Div. III Girls' Basketball: White Mts. stuns Campbell
White Mountains beat Campbell in a nail-biting upset to take the NHIAA Division III girls' basketball championship on Saturday. (Bruce Taylor/Union Leader)
MANCHESTER — They hadn't been to the Division III finals since they won the championship in 1999 and the Spartans of White Mountains of Whitefield made the most of their opportunity by upsetting the No. 1 seed and previously undefeated Campbell Cougars of Litchfield, 56-51.
For the defending champion Cougars, who came in to the championship round at Southern New Hampshire University on Saturday night riding a 39-game win streak, the loss to the No. 3 seed was a disappointing end to a season in which they won 21 games.
“White Mountains absolutely deserved this,” said Campbell head coach Shawn Flynn. “They played a perfect game. They are well coached and they played extremely well. But I find it hard for a championship game to have four players foul out.”
White Mountains (20-2), a team without a deep bench, lost key players Chelsea Payer and Olivia Conway to foul trouble and Mikayla Bastain went down with an injury in the second half. But when Campbell had to play without Rebecca Arnone, who got into early foul trouble with three in the first half and picked up her fifth with 4:51 left in the game, the Cougars were compromised without their best player.. Campbell also had to play in the second half without Ashley Gannon.
“Having two of our kids in foul trouble did hurt,” said White Mountains head coach Gary Jenness. “But we played a patient game for the whole game and ran our offense. The kids played hard and this is a great win.”
The Cougars had a hard time matching up against Bryanna Bennett, the Spartans 6'1” center who led her team with 20 rebounds and 19 points and made key plays in critical situations for all four periods. No play was bigger than when Bennett grabbed her own rebound after missing a basket with White Mountains leading 54-51 with 10.7 seconds on the clock. The senior ended her high school career by stepping to the line and sinking both free throws to secure the victory.
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“They were keying on Bryanna and the other girls had to step up and they certainly did,” said Jenness. “Kaitlin Wood (10 points) hit some big shots and Brennah Couture (18 points) added some really good baskets for us.”
Arnone, who is headed to Wheaton College next year, scored over 1,000 points and hauled in more than 1,000 rebounds in her career but in the final game of her career she was limited to only one basket for two points and four rebounds. She spent the final 5:33 of the first half on the bench with those early fouls.
After getting out to a slim 14-13 lead in the first period, White Mountains got some quick offense off the bench to start the second when Jackie Lowell, Wood and Bennett hit successive shots, including Wood's three-pointer, to add seven points and stretch the lead to 21-13. With the Cougars committing back court fouls, the Spartans took advantage and ended the first half up 27-21.