PLYMOUTH - Senior leadership played a vital role in the top-seeded Hinsdale High School girls' basketball team's Division IV championship run.
The top-seeded Pacers outlasted No. 3 Sunapee High School, 48-35, in Saturday's Division IV final at Plymouth State University.
Hinsdale seniors Skylar Bonnette, Bridget Bourne, Breanna Benjamin and Allison Scott were all major contributors on a team that finished with an unblemished 22-0 record as the Pacers handed the school its first-ever girls' basketball title.
"It's amazing to be a part of this," said Bonnette, whose dad, Terry, is Hinsdale's head coach. "I know our seniors' experience was a key to winning this. It has been a goal of ours for the last few years and here we are."
The Pacers, who beat Sunapee twice during the regular season, jumped out quickly by grabbing an eye-opening 17-3 lead after one quarter. Hinsdale ran often, utilizing the skills of Bonnette, Benjamin and Scott at the guard positions to get open looks all over the court. Scott registered four points during the run while freshman Skylar LeClair added a 3-point bomb late in the quarter to aid in the comfortable lead.
Sunapee, which did not record a field goal in the opening stanza (0-for-13), got some much-needed help off the bench in the second quarter when sophomore Rachel Malanga led an 8-2 run with a pair of 3-pointers, closing the gap to 19-11.
Consecutive buckets by Bourne and Benjamin gave Hinsdale a double-digit lead, but a jumper from Sunapee's Megan Clarenbach sent the Lakers into the locker room down just nine, 26-17.
"I felt we were on our way but (Allison) Scott got in foul trouble," said Terry Bonnette. "We lost our composure a little at times. Maybe it was because we were a little excited."
The Lakers were not done yet. After Hinsdale came out of the intermission with six straight points to take a 32-17 advantage, Sunapee went on a torrid 12-0 run keyed by a four-point play by Erika Waterman and two inside baskets from freshman Katie Frederick.
"Our goal was to win the first quarter," explained Sunapee coach Tim LaTorra. "That didn't happen, but I was proud of the resilience of my girls during that run. It is a game of emotion and you want it to go your way."
Undaunted, Benjamin calmly sank a 3-pointer at the end of the third to break the Pacers' scoring drought and get back a little momentum.
"I really wasn't nervous," said Skylar Bonnette, referring to Sunapee's third quarter comeback. "We are mentally tough and could handle it. Benjamin hit a big shot and we knew we would be tough in the fourth quarter."
Bourne sealed the deal by scoring six of her game-high 15 points in the final frame. Sunapee had a hard time matching Bourne and could not muster another rally.
"They (Hinsdale) are a good team," LaTorra said. "My hat is off to them as they made plays down the stretch and went on a good run of their own. We just stopped attacking and were never able to get a lead."
Waterman led the Lakers with 12 points while Clarenbach chipped in with eight points and six rebounds. Frederick, who had an outstanding tournament as a freshman, finished with a team-high 13 rebounds and five points.
Bourne recorded a double-double, hauling in 13 boards to go along with her 15 points. Benjamin finished with 13 points and Bonnette added five points and six assists to aid in the winning cause.
"It is amazing the amount of support these girls have had," Terry Bonnette said. "We went 18-0 last year only to lose in the semifinal and to come back and do it again is great for our girls. I told the seniors before the game that not many schools get here and you will never have another chance at this."