Girls’ basketball: No. 4 Kearsarge upsets No. 1 St. Thomas to advance to D-III final

Kearsarge guard Ava Shapiro (left) drives against St. Thomas guard Emma Toriello during the first half of a Division III girls' basketball semifinal at Bow High School on Wednesday.

Kearsarge guard Ava Shapiro (left) drives against St. Thomas guard Emma Toriello during the first half of a Division III girls' basketball semifinal at Bow High School on Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

By DAN ATTORRI

Monitor staff

Published: 02-22-2024 1:04 AM

Modified: 02-22-2024 1:09 AM


In 20 seasons as the Kearsarge Regional High School girls’ basketball coach, Ed Tenney has seen some impressive performances from his teams. Wednesday night’s game might be the best one.

Kearsarge was composed from start to finish, never trailed and made big shots late in the game when it mattered most as the No. 4 Cougars (14-5) upset No. 1 St. Thomas (16-2), 52-44, at Bow High School in the Division III semifinals.

Kearsarge – making its first finals appearance since 2012 – will play No. 2 Hopkinton in the championship game on Saturday.

“We sustained it through the whole darn game,” Tenney said. “To stay locked in for that whole game without a lapse, we were so physically and mentally locked in.”

The Cougars took an early 4-0 lead to open the game, and although the Saints tied it 6-6, Kearsarge went up 10-6 at the end of the first quarter and stayed in front for the remaining 24 minutes.

Kearsarge led 24-20 at halftime, but a 9-1 run in the third quarter gave the Cougars a 36-27 lead heading into the fourth. 

The top-seeded Saints cut Kearsarge’s lead to 42-39 midway through the final frame, but sophomore guard Ociee Ilg (five points) and junior guard Ava Shapiro (15 points) hit back-to-back 3s to make it 47-39 with just under three minutes to go.

Senior forward Tess Marinello (21 points) led the offense with fellow senior forward Adara Boucher (eight points) also contributing offensively.

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Junior guard Miranda Anderson (three points) led the defense and rebounding.

Kearsarge shot a combined 12-for-15 from the free throw line.

The Cougars have played in a lot of close games this season. Some went their way, some didn’t, but that valuable experience early and often throughout the regular season helped sharpen them for games like this.

“When you’re playing good teams … you need to keep responding,” Tenney said. “We’ve been on both ends of it. Everything went into the memory bank. I just can’t believe the effort the kids gave. The confidence and faith they have in each other. You don’t play that well without confidence in your teammates. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt this good about a win.”

The Cougars are hoping for another positive response against the Hawks (15-3) in Saturday’s championship game, a team that beat them twice in the regular season, 44-32 on Dec. 21 and 44-40 on Jan. 5. 

Saturday’s final will tip off at 5 p.m. at Keene State College.