LANGDON — In a matchup between two undefeated teams, it was the Hanover High School girls basketball team that kept its record unblemished with a 59-48 final over Fall Mountain Tuesday night at The Den.
Fall Mountain junior Avery Stewart and seniors Sophie Bardis and Shea Pickering each contributed 10 points in the loss to Hanover, the No. 1 seed in last year’s Division 2 tournament.
Junior Makenna Grillone scored eight.
“We weren’t going to win the D2 tournament tonight, but we don’t have to do that at all, we’re D3,” said Fall Mountain head coach Matt Baird-Torney. “This is just a really good opportunity to find out where we stack up.
“You’re never thrilled with an 11-point loss, but you have to look deeper than that and look at how they fought, how they played and how they battled. And we battled, so that’s all I care about,” Baird-Torney added.
Playing an upper-division team, one of the best D2 teams at that, has its benefits, even in a double-digit loss.
“I think playing these teams is going to be super good for us in the future,” Stewart said. “Especially playing them this early in the season, it’s a good benchmark to see where we actually are and where we can play.”
Interdivisional games are normally rare, but with the adjusted regional schedule because of COVID protocols, teams are playing outside of their normal divisions. There will be no interdivisional games in the postseason.
Both defenses were strong early on, and a three-pointer from Stewart with about four minutes to go in the first quarter tied the game up at five.
“She’s just a poised player, but she’s also somebody who loves these challenges,” Baird-Torney said of the team’s leading scorer. “She gets up for the Hanover game, she knows that they know who she is. Whether things are dropping for her or not, she just plays inspired basketball on both sides.”
But Hanover (4-0) went on an 8-1 run to finish the quarter leading 13-6.
Fall Mountain’s offense started to find some rhythm in the second quarter, climbing back within three points. But Hanover had an answer for each of the Wildcats’ shots, and never let them get any closer on the scoreboard.
Hanover’s aggressive play, both offensively and defensively, forced Fall Mountain’s hand, their full-court press creating turnovers and their fast-paced offense causing the Wildcats (2-1) to foul.
That equation equaled another Hanover run to end the first half, taking a 32-18 lead to the locker room.
Senior Erin Brady came out in the third quarter scoring four quick points for the Wildcats, but, overall, Fall Mountain could not get their shots to fall and Hanover’s lead grew to 19 after three quarters.
But the Wildcats weren’t quite done.
Halfway through the fourth, still down 19, Brady saved a ball from going out of bounds on the end line. That kept the play alive and led to two free throws for the Wildcats. That energetic play seemed to be a spark for the team, as Fall Mountain outscored Hanover by eight in the final four minutes, including two three pointers in the last 30 seconds, from Bardis and Pickering.
“They fought. They played really hard,” Baird-Torney said. “And that’s what they needed to do when things started to get away.
“Every year, in a game like this, I can get a really good feel for our team depending on how we end those games,” Baird-Torney added. “Do we just pack it in and say it wasn’t our night and start with the excuses? Or are we going to fight until the end and leave a bad taste in their mouths? And the girls made the right decision tonight.”
The Wildcats will have another crack at Hanover when they visit the Marauders Friday at 5:30 p.m.
“It can really go either way next time,” Stewart said. “We have to keep up our energy at practice and keep working just as hard so that on Friday we can actually secure it.”