BOLTON — The players on the Groton-Dunstable girls basketball team get along very well, but they had to be glad to be playing against some different faces when the traveled to the Nashoba Invitational Tournament. The Lady Crusaders made their belated season debut and it proved to be worth the way as they earned a championship by breezing past Maynard 52-35, and rallying past Oakmont 45-40.
In the opener against Maynard, the Lady Crusaders showed some expected rust in the first quarter, commiting nine turnovers and they trailed 11-10 after eight minutes. But in the second quarter they shook that rust off and took control of the contest by outscoring the Tigers 22-7 to build a 32-18 halftime advantage.
“We were more aggressive in the second quarter with our pressing,” said Groton-Dunstable coach Mark Hennelly. “Heather Moody may be the only girl on this team that has the same role as a year ago. The other girls all have new roles.”
The Lady Crusaders came out and took a 4-0 lead on baskets by Kasey Pelletier and Kat Falco, but they failed to score over the next three minutes and the Tigers scored nine unanswered points to move in front 9-4. Megan Poh, who finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and two steals in the game, scored four of the points over that span and was aggressive defensively and off the boards.
Groton-Dunstable regrouped and scored six of the final eight points in the quarter. When Amy Mattson hit a lay-up after taking a pass from Moody, they trailed by just one heading to the second quarter.
The Lady Crusaders did an outstanding job in the second quarter of handling the ball, commiting just two turnovers, and they forced seven Maynard miscues. Carley LaMalva put Groton-Dunstable on top for good by burying a three-pointer, before Pelletier hit a lay-up off a feed by Mattson to make it 15-11 and force a Maynard timeout.
The stoppage did little to stem the tide as Falco drained a trey and Mattson added a fast break lay-up to make it 20-11.
The Tigers clawed back to within 22-16 when Danielle Fairweather hit a trey, but Groton-Dunstable scored eight unanswered points to pull ahead 30-16. Falco was the catalyst with a lay-up and a brilliant pass to Pelletier for a lay-up, while Moody (17 points, three rebounds, five steals) added four points.
The lead remained between 12 and 17 points throughout the third quarter. Back-to-back lay-ups by freshman Rachel McCarron (four points, seven rebounds), one off a great look by Mattson made it 43-26 before Poh’s drive capped the third quarter scoring.
Any thoughts of a comeback by Maynard were dashed in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter when Groton-Dunstable put together a 7-1 run to move in front 50-29.
“We made some great passes in the game,” said Hennelly. “Sometimes were are unselfish to a fault. Kasey Pelletier and Kat Falco asserted themselves, something that is very important to this team. Heather, Kasey and Kat have done a great job of making the younger girls on this team feel comfortable.”
Pelletier finished with 10 points and two steals and did a solid job running the offense. Falco turned in a superb all-around effort, finishing with nine points, nine rebounds and three steals. LaMalva added five points, seven rebounds and two steals, Mattson four points and two steals, and Towle three points, four rebounds and two steals.
In Saturday night’s final against Oakmont, all the early energy belonged to the Spartans. They were very aggressive offensively and were forceful off both backboards. After Moody hit a 17-footer to put the Lady Crusaders on top 2-1, Oakmont scored nine consecutive points. Emily Boucher drained a three-pointer and then converted a steal into a lay-up to give Oakmont a 10-2 lead with three minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Kayla Meijer, who played an outstanding game for Groton-Dunstable with 10 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals, has a pair of baskets as the Lady Crusaders trailed 14-7 after one quarter. The Lady Crusaders started to play with energy on the defensive end and held the Spartans scoreless for the first 2:30 of the second quarter, drawing to within 14-11 on a fast break lay-up by Anna Towle and a lay-up by Falco off a nice pass from LaMalva.
Oakmont rebuilt the lead to 18-11 on a fast break lay-up by Kristen Enright (10 points, 7 rebounds), but once again the Lady Crusaders dug in defensively, tossing a shutout over the final 2:30 of the first half. A 15-footer by Pelletier, a free throw by McCarron and a fast break lay-up by Meijer made it 18-16 at intermission.
Oakmont had to be scratching their heads with just a two point lead at halftime, having owned the backboards (25-14) and taken 14 free throws to only four for the Lady Crusaders, but the Spartans inability to finish from in close and from the free throw line hurt them badly.
“Our first half passing was mindboggling,” said Hennelly. “I told the girls at halftime that we were lucky to be as close as we were.”
The third quarter was close throughout with the largest lead being Oakmont’s 26-22 advantage, but the Lady Crusaders scored six of the final eight points in the quarter to draw even at 28-28.
Oakmont took leads on three occasions over the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. Twice the Lady Crusaders regained the advantage on clutch three-pointers by Pelletier. LaMalva followed up Pelletier’s second trey with a dagger from behind the arc to extend the lead to 39-34.
The Lady Crusaders appeared to have landed the knockout punch with two minutes left when Meijer hauled down an offensive rebound and converted, but Oakmont didn’t quit, drawing to within 43-40 on two free throws by Shannon Davis. A pair of Groton-Dunstable turnovers gave the Spartans a chance, but strong defense by the Lady Crusaders preserved the lead until Pelletier iced it with a lay-up.
“This is part of the learning process and there will be ups and downs,” said Hennelly. “The kids stepped up in crunch time and Kayla, Kasey and Kat came through with some big plays.”
Pelletier finished with 12 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals while Falco and Moody each added seven points.