MANCHESTER, NH — Ava Plage scored seven of her 10 points in the fourth quarter, to lift Derryfield past Manchester West, 38-34, Friday night at Quinn Gymnasium.
Plage, who hit five of six free throws down the stretch, finished with 10 points, to go with three assists and a pair of steals. Tia Ferdinando had a team-high 11 points for the Cougars, who have won four of their last five games to improve to 6-4 on the year.
“I feel like we’re just trying to get a little better every day,” said Derryfield Coach Courtney Cheetham. “I give West and I give Coach Berube a lot of credit. I feel like they fought really hard. They were really getting after it on the defensive end.”
West dropped to 1-9 with the loss but the Blue Knights have shown significant improvement since the first of the year. After cracking the 30-point mark just once in its first seven games, West erupted for 61 points in its victory against Timberlane and have followed it up with competitive efforts against Merrimack Valley and Derryfield.
“I would say definitely our defense has gotten better. We’re sharing the ball better on offense,” said West Coach Ashley Berube. “We’re playing more as a team. And on the hustle plays, we’re really getting after the loose balls.”
Nyanakuak Piok (12 rebounds, 2 blocks, 3 steals) led all scorers with 13 points for West. But with the game on the line, the Derryfield defense clamped down and held Piok scoreless in the fourth quarter. Chloe Murphy chipped in with 8 points for the Knights.
Tied after the first quarter, Derryfield was able to open up a lead in the second, thanks to an aggressive full-court press and its long-range shooting. Three-pointers from Ferdinando, Briana Sanchez and Kailyn Plage helped the Cougars build a 22-15 halftime advantage.
“We’re just trying to be as scrappy as we can be. Sometimes that means picking up full-court and sometimes that means picking up half-court,” said Cheetham. “Whatever it takes to get our energy up. Today, I thought the (full-court) helped us get our energy up.”
As quickly as Derryfield had built the lead, West managed to wipe it away. The Blue Knights opened the third quarter on a 10-3 run. A 3-pointer from the win by Adrianna Perron (7 points, 6 steals) and a jumper by Kristin Winslow (5 steals) tied the game, 25-25, with 3:00 to play in the third. Moments later, Cianna Lukegord made one of two free throws and West had taken a 26-25 lead.
West’s lead would last just moments. Derryfield guard Abby Fournier put on a sparkling display of ballhandling, dribbling into the paint, back out of the paint and then curling around, driving to the hoop for a layup to give the Cougars a 27-26 lead after three quarters.
The fourth quarter belonged to Ava Plage, who set the tone with a reverse layup on a strong baseline drive. Later, Plage drained both ends of a 1-and-1, then fed Chloe Bremberg for a hoop in the paint to help Derryfield build a 35-29 lead with 3:10 left to play.