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Lady Crusaders douse Rockets to set up match-up with Oakmont

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GROTON — Round up the usual suspects could well be the theme of the Central Mass. Division 2 Girls Basketball Tournament as most of the competing teams are known commodities who are very familiar with each other. But Groton-Dunstable opened post-season action with a bit of an unknown when Auburn came to town.

The Rockets stayed within striking distance for the first half before the Lady Crusaders opened things up in the third quarter on their way to a 43-22 victory, which earns a date at old friend Oakmont in the next round. The Lady Crusaders received strong play from post-season veterans and younger players as their defense never allowed the visitors to establish any momentum.

“We did a better job of rebounding and finishing our shots in the second half,” said Groton-Dunstable coach Mark Hennelly. “We addressed those two things at halftime. Kasey Pelletier did a nice job of finding open teammates with passes, and Rachel McCarron and Kayla Meijer were strong inside. It is great that our seniors were able to walk off our court for the last time with a win.”

Both teams were sluggish offensively over the first three minutes of the game. Groton-Dunstable did a solid job of protecting the ball, committing just one turnover in the first quarter. The Lady Crusaders did a good job of getting to the free throw line, hitting all six attempts over the first eight minutes.

McCarron, who finished with13 points and three rebounds, broke a 4-4 tie with a lay-up.

Groton-Dunstable played strong defense, forcing five turnovers in the quarter, and two free throws each by Meijer (eight points, ten rebounds) and Heather Moody (13 points, three rebounds, two steals) built the lead to 10-5.

After Auburn’s Chloe Patterson drew the Rockets to within 10-7 by finishing off a drive, Meijer capped the scoring in the quarter with a lay-up, after taking a pass from Kat Falco for a 12-7 lead after eight minutes.

The second quarter was a defensive struggle, with poor shooting by both offenses. Groton-Dunstable managed to score only five points, but was still able to tack a point onto the lead, taking a 17-11 advantage to intermission.

The Lady Crusaders had to be comforted after 16 minutes with their six point lead, having only connected on four of 24 shots, but 9-10 free throw shooting kept them afloat.

The Lady Crusaders put it all together in the third quarter and built a comfortable lead. The defense forced six turnovers, the offense started finishing off shots, and the the Lady Crusaders hit the boards harder at both ends of the court.

Auburn continued to struggle solving the Groton-Dunstable defense, and the Lady Crusaders took the ball to the basket as drives by Carley LaMalva and Moody built the lead to double digits at 21-11.

Auburn’s Brittany Gabrielian ended the drought for the Rockets with a drive, but the Lady Crusaders scored the final 11 points of the quarter to build a commanding 32-13 lead entering the fourth quarter. McCarron continued to play well in the paint with seven points, including a pair of lay-ups off feeds from Pelletier. She also added a conventional three-point play after picking up a loose ball. Meijer and Towle added single baskets in the run.

Pelletier only scored two points in the game but did a great job of shredding the Auburn defense with accurate passes. She finished with six assists in the game. Towle chipped in with four points and three rebounds while LaMalva added two points and six rebounds. The entire team combined to play great defense, limiting Auburn to only eight field goals.

Kate Nadeau played well for the Rockets, finishing with eight points. Gina Lirange added five points while Jenna Scanlon chipped in with four.