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Lady Crusaders fire on all cylinders to roll past Gardner


GROTON – Rarely is it that a team can go from underwhelming to overwhelming in the span of two games. Then again, in the 2006-07 season, which has been as confusing as any in recent memory, anything is possible. Just ask the Groton-Dunstable girls’ basketball team. After dropping a winnable contest at home to Milford to fall to 3-5, the Lady Crusaders entered their tilt with Gardner in must-win mode.

And win they did. On Wednesday night, Groton-Dunstable showed that on any given night they can be down right dominant. Showcasing a suffocating defense and keyed by 10-0 and 23-2 runs, the Lady Crusaders blitzed their way to a 46-15 lead, en route to a 51-38 victory to draw within one game of the .500 mark.

“What we showed tonight was how good we can be when we come out and put together a total team effort,” said Groton-Dunstable coach Mark Hennelly. “Our defense was strong again. If you take out the garbage points that were scored, our defense allowed 15 points in the first 22 minutes of the game and that is pretty impressive.”

From the opening jump ball, it was the Lady Crusaders night. All five starters (Kelley Hutchinson, Alison MacLeod, Sandra Lanier, Leda Tornaritis and Stephanie LaValley) contributed two points in a game opening 10-0 run that gave Groton-Dunstable early control.

Eventually, the Lady Wildcats broke the ice, getting a banked in three-pointer by Chelsea Richard at the 10:45 mark of the first half. The teams traded baskets over the next minutes, as Gardner tried to get back into the game, drawing within seven at 16-9 on a Meg Elwell lay-up.

Sparked by Tornaritis, the Lady Crusaders scored seven of the next eight points to open up the lead to 13. The speedy guard set up a jumper by MacLeod and converted a old fashioned three-point play to make it 23-10.

After a three-pointer by Chelsey Cormier cut the advantage to 10, Groton-Dunstable started a long run that put the game on ice. The Lady Crusaders closed out the opening half with the final seven points, keyed by four points from Hutchinson and a three-pointer from Tornaritis that made it 30-13 heading to the intermission.

Apparently the halftime break had no effect on Groton-Dunstable as they picked up right where they left off. An Ali Haney bucket made it 30-15, but the Lady Crusaders scored the next 16 points to complete a 23-2 run. Again, it was Tornaritis who was the catalyst, scoring seven points, including a pair of free throws that made it 46-15 with just over 10 minutes to play.

Hennelly emptied out his bench, resting his starters the rest of the way and getting everyone a fair share of playing time. During this time, Gardner’s starters made the final score respectable with a meaningless 23-5 spurt to close out the game as Groton-Dunstable picked up an impressive win to improve to 4-5 on the year.

“Leda was big tonight on both ends of the floor and showed that she can be a difference maker,” said Hennelly. “We got big efforts on the inside from Kelley and Alison and another steady performance from Sandra. This was a nice win for us as a team. We got everyone one some quality playing time and I hope we build off this effort.”

Tornaritis paced the Lady Crusaders with 17 points, three assists and five steals. Hutchinson finished with nine points, 13 rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots while MacLeod (seven boards and five steals) and Lanier (four assists) each finished with six points.

Richard led the way for the Lady Wildcats with 11 points. Elwell added seven points and eight rebounds while Haney chipped in six points and four boards.

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