Even dynasties have challenges, as BG girls know

Don’t count your titles before they hatch.

As longtime local fans know, dynasties tend to thrive in New Hampshire Division I high school girls basketball.

Of course Nashua High School had its epic five-year title run from 1985–89, including the historic USA Today nationally No. 1 ranked 1987 team.

Winnacunnet matched that with five straight from 2007-2011.

There have been some repeats and threepeats, including by Nashua. And now today the unbeaten Cardinals of Bishop Guertin will go for a fourpeat at 4 p.m. vs. Portsmouth at Southern New Hampshre University.

If you polled 10 neutral fans, nine would pick the Cards to win.

Not so fast. Guertin has played some of the top teams around New England and New York during the course of this season. The team that has handled them the best and almost knocked them off? You got it, the No. 6, 16-5 Clippers, who were an upset victim themselves in the Division II tourney won by our own Hollis Brookline a year ago.

The Clippers probably feel they should have won what was an overtime 61-51 loss to BG on the seacoast back on Feb. 19, a game they led by five with 1:53 to go.

Maybe the Brad Kreick-coached Cards have already taken Portsmouth’s best shot. Maybe not. You see, these dynasty teams always have an opposing program or two that can make life difficult. Nashua’s five year-run began and ended with one-point title game wins over Londonderry. BG had to beat Bedford back-to-back to begin this run, and upset the Bulldogs in the semis last year.

The Clippers are tough. It looked like the Cards would get a rematch of last year’s finals with No. 2 seed Pinkerton, up 39-36 with seconds left, but Portsmouth’s Brittany Graham ruined that with a game-tying trey at 2.5 seconds to go, and then the Clips won in OT.

Anyone who saw that game know what the Cards are in for on Saturday – a determined, senior-laden team coached by a former sports scribe in Tim Hopley who has had his own dynasty coaching Portsmouth baseball for several years. You get the former sportswriter vs. the former hockey player (Kreick) in the coaching matchup.

“Maybe we caught (the Cards) off guard,” Hopley said about his team’s near victory two weeks ago. “The scary part is, did we poke the bear?”

Matchups are always a big deal in any sport. As good as some teams are, there are teams that because of their roster and style can give them problems. Portsmouth, with its height and scrappy style, is one of those teams.

“They’ve been on this (SNHU) floor before, just in Division II,” Kreick said. “It’s a great matchup because it’s a total contrast in styles. … I think the two best teams are playing (today).”

This is a different BG team with most of the same players from a year ago. As Kreick will tell you, they’re healthier this year, one year older and more experienced. Kreick and his staff have pushed all the right buttons through 23 games. But that won’t mean anything unless Guertin can rebound better than they did in the first meeting with the taller Clippers.

“They killed us on the glass,” he said. “They outrebounded us, which doesn’t usually happen. … And we struggled with their length in the 2-3 zone.”

Not to get too analytical, but BG thrives on the layup off transition, or on dribbling through a set defense with the likes of players like Ava Owens, Erin Carney and Hannah Muchemore. Portsmouth shut that off for a bit the last time. The Clippers will no doubt use that zone again – it drove Pinkerton crazy in the semis – and Guertin will have to make some shots from the outside, which they did vs. Memorial, going 7 for 17 from beyond the arc.

“Look, that’s a very good basketball team,” Kreick said. “We’re going to have our hands full.”

That being said, you also have the idea the Cardinals have come too far all season to let this chance slip away.

But they’ll have to earn it.

“I’ve heard people say it’s harder to stay up on the top of the mountain then it is to climb the mountain,” Kreick said. “We’re going to find out.”

The Cards just don’t want to find out the hard way.

Tom King may be reached at 594-1251, or@Telegraph_TomK.tking@nashuatelegraph.com