Lebanon locks down Hollis Brookline for 44-35 victory in D-II final
MANCHESTER – For those who believe defense wins championships, Lebanon provided the blueprint Friday night at Southern New Hampshire University.
Points were at a premium in the Division II championship and Hollis Brookline couldn’t generate enough of them in a 44-35 defeat to the Raiders.
Anna Wolke scored a game-high 16 points and Becky Wright added 11 to help top-seeded Lebanon (22-0) put the finishing touches on a perfect season.
“These guys pride themselves on playing defense and they do a good job at it. They get right in your face,” Hollis Brookline coach Bob Murphy said. “I thought I had guards that could beat that. The closer you’re being covered, the more easy it is to go by them, and that just didn’t happen tonight. It’s not just one player on you. As you’re driving by that player, they have very good help defense from the weak side.”
Cassandra Stapelfeld carried the sixth-seeded Cavaliers (16-6) early with seven of her team-high 15 points in the first quarter. She was the lone Cavalier to score in double figures, as Joanna Balsamo added eight points and eight rebounds. Elizabeth Atkinson contributed six points and six rebounds, but foul trouble limited her to 14 minutes before she picked up her fifth with 1:51 to go and HB down by five.
“She was playing pretty good on both ends when she was in the game,” Murphy said of Atkinson. “That took a toll because they have two big girls on that team who can easily score inside.”
Lebanon made a concerted effort to keep Atkinson on the bench, allowing Wright and Joslin Wainwright more space to operate. Wainwright tallied seven points and dominated the glass with 18 rebounds. The Raiders had a 38-32 edge on the glass overall.
“We beat them beat them at our place by about 15 and we got (Atkinson) in foul trouble right away. That was kind of the goal,” Lebanon coach Tim Kehoe said. “Becky is a tough kid to defend, and we tried to go at her pretty quickly. Then we had conversations during timeouts that we needed to make sure if she got back on the floor after she picked up her third (foul), we would attack pretty aggressively.”
Kehoe believes his Raiders’ willingness and ability to execute the game plan is what made this squad rise to the top.
“This team is a smart team,” Kehoe explained. “We play to what our game plan is all the time. We don’t deviate from that, even when things kind of break down a little bit we still slow ourselves down and we don’t deviate from the game plan.
“That’s the power of this team,” he added. “That’s what makes them a great team: They’re undefeated because they’re consistent and they’re smart.”
Hollis Brookline took its only lead of the game at 7-6 in the first quarter, with all of the points belonging to Stapelfeld and Wolke. The dueling scorers accounted for the first 17 points of the game, as a jumper from Lebanon’s Zoe Soule with 38 seconds left in the first quarter was the first point from a different player, and it gave the Raiders a 12-7 advantage after one.
Lebanon smothered Hollis Brookline in the second quarter, but didn’t create much distance and took an 18-10 cushion into halftime. The Cavaliers regrouped and trimmed the deficit to three in the third quarter, but a Wright jumper supplied Lebanon with a 30-24 lead going into the final frame.
The Raiders upped the advantage to 33-24 early in the fourth, but HB stormed back to cut it to 33-31 with 3:40 to play thanks to a three-point play from Stapelfeld, and buckets from Brodie Kelley and Atkinson.
However, baskets from Lebanon’s Madeline Hastings and Wainwright rebuilt a six-point cushion and the Cavaliers couldn’t cut it to a one-possession game from there.
The loss marks Hollis Brookline’s first trip to the Division II title game. The last appearance for a Hollis team was in the 1974 Class A championship, a defeat against Pittsfield.
“My whole game plan since I started coaching at Hollis Brookline was to try to get a team here,” Murphy said. “It’s really exciting to see the stands this full. It’s like a college game. These kids, we don’t see that in Hollis like this.”