MANCHESTER, NH — Competing Friday night without arguably its top-two players, the Manchester Memorial High School girls basketball team withstood cross-city rival Trinity High School’s best shot and still emerged victorious.
The Crusaders overcame a 22-19 halftime deficit, held on through a back-and-forth third quarter, and then pulled away in the fourth for a 51-43 win.
The victory was Memorial’s fifth in a row and improved the team’s record to 8-7, first time the Crusaders have been above .500 since Dec. 22. And they did it without junior guard Emma Rossi and sophomore standout Madison Pepra-Omani.
Though the Crusaders expect Rossi back for their playoff run, Memorial head coach Greg Cotreau said Pepra-Omani’s return is in doubt after she reinjured the same knee that kept her out the first half of the season.
“We don’t know how severe it is. I think it’s less severe than when it happened the first time, but she has to see the doctor and work with our athletic trainer and they’ll give us a timetable,” he said. “We’re hopeful that maybe she can return sometime in the tournament, but right now we have what you saw today.”
And that, of course, is still pretty good.
Even at full strength, in fact, Cotreau said Friday’s tilt was his seniors’ game to win or lose.
“They were going to play the majority of this game whether we had Emma and Madi or not,” he said. “I mean, Emma and Madi are huge pieces to our team, and I think all the girls recognize how important they are to us, but everybody in our program knew tonight was about the five seniors that we have and making sure we were able to do what we needed to do to make sure they left with a win in their last (regular season) home game.”
Captains Elizabeth Barrientos and Erin McCoy led the group of veterans with 13 and 10 points, respectively, while Taylor McNelly provided eight markers, Ciara Banks dropped seven and Paige Thibault contributed five.
On the other side of the court, Trinity, which was paced by 16 points from freshman Dakoda Correia, fell to 2-13.
Cotreau said his team had to make adjustments at halftime to put the Pioneers on their heels and limit Trinity center Achol Tour .
“We knew that Achol is a menacing presence around the rim. She’s really tough, a really good player,” said Cotreau. “We knew if they were able to setup their zone, it was going to be a really tight game, so at halftime we made some adjustments … we were able to really pick up our pace in the second half, and when we play at that pace, only a couple teams are able to play with us.”
Tour, who scored six points in the contest while owning the rim on both sides of the court, said after the game that Memorial did a good job limiting her production.
“When I’m double-teamed, it’s tough for us to get the ball inside, so we did a lot of passing and cutting and tried to work it from the outside in,” said Tour, while also noting that win or lose, games against Trinity and other city rivals are always more fun.
“These games mean a little bit more because a lot of these girls are our friends so there’s more talking and it’s just more competitive with these inner-city games,” she said.
Trinity, hoping to finish the season on a winning note, next travels to Pinkerton for another road test on Monday night at 6:30. The Pioneers then closeout the regular season with back-to-back home matchups against Winnacunnet and Merrimack next Wednesday and Friday, respectively.
“We still have some things to work on as a team, but if we can work through some of our little mistakes as a team, we have a really good chance next week,” said Tour.
Next up for the Crusaders is another in-city clash at Manchester Central this Monday, Jan. 31 at 6:30 p.m. Memorial defeated the Little Green, 39-37, this past Monday.