Memorial halts winless streak, earns decisive road victory

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Memorial’s Paige Thibault closes a fast break with an emphatic finish.

MANCHESTER, NH — And just like that, it’s over.

Exactly one month and one day after the Memorial High School varsity girls basketball team secured its last Division I victory, the Crusaders put an abrupt end to their six-game winless streak with a 55-32 triumph at Nashua North Tuesday night.

The Crusaders fell behind early in the contest, but behind a relentless full-court press and sharpshooting on the offensive side of the court, soon found their rhythm and carried a 26-16 edge into halftime. That momentum carried into the second half where they pulled away for the 23-point decision.

Madison Pepra-Omani led the Crusaders with 25 points in her third game back since returning from a knee injury suffered while playing AAU last year.

“I think you can take (Memorial’s) record for whatever it is, but when 23 (Pepra-Omani) is on the floor, she’s a difference-maker,” said North head coach Curt Dutilley. “She makes everyone else better. When you’re off-ball, you have to pay attention to her because she’s a really good passer as well, so if you don’t pay attention and she gets to the hoop, she can dish it, she can take the shot.

Sophomore Madison Pepra-Omani led Memorial with 25 points in the Crusaders’ 23-point win over North.

“She’s the separator for them,” he said. “You know, she’ll separate them from the middle- and the lower-half of the pack. She makes that much of a difference for them.”

Pepra-Omani returned to varsity action last Monday and Memorial head coach Greg Cotreau said her return to form, along with the team’s overall health being the best it’s been all season, sets the team up well to harness some much-needed sustained success down the stretch.

“We’ve been working really hard at practice, but I think the one thing, if you look at our team … this is the team we thought we’d have,” said Cotreau. “We’re finally starting to get all our pieces back, and if you look at our schedule, we just got done playing Portsmouth, Pinkerton, Bedford … and then BG, so we basically played all of the top teams in our division with a portion of our roster. So now it’s really just trying to feel our way out and figure out who we are all over again.”

Led by senior captains Elizabeth Barrientos, who scored 12 at North, and Erin McCoy, Memorial looks to start a winning streak with a Thursday home contest against 2-9 Keene, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. They’ll host a city-rivalry matchup versus 3-7 Manchester Central on Monday, Jan. 24 at 6:30 p.m., and then travel to 4-2 Salem for a road challenge the next night at 6:30.

These contests, said Cotreau, are all building blocks toward the postseason, where he hopes to see his revitalized squad get another shot at some of the state’s elite.

“I think we’re going to be a tough out for everyone,” said Cotreau. “Our best basketball is yet to come.”

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Ryan O'Connor

As a longtime journalist in Southern New Hampshire, Ryan O'Connor has written for several local online and print publications covering everything from school board meetings and local high school sporting events to major crime stories and New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary (yes, the last two are mutually exclusive). In addition to spending time with his beautiful wife and four amazing children, Ryan enjoys attending and serving at church, golfing as much as possible, home brewing, playing softball and snowboarding when time allows.