The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders girl’s basketball team took off hot in its first post-season game last week, but got knocked out of MIAA Division 2 play this weekend, falling to the Medfield Warriors.
Crusaders Win a Classic Against Notre Dame
WORCESTER — The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders erased a 10-point third quarter deficit and defeated the Notre Dame Rebels, 59-57, in an MIAA Division 2 Central girls’ basketball semifinal game March 1 at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
After being held to just seven points in the first three quarters, Crusaders senior guard Lindsay Werner came alive with eight in the final session, including a layup with 2:30 to go that gave the Crusaders a 56-55 lead they would not relinquish, and their first lead since 2-0 in the first quarter.
In a last-ditch effort, Rebels center Allie Smiley (24 points, eight rebounds) managed to get to the line with 2.6 seconds left, but she missed both free throws, part of an 0-for-5 dry spell in the fourth quarter. Werner owned the rebound and then got fouled, leading to a quick celebration by her and her teammates.
But it was not over yet. Werner still had to go to the line for a 1-and-1. She missed the front end, and the Rebels got the rebound, but they hesitated … Time expired before they could get any kind of look at the basket.
“It’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as a coach, without question,” Crusaders head coach Mark Hennelly said. “It’s just about the growth of the team. I can’t even put into words how different this team looks from three weeks ago when we went up to Oakmont and got our butts kicked. We played with no passion and no energy. It was a turning point for us. We came back, and they turned the corner. I was all over them, and they could have shut me out, but they responded in a big way.”
The Crusaders put themselves in position to make the comeback at the end of the third quarter, when Nikki Eggiman (10 points, two steals) stole an inbounds pass with 1.6 left and hit a layup as time expired to cut the deficit to five points.
“You can’t put a price on that,” Hennelly said. “Nikki gave every ounce of energy she had … her effort was something special.”
As the Crusaders marched toward victory, Hennelly, a man who shows the same energy and desire to win as his players, urged his girls to keep up the effort.
“He just said, ‘Keep fighting, keep fighting,’” Werner said. “Even if we’re up, keep fighting, because we know they’re a good team that could possibly come back, but we held our own.”
“There was no point in the game where they had a look on their face like ‘We’re done,’” Hennelly said. “There was always fight left in them. Ten points in a girls’ basketball game? You never know.”
Sophomore forward Hannah Van Pelt had another double-double for the Crusaders (15 points, 12 rebounds), despite fouling out late in the fourth quarter. Freshman Ellie Eisenklam had nine points, eight rebounds, two steals, and two assists in her first career start. Jenna Plausse added four points and eight rebounds.
Throughout the first half, the Crusaders were settling for contested threes and getting themselves into foul trouble. Werner picked up three fouls in the first half and was walking the tightrope for much of the second half after being called for her fourth foul midway through the third quarter.
“I know I was [settling for threes],” Werner said. “We were taking a lot of jump shots in general. When we were hitting threes, it was because we were going inside, then outside.”
“We never thought we were out of it,” Van Pelt said. “We never lost energy.”
Smiley wasn’t the only Rebels player to have a tremendous game. Molly Terry, whom Hennelly lauded as one of the best guards in Central Massachusetts, had 23 points, six rebounds, five assists, and four steals.
Medfield Routs G-D In Sectional Final
WORCESTER — The Groton-Dunstable Crusaders saw their tournament run come to a disheartening end, as the Medfield Warriors cruised to a 64-33 victory in the MIAA Division 2 Central sectional final on Saturday, March 7. Medfield was a tough draw for the Crusaders — The number 4 Medfield Warriors stunned top seed and previously unbeaten Nashoba 60-34 in the other semifinal.
The Crusaders got off to a great start, leading 7-2 early on, before Medfield responded with a 9-2 run to end the first quarter. Trailing 11-9 at the end of the opening frame, the Crusaders still had a shot to pull another upset.
Then the second quarter started, and the Warriors stepped on the gas.
Led by Payton Ouimette (20 points, 18 rebounds), Maggie McCarthy (20 points, four rebounds), and Lauren Casieri (12 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks) Warriors began the quarter on a 17-0 run, and went into halftime with a 32-17 lead. Having trailed Notre Dame by as many as 10 points in the second half of the sectional semifinal, the Crusaders may have felt they could make it a game again.
“I think [Ouimette] wore us down,” Crusaders head coach Mark Hennelly said. “We came out and we played her really hard … when she gets going, everybody else feeds off her. She’s the engine that makes that whole squad roll.”
All those hopes were erased in the third quarter, as the Crusaders got high-quality looks at the basket, but the shots simply would not fall. One-and-done was the theme of the Crusaders’ offense, as the Warriors out-rebounded the Crusaders 43-27.
“We ran into a buzz saw,” Hennelly said. “The reality of the situation is that to be in that game down to the wire, we would have had to play close to flawlessly, and we didn’t. We couldn’t get our shots to go in, we had difficulty penetrating their zone early, and we allowed too many rebounds.”
Lindsay Werner was the only Crusader to score in double digits, with 13 points, two assists, and two rebounds in her final game. Melyssa Langell, the other senior starter, had six points and two rebounds. As the outcome became apparent in the fourth quarter, Hennelly let the rest of his seniors, Alex Pray, Ariana Lacombe, and Nicole Georges, get some playing time, which the sizable Crusader student section appreciated, applauding throughout much of the final minutes of the game.
“I’m proud of the effort,” Hennelly lauded. “I have nothing negative to say. A few weeks ago, I don’t think many people would have said we would be standing here. I’ll take the great parts of the season with me, then the loss will settle in eventually, and then we’ll move forward. The girls have a lot to hold their heads high about and some great memories.”
The Crusaders finished the season at 16-7, and have plenty to look forward to next season, with three starters — Ellie Eisenklam, Hanna Van Pelt, and Jenna Plausse — returning to hopefully spark another deep tournament run.