Cavs get their secret wish, a Finals return

Staff photo by TOM KING Hollis Brookline's Elizabeth Bonnette puts up a shot against Hanover's Bella Bardales (13) and Julia Golder during Tuesday night's Divison II semifinals at SNHU.

TK HOLLIS BROOKLINE GIRLS HOOP SEMIS GAMER FOR WEDNESDAY, will post in WordPress “Cavs get their wish, a Finals return”

By TOM KING

Staff Writer

MANCHESTER – Finals, Take Two.

The Hollis Brookline High School girls basketball team is in the Division II championship game for the second straight year after downing seventh-seeded Hanover, 52-37, at Southern New Hampshire University on Tuesday night.

The No. 3, 19-2 Cavs will now try to do what they didn’t do last year with their finals visit — win. They’ll face either Bishop Brady or John Stark here at SNHU Friday at 7 p.m.

“You know, it’s a really exciting time,” HB senior Joanna Balsamo said after she had 14 points and 13 rebounds. “I’m so proud of this team for all the hard work we put in. …. We’re more prepared this year than last year, having been here before. I’m just really excited for this.”

Still, the Cavs had some early game jitters as they tried to decipher what the Marauders (15-6) were doing on both ends of the floor. Once they did, the fact that they trailed 5-0 and 9-4 early on was a distant memory.

“We were a little nervous when they were up 9-4 and started hitting some shots,” Cavs coach Bob Murhpy said. “You know, I had a feeling we’d come back, and we did. We came back in short order, which was nice, we took the lead and never gave it up again.”

The Cavs’ Brodie Kelley led all scorers with 18 and she keyed a 6-0 HB run to end the quarter, 10-9 HB. But when Elizabeth Bonnette hit a 3-pointer with 6:47 left in the half, the Cavs had the lead for good, 13-11. They were up 24-18 at the half and kept the foot on the gas, 39-28, after three.

“We just kept pressing this 2-3 zone and they didn’t seem to have much answer for it,” Murphy said. “We were trying to shut the middle, the paint off, and we did a good job of that.”

And Hanover, which is done at 15-6, lacked firepower, as Lois Schwarz was the only Marauder in double figures with 13, and Bella Bardales added eight.

“We were up 9-4, doing well, and they got a little momentum, and were able to get out in transition well,” Hanover coach Dan O’Rourke said. “We struggled to get back-to-back hoops, and started trading baskets instead of getting two, three, four hoops in a row.”

With the score 27-20, Hanover’s Bardales had a layup chance after a turnover and missed, and the Cavs scored the next three points to expand the lead to 10 (Bonnette jumper, Kelley free throw), and that five point swing was huge.

“Not that one play ruins it, but we struggled to get a flow,” O’Rourke said. “Kudos to Hollis. They’re a very well-coached team, talented kids, played hard, and they deserved to win tonight.”

Christina Balsamo (six assists) hit a trey to make it an 11 point game after three. Kelley had a huge game, giving the Cavs an offensive lift.

“She sure did, she had a big game,” Murphy said. “She was shooting, she was driving, she was hitting from the outside. It was all good stuff, and she was playing great defense.”

The Cavs also owned the boards, 44-36, with Elizabeth Atkinson contributing eight. Also, defensively, they shut down Hanover’s top scorer, sophomore Maddie McCorkle (five points). “We saw what she did against Lebanon, she had 21 points,” Murphy said. “So we kind of focused on her. We’d been tracking this team the last couple games they had.”

Lebanon ruined the Cavs’ party last year, and the HB girls have been hungry to return ever since.

“It’s great,” Murphy said. “When we left here last year (after losing to Lebanon), that was the game plan. You don’t want to tell anybody that, but secretly we wanted another chance to be in that big game.”

Well, the Cavs’ secret is out, and they’re back where they wanted to be. Now they just hope the second take is better than the first.