Girls’ basketball: Pembroke dominates second half in win over John Stark

  • Pembroke’s Annelise Dexter (21) goes up for a shot during the second half of the Spartans’ 43-18 win over John Stark on Tuesday night in Weare. MATT PARKER / Monitor staff

  • John Stark’s Eleanor Girardet (44) eyes the hoop while guarded by Pembroke’s Ashley Stephens (10) during Tuesday night’s girls’ basketball game in Weare. The visiting Spartans won, 43-18. MATT PARKER / Monitor staff

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Published: 1/12/2022 4:56:17 PM

It was a game of experience versus youth.

A game of two teams in Division II with similar records.

A game where both programs would learn new truths about themselves and identify concerns they may not have noticed beforehand.

Tuesday’s crosstown contest that saw visiting Pembroke head home with a 43-18 girls’ basketball win over John Stark gave both up-and-coming programs areas of concentration in which to both take confidence and seek improvement.

For the Spartans (9-1), the story of their season so far has been their defense and the mentality with which they play. They consistently and tirelessly manage to harass other teams with their full-court press that features guards Britney and Cierra Hill on the opposing ball handler with forward Ashley Stephens rotating to any outlet available.

Pembroke deployed this press against the Generals (7-2) after an evenly matched first quarter in an effort to slow down the young but talented team. While the Generals were able to find holes in the press throughout the night, too many unforced errors caused the low offensive showing, according to coach Bruce Johnson.

“Self-inflicted turnovers are killing us,” the fifth-year coach said. “We’ve become very individualistic trying to playing offense, which is disastrous for this team. We have to work as a team, and we’ve been getting better at it, but we didn’t do it tonight.”

John Stark played stride for stride with its guests through the first quarter. Eleanor Girardet, a sophomore forward and part-time center, was strong in the post and scored six of the Generals’ 10 first-quarter points. Her ability to work the post with a few different moves at her disposal gave John Stark a slight edge as Pembroke opened the night missing shots.

Unfortunately for the Generals, the Spartans quickly identified Girardet’s offensive prowess, and their zone defense keyed in on No. 44 in white for the remainder of the game.

With the solution figured out defensively, Pembroke overcame its early offensive struggles simply by looking for the extra pass and moving the ball around at will. Such ball movement — particularly in the third quarter when the Spartans outscored the Generals, 16-3 — allowed for Stephens (16 points on the night) and Annelise Dexter (13 points) to lead a surging offensive effort.

While primarily known for her pass-first mentality, Cierra Hill was active on both ends of the floor as she finished with nine points, including seven in the first half. Her skill set might not be reflected on the stat sheet at the end of the game, but Hill brings the pressure defensively and, as a result, allows the high-octane offense to get its spark.

“We’re pretty fast on defense and our fast transitions, other teams can’t handle them,” she said. “We’re wicked excited to have such a good season so far. We’re looking forward to a couple of other tough games.”

Both teams sit near the top of the unofficial Division II standings, and both still have the second half of the schedule left to play. John Stark next takes the court on Thursday when it travels to Bow for a 7 p.m. tip-off. Pembroke will practice for the remainder of the week in preparation for a Saturday road trip to Laconia, with a 12:30 p.m. start.

Matt Parker bio photo

Matt Parker is a sports reporter at the Monitor and started in August 2021. He is an Ohio native and relishes being from the Buckeye state. A proud graduate of Ohio University located in Athens, Ohio, he served as the sports editor for the student-run newspaper, The Post, from 2019-20. When not at a game or chasing around a coach, you can catch him playing his guitars or looking for the next Peanuts memorabilia piece to add in his growing collection.

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