MANCHESTER — The question on everyone’s mind entering this Division I girls’ basketball season was if somebody could halt Bishop Guertin of Nashua’s dominant roll. Folks will have to tune in next year for that answer because the Cardinals won’t back down.
For the fourth time in as many years, Bishop Guertin is atop D-I following a 46-33 championship game victory over Portsmouth on Saturday at Stan Spirou Field House at Southern New Hampshire University. The Cardinals completed an undefeated season (21-0) with the win, becoming the fourth Division I program to win four titles and first to do so since Winnacunnet of Hampton took five straight from 2007-11.
“It never dawned on me that it would happen,” BG coach Brad Kreick said. “It’s a testament to the kids. We’re talking not only this group, but the kids we’ve had the last four years. … We’ve just been fortunate to have great kids, players and families that buy into what we’re trying to do here as a team.”
Hannah Muchemore scored a game-high 14 points and dropped four 3-pointers, including a prayer at the the third-quarter buzzer to halt Portsmouth’s momentum and give BG a 36-24 edge entering the fourth. Erin Carney added 10 points behind Muchemore and the Cardinals drilled seven treys overall.
The top-seeded Cardinals held the lead for all but the first 25 seconds of the game, imposing its usual up-tempo style and playing stingy defense to force 21 Portsmouth turnovers, which helped generate 19 points.
“We knew it was going to be a low-scoring, grinding game,” Kreick said. “For all the stuff about us being able to score the basketball and getting up and down, we told the kids coming in that they were going to have to defend to win. … It sounds cliche that defense wins championships, but we only scored 46. We didn’t have that huge offensive game, but we really buckled down defensively and the kids played their tails off.”
Sixth-seeded Portsmouth, the only NHIAA team to scare BG during the regular season before falling in overtime on Feb. 19, was limited to just 12 points in the first half. Thirteen of the Clippers’ 21 turnovers came in the opening half and the lack of possessions limited them to just 14 shots before halftime. BG forced some of those turnovers with its man-to-man defense, but frantic play by Portsmouth created many unforced turnovers as well.
“They made it hard for us to establish a post game and did a good job pressuring the ball on the perimeter,” Portsmouth coach Tim Hopley said. “We knew what they were going to do and we just didn’t play disciplined enough to get our perimeter players down underneath the bigs, getting themselves open to pop up and open the post. It’s one of those things where they did enough to force us to play uncomfortably.”
Abbe Laurence finished with just 11 points to lead Portsmouth as her imposing 6-foot-1 presence around the rim was negated by the team’s offensive struggles. Ani Hebert pitched in nine points for Portsmouth and Corinne Lamond posted eight.
Lamond scored six of her points in a row at the end of the third quarter, which looked like a turning point for Portsmouth until Muchemore drilled her half-court prayer at the horn.
The conversion started a 6-0 BG run into the start of the fourth quarter that helped bump the Cardinals’ edge back up to 15.
“I’ve been practicing that shot since I’ve been in high school and it finally went in,” Muchemore said. “I think it was somewhere right behind half court. I saw there was five seconds left on the clock and knew I had to just go, so I threw it up and it went in.”
Muchemore said her 3-point shooting came on in the second half of this season, but her play on Saturday and throughout the season has been exemplary by Kreick’s standards.
“She’s such a gutsy kid,” Kreick said. “She does literally a little bit of everything.Sometimes you see it and it’s noticeable and a lot of times you don’t. It’s just the little things and intangibles, like the toughness that she brings, but it was really nice to see her come in and knock down a couple shots today.”