John Stark girls’ basketball comes undone in D-II semifinal loss to Hanover

Monitor staff
Published: 3/6/2019 12:40:42 AM

HOOKSETT – The John Stark Generals are going home and top-seeded Hanover sent them packing in emphatic fashion on Tuesday night.

Looking to secure a seat in the Division II girls’ basketball championship game for a second consecutive season, No. 5 Stark never came close in a 63-30 loss at Southern New Hampshire University.

“We got buried, credit them, they are very, very good,” John Stark coach Bruce Johnson said. “We just were not ourselves tonight for whatever that reason is. I don’t have that answer.”

The woes started early for the Generals (17-4), who committed 24 first-half turnovers, shot 5-for-19 from the floor over the first two quarters and allowed Hanover (20-1) to go on a 31-2 run for a commanding 38-11 lead at halftime.

Stark tried desperately to plug the leak as the Hanover’s lead continued to increase, but for the first time all season, the Generals had no answers.

“We tried to prepare. We know the court’s longer, but they’re quick,” Johnson said. “I think their quickness really disrupted us, and for the first time this whole year, we started bec oming totally individualistic.

“Everyone was trying to bring us back by themselves and we don’t have that one high-caliber player that’s able to do that,” Johnson said. “We have to play as a team and so it hurt us. The rough part is that’s the first time that happened to us all year.”

The Generals entered the contest boasting one of the stingiest defenses in the division, but had few chances to set that defense up in the half court with Hanover forcing turnover after turnover.

Stark only trailed by three points after the first few minutes, but was forced to sub out its impact senior guard, Autumn Nelson, after she picked up two quick fouls.

Chelsea Woodsum, who led Stark with 11 points and 10 rebounds, scored on a nice drive to the basket immediately after Nelson checked out to trim Hanover’s lead to 7-6, but from there the Marauders hit the gas for that 31-2 run over the next 10:03.

Hanover’s Diana Schwarz had eight of her nine steals in the opening half, locking up Nelson on the perimeter with terrific on-ball defense and leading the Marauders with 15 points and five assists on the night.

Willet Parkins added 10 points and six rebounds, Maddie McCorkle finished with nine points and five assists and Anna Kirkpatrick added 12 points, scoring seven of those during Hanover’s game-changing run.

Hanover will take on No. 3 Kennett in Friday’s championship back at SNHU.

“John Stark is a disciplined team, they are extremely well coached and usually don’t beat themselves,” Hanover coach Dan O’Rourke said. “So I thought we had to maintain our discipline and not get antsy. … And on a big court like this where you can go 10 deep, I think athleticism, quickness and depth start to shine through.”

With a huge hill to climb in the second half, Johnson tried to light a fire under the Generals.

“We had the options of just staying in the locker room, or come out and play the way we’re supposed to play in the second half,” Johnson said.

But John Stark was simply overmatched.

Hanover led by as many as 36 points in the fourth quarter and got the best of the Generals in a number of key statistics, including a 32-7 advantage in points off turnovers, a 50-20 advantage in points in the paint and a 30-2 margin in bench points.

“We are fortunate to have high-quality kids and I told them in the locker room that we haven’t won anything yet,” O’Rourke said. “Tonight was a good feeling, but we still have work to do.”

Woodsum carried the load offensively for Stark and was helped out by Anna Stenger (seven points, six rebounds) and Nelson (six points).

Johnson has now led the Generals to the final four in each of his first two seasons at the helm, and while disappointed in the end result, the coach didn’t waver in expressing his gratitude to the girls.

“We had a great season. We graduated three players (last season) that played just about the entire game and for them to come out and put themselves in this position and make it this far is a tremendous credit to them,” Johnson said. “It’s just very unfortunate that it ended on such a sour note.”

(Jay McAree can be reached at 369-3371, or on Twitter @JayMcAree.)

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