Cards breeze by Panthers; stormy Merrimack on horizon

Staff photo by TOM KING Bishop Guertin's Caroline Hoffer tries to block Nashua South's Aryanna Murray's layup attempt during Wednesday night's Divison I prelim round tourney game at BG.

NASHUA – Wednesday night was the calm before the storm for the Bishop Guertin High School girls basketball team.

The Nashua South Panthers provided some aggression and effort as an opponent, but not nearly enough to prevent a 58-26 Cardinals Division I preliminary round win on Wednesday night at the Coligadome.

Now the No. 5, 14-5 Cardinals move on to Saturday night’s quarterfinal at Merrimack, against a fourth ranked 15-3 Tomahawk team that hasn’t lost since January 9 – against Guertin – and had several players watching on Wednesday.

“I think you saw in the first half, we were up 20-something, but you could see the kids try to settle some jitters,” Guertin coach Brad Kreick said. “So I think just getting this game out of the way, a little bit of a playoff atmosphere, just getting that done and behind us will settle us down for Saturday.”

Still, the Cardinal pressure forced 14 first-half Panther turnovers, and South (7-12, 9-13 overall) didn’t get on the board until Iruka Obinelo hit a layup with 36 seconds left in the first quarter, which ended 15-2 BG. Although South came alive to make it 17-7, the Cards led 37-13 at the half, and the game was pretty much over. The Cards played nearly their entire team, with senior Caroline Hoffer leading the way with 17 game high points in her final game on the Coligadome floor. Addison Smith added 10, while Aria O’Connell had nine and Hannah Muchemore seven.

“We got contributions from a lot of people, which is what we were looking for,” Kreick said.

South was led by Aryanna Murray’s six points and five each from Catherine Covert and Obinelo.

Both teams were missing key players. South was without point guard Kendall Bush (concussion), and Guertin was missing leading scorer Erin Carney and key reserve Bri Wilcox with sprained ankles. Both dressed but did not play.

For the Panthers, the loss of Bush was key because of her ability to help South spread the floor vs. the press.

“They’re awesome,” South interim coach Dave Hogan said of the Cards. “Brad does an unbelievable job. With Kendall, we missed her speed. It would’ve helped us. She’s a major part of our team, both defensively and offensively.”

Kreick says he expects both Carney and Wilcox to play on Saturday.

“They were both in uniform, but we wanted to make sure they’re 100 percent healthy,” Kreick said. “We wanted to be extra careful and make sure they’ll be ready for Saturday, and I think they will be.”

For Hogan and the Panthers, despite the ending, it was a satisfying year.

“Two wins (last year), and counting the Christmas tournament, we went to nine wins,” Hogan said, adding he assumes head man Dan Wyborney will return next year after this season’s leave of absence. “We’re young. But I had a blast.”

The Cards hope to be able to say the same thing on Saturday.

“Very good basketball team,” Kreick said of the Tomahawks. “They’re one of the better teams in the state, no question about it. We’re going to have to show up and play a very good basketball game t win.”