The John Stark girls’ basketball team celebrates at midcourt after upsetting Bishop Brady in the Division II semifinals Tuesday at SNHU. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • John Stark guard Laura Martin leads the celebration with her teammates after the Generals upset Bishop Brady in the D2 semi-finals at SNHU on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • John Stark’s Arianna Maxwell (24) gets fouled by Bishop Brady’s Marissa Payne during Tuesday’s D-II semifinal. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • John Stark guard Autumn Nelson goes up for a layup as Bishop Brady center Sam Will goes up to defend in second half action at the D2 semi-finals at SNHU on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Wednesday, March 07, 2018

HOOKSETT – The John Stark girls’ basketball team isn’t done dancing yet.

After knocking out No. 4 Pelham and No. 5 Kennett through the first two rounds of the Division II tournament, the 13th-seeded Generals (12-9) proved yet again Tuesday night why seeding often doesn’t matter come playoff time.

Sophomore forward Arianna Maxwell finished with a team-high 12 points, Stark held No. 8 Bishop Brady to 27 percent shooting from the floor and the Generals chalked up another upset with a 47-44 victory over the Green Giants (14-7) in the semifinals at Southern New Hampshire University.

Stark advances to Friday night’s championship game against No. 3 Hollis-Brookline scheduled for 7 p.m. at SNHU.

“To be honest with you, we didn’t consider ourselves a 13 seed,” said Stark coach Bruce Johnson, who has the Generals in the final for the first time since 2003 in his first season. “I told them right after tryouts that we had the potential to be very good, but it wasn’t just going to happen without a lot of hard work. They’ve all come on a daily basis, worked extremely hard and now it’s all paid off.”

Bishop Brady was no stranger to upsets, either, having eliminated top-seeded Portsmouth in the quarterfinals, but the Giants could never get into a rhythm on this night.

Brady shot 15-for-61 from the floor, 4-for-31 from 3-point range and trailed from the opening tip as Stark built a 13-6 advantage after one and held a six-point lead at halftime, 23-17.

“We got what we wanted off, we got 30 3s up and they were great looks,” Brady coach Annie Alosa said. “We just got bad bounces … it was just a poor shooting night and it’s not a time you want that to happen but I would never tell them not to shoot. … In this stage you start to panic when you don’t see (the shots) go in and the way our philosophy is, shooters have to shoot, and if you don’t see that success sometimes you start to doubt it a little bit.”

With balanced efforts across the board from Laura Martin (seven points), Chelsea Woodsum (eight points), Jillian Douzanis (eight points), Emily Patten (six points) and Autumn Nelson (six points, 11 rebounds), Stark outscored Brady, 14-9, in the third quarter and took an 11-point lead into the final frame.

But the Generals weren’t out of the woods yet.

Despite team-wide shooting struggles from the Giants, they still made a run late that nearly resulted in a double-digit comeback.

Sarah Doherty (16 points) got the fourth quarter started for Brady, sandwiching a free throw in between a pull-up jumper and a 3-pointer to make it a five-point game. It dwindled down to four points (40-36) when freshman Ami Rivera hit a pair of free throws and the lead shrunk all the way down to one-possession after Lauren Roy connected on back-to-back jump shots and Doherty hit another 3 to make it 44-42 with 11.1 to play.

Stark went to the line, where it was 10-for-16 in the quarter, and converted the first one to go up three, but a putback for Brady senior forward Sam Will (12 points, 15 rebounds) cut Stark’s lead to one point with 1.3 seconds left.

That’s when Stark attempted to inbound the ball, sending a second player out of bounds in the baseline to grab the ball as the original inbounder quickly stepped in play to receive the pass and drain the second off the clock.

Only the clock didn’t run. Brady thought it had a turnover and Johnson was wondering what happened.

“It’s one of those you have in your back pocket that you don’t use all the time but you prepare for all season long,” Johnson said. “We have use of the baseline and step somebody out of bounds, pass, and then step back in with the ball because they usually don’t cover the person after that. Unfortunately, the clock guy didn’t understand the rule or the referee didn’t chop it in at the right time and we got penalized on a very good play.”

The ball was given back to the Generals, who hit two more free throws after being fouled and celebrated as Doherty’s Hail Mary heave fell short at the buzzer.

Still dancing, indeed.

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