MANCHESTER, NH — Memorial girls’ basketball coach Greg Cotreau saw it coming.
Monday night, with his team leading Winnacunnet by eight, 20-12, early in the second quarter, Cotreau was growing rapidly more frustrated with repeated turnovers and missed shots in the paint.
“You’re letting them back in this game,” Cotreau shouted, to the Crusaders on the floor.
His concern proved prophetic. Winnacunnet (2-3) went on a 28-11 run over the second and third quarters, building a nine-point lead and holding on for a 49-44 victory.
“There are going to be a lot of players not very happy when they watch the film of this game and realize how winnable it was,” said Cotreau, after watching his team fall to 3-2 on the year.
Among the self-inflicted wounds not likely to elicit cheers in the film room — 21 turnovers, seven missed layups and just 6 of 16 from the free throw line in the second half.
“We’re not going to be able to be successful if we’re turning the ball over more than 20 times a game,” said Cotreau. “We got lucky against Trinity and were able to win despite 29 turnovers. But that’s been the problem with this team — focus.”
Memorial senior Captain Elizabeth Barrientos led all scorers with 18 points, to go with 10 rebounds and a blocked shot. Senior forward Paige Thibault added 10 points and six boards. Senior Ciarra Banks chipped in with eight points.
A three-pointer from Winnacunnet’s McKenzie O’Regan to open the fourth quarter, gave the Warriors their biggest lead of the game, 41-29. But just when it looked like the game was turning into a rout, Barrientos stepped up and got her club back on track.
Barrientos pulled down one of her three offensive rebounds, went up string and scored on a putback to stop the bleeding. On Memorial’s next possession, she calmly drained a three-pointer and the Crusaders were back in the game, 41-35.
Feeling the momentum, Memorial clamped down defensively, pressuring the ball, fighting through picks and limiting Winnacunnet to just one shot per possession.
Thibault scored on a strong drive down the lane and Barrientos hit another long jumper and suddenly it was a two-point game, 41-39, with 1:50 to play.
But that was as close as Memorial would get.
Memorial guards Payton Moran and Emma Rossi each fouled out down the stretch, weakening the Crusaders’ defense. Winnacunnet’s Mira Fran Zosu took advantage, scoring on a runner to push the lead back to four points. She and Riley Karens then hit key free throws in the final seconds to seal the win.
Karens led Winnacunnet with 14 points, 12 of which came in the second half. Hannah Ritchie was the only other Warrior in double-digits with 12.
Memorial got off to a strong start, playing one of its best quarters of the young season. Aggressive man-to-man pressure by the Crusaders forced several Winnacunnet turnovers and led to six fast-break points.
Meanwhile, Barrientos was almost unstoppable in the paint, scoring seven points in the quarter, including an old-fashioned three-point play off an offensive rebound. When Banks drilled a three-pointer from the corner, Memorial’s lead ballooned to 18-7, and they held an 18-10 advantage after one quarter.
Banks connected on a jumper to push the lead to 20-10 early in the second, but after that, it was all Winnacunnet. The Warriors closed the quarter on an 11-2 run to pull to within 22-21 at halftime.