Girls’ basketball: PA earns ‘team’ win over Hollis-Brookline

  • The Spartans’ Ashley Stephens (10) goes up for a second-half shot. MATT PARKER / Monitor staff

  • Pembroke’s Cierra Hill (right) readies to shoot the ball over an onrushing Hollis-Brookline defender during the Spartans’ 61-33 win over the previously undefeated Cavaliers on Thursday night in Pembroke. MATT PARKER / Monitor staff photographs

  • Ashley Stephens shoots a free throw as her teammates watch from the sideline at the end of the third quarter. Pembroke defeated Hollis-Brookline 61-33 on Thursday night. MATT PARKER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 1/7/2022 2:44:40 PM

It started with twin sisters Cierra and Britney Hill.

The senior guards and skilled defenders were persistent in their pressure at half-court against the Hollis-Brookline offense. After the they forced another turnover and passed the ball to freshman forward Kaitlin Arenella, she saw a wide open Ashley Stephens.

Stephens took the ball to the hoop for a reverse layup and the cycle repeated itself throughout the night as Pembroke knocked Hollis-Brookline from the ranks of girls’ basketball undefeated in a 61-33 win on Thursday night.

The Spartans’ formula was designed simply and executed flawlessly: Implement an aggressive full court press, force a turnover and generate uncontested looks for shots or clear lanes toward the hoop.

It took all five on the floor for the game plan to unfold from design to practice, and Pembroke enjoyed the fruits of its labor as it got out to an 16-0 lead in the first quarter. Stephens (22 points) and sophomore Annelise Dexter combined for 11 of the opening 16 with a mix of points in the paint and midrange jumpers.

While the offensive execution was easy to spot, coach Steve Langevin said it was a testament to the stingy defense that’s been consistent all season long for the Spartans.

“They were down a couple of people, but we took advantage of that,” he said. “It was a group effort, and a lot of what we do starts on our defense.”

Pembroke’s defense has been among the best in all of Division II, and it’s a big factor that could potentially allow this team to achieve a run in the postseason tournament.

Through all seven of their games, the Spartans have allowed 46.7 points per game on average. In turn, that average ranks among the best in D-II and has allowed them to see the offensive production they’ve experienced this season, where their lowest offensive output was 35 against undefeated Hanover.

If it can continue to maintain this level of play, Pembroke could experience a special season.

The gauntlet of the schedule, however, is yet to drop as games against Laconia (7-2), John Stark (6-1) and Merrimack Valley (6-1) all remain on the schedule.

With the early run against the Cavaliers (6-1), the Spartans slowed down a bit and allowed for the visitors to wedge themselves back in the game. Led by senior guard Elizabeth Stapelfeld (21 points), the Cavs scored 15 points to bring the game within 12 at halftime.

Minor momentum on Hollis-Brookline’s side, it was quickly gashed as Pembroke outscored its visitors, 32-16, in the second half with the same recipe that worked in the first quarter.

Dexter, who ended the game with 21 points, and a majority of the starters were pulled toward the end of the game as the Pembroke bench continued to gain experience in these blowout wins.

The aforementioned schedule gets difficult, however, as the Spartans have a Saturday matinee with Plymouth, then take on John Stark on Tuesday and Laconia a week from Saturday.

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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