Pine Power! Bench strength carries Memorial past Spaulding, 38-30

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MANCHESTER, NH – Missing two starters due to illness and injury, and with a third in early foul trouble, Manchester Memorial girls’ basketball coach Greg Cotreau knew his team’s depth would be tested in Monday night’s home opener against Spaulding.

The second unit proved up to the task, combining for 14 points to help the Crusaders (2-0) to a 38-30 win over the Red Raiders (0-1).

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Senior guard Taylor McNelly led a balanced attack for Memorial with nine points. Juniors Kayleigh Brunette and Fatma Fatah came off the bench to provide some timely offensive punch, leading a second unit that combined for 14 points and eight rebounds.

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“We had some key players get into foul trouble early in the game and had to sit. But we had some kids step in and play well,” said Cotreau. “What you saw tonight was some of our experienced kids were the ones in foul trouble and some of the inexperienced kids had to step in and were learning on the fly.”

One of those players was Brunette, who celebrated her birthday by scoring 7 points, to go with a pair of steals. All of Brunette’s points came from the free-throw line (7 of 8), where Memorial was 14 of 17 as a team. By contrast, Spaulding was just 8 of 19 from the free-throw line and missed the front end of three 1-and-1’s.

“Against Goffstown (a 50-48 win), we were just 10-for-19, we kind of struggled (from the line),” said Cotreau. “We worked on it and we talked to them and told them that if we want to win these close games when it comes down to free throws at the end, their destiny is in their own hands.”

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Memorial seized control of the game late in the second quarter. With 4:30 left to play in the half, Spaulding’s Hannah Drew (9 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks) pulled down an offensive rebound and scored on a reverse layup to put the Red Raiders up 11-10.

It would be Spaulding’s last lead.

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Fatah (5 points) kissed a 3-pointer off the glass from the wing, sparking an 8-0 run for Memorial, which tool an 18-11 lead into intermission.

The second half saw the return of Memorial senior co-captain Elizabeth Barrientos, who had sat out all but two minutes of the first half after picking up two quick fouls. The 5-7 forward wasted no time asserting herself in the paint, racking up six points, eight rebounds, two steals and a block — all in the second half.

“(Barrientos) can’t get into foul trouble like that, we need her too much,” said Cotreau.

Memorial was ice cold from the field to start the second half, allowing Spaulding to creep back into the game. In fact, it took the Crusaders 5:15 to score their first points of the second half, on a long jumper by sophomore forward Payton Moran.

Later in the quarter, Brunette sank two free throws, then made a steal and dished to Barrientos for a jumper, giving Memorial a 24-19 lead after three quarters.

As the game progressed, play got increasingly physical with both teams setting hard picks and committing hard fouls. The referees called it tightly and both teams were in the penalty (shooting free throws on every foul) for the final seven minutes. Memorial was able to take advantage, while Spaulding squandered their opportunities.

Brunette dropped in two more free throws with 5:39 to play, then McNelly stole the inbounds pass and dished to Moran for an easy layup, and Memorial began to pull away at 28-19.

Spaulding guard Jenna Philbrook tried to keep her team close, scoring on back-to-back power drives to cut the Memorial lead to 30-24 with 2:29 to play. But that was as close as the Red Raiders would get.

Barrientos and junior guard Emma Rossi drilled clutch free throws in the final minute to salt away the win for the Crusaders.

Memorial will look to make it three straight wins to start the season when they play host to Dover on Wednesday. Cotreau is hoping to have 5-8 senior forward Paige Thibault back for that contest. Thibault should make Memorial’s defense even stronger than it has shown in the first two games.

Memorial’s other missing starter, sophomore Madison Pepra-Omani, likely won’t be back in action until next month. Pepra-Omani led the Crusaders in scoring as a freshman and is expected to have a major impact if she is fully healthy on her return.


About this Author

Bill Gilman

Bill Gilman is a veteran journalist with 35 years of experience covering community news and sports in New England. He and his wife have two grown sons and two perfect granddaughters.