Cards great defense repeats for a threepeat

Staff photo by TOM KING Bishop Guertin's Gabrielle Sousa, left, Bri Wilcox, Addison Smith (15) , Ava Owens and Caroline Hoffer lead the celebration after the Cardinals topped Pinkerton, 54-34, in Saturday's Divison I title game at SNHU.

MANCHESTER – The repeat gave them a threepeat.

The one constant theme the Bishop Guertin High School girls basketball team had all season was defense.

And it rang true again on Saturday, as the Cardinals repeated their season long defensive effort with a 54-34 Division I title win over Pinkerton Academy at Southern New Hampshire University.

“It’s such a cliché to say that defense wins championships, but it’s true,” Guertin coach Brad Kreick said. “I spent a lot of time watching film over the last 48 hours, and every time we’d watch Pinkerton for the ninth, 10th, 11th time, the more scared you get. They’re as good a shooting team that we played all season long.

“You just hope it sinks in with the kids when you tell them hey, it’s going to come down to who defends better. And I thought our kids were fantastic defensively, particularly in the half court today.”

“We knew our defense would turn into points for us, transition points,” Guertin’s lone senior, Caroline Hoffer said. “That’s what’s been our game plan all year long. It was definitely important for us.”

The numbers didn’t lie. The No. 2, 17-4 Astros, thanks to Guertin’s defensive pressure, turned the ball over 17 times and shot just 11 for 37 from the floor (29.7 percent). The No. 5 Cards, who end up 17-5, actually had more 3-pointers, 4-3.

“Their press makes you feel like you’re climbing uphill,” Pinkerton coach Lani Buskey said. “You get to the top of the hill, and you beat it, we get there, you think, ‘Oh, we won’, and then there’s another army waiting for you. Kudos to them.”

There were a couple of key moments or stretches in the game. The biggest may have been a buzzer beating 3-pointer from NBA range that snapped an 8-8 tie for an 11-8 Cards lead after one quarter. But it started an overall 14-2 run that put Guertin in complete control, up 26-15 at the half. And then in the third quarter, they outscored the Astros, who were led by Brooke Kane’s game-high 18 points, by a 14-7 margin to lead 40-22 entering the final quarter. It was pretty much over.

“I think it definitely was a momentum shift for us,” Hoffer said of Carney’s big trey. “I think it got everyone more excited going into the rest of the game.”

Hoffer had 12 points while Carney ended up with a team-high 14, nine in the second half as she got her offensive flow back for the really the first time since she went out with a sprained ankle two weeks ago vs. the Astros.

“I came back a little slow from my ankle,” Carney said. “I was a little scared to go hard, but I finally feel like I’m back.”

The other stat key for Guertin was the job it did on the boards, as they outrebounded the Astros 35-25, with 14 offensive boards to Pinkerton’s seven. Carney had seven rebounds while Hoffer and Aaliyah Foreman had six off the bench.

“She was fantastic on the glass today,” Kreick said of Foreman. “She’s such an athletic kid, and that’s kind of her game.”

And it was Guertin’s game.

“When we get second or third chances on possessions, we’re going to score the ball,” Kreick said.

“If you hold them to a contested shot, good job,” Buskey said. “But if you let them get the rebound, it’s game over. Most of their points came off rebounds.”

And now the Cards, who Kreick said were exhausted Friday after their titanic hard fought win over Bedford in the semis, can look ahead with all eligible to return except for Hoffer.

“We only lose one,” Kreick said, “but it’s a big one.”

With 1:28 left, Hoffer hit a layup, her final points as a Cardinal. Soon after she and the starters came off the floor to a roar from the Guertin crowd.

“I just tried to take in the moment,” she said.

Another championship moment for the Cards.