The Keene girls basketball team came in with energy and took an early lead on Nashua North, but the Titans chipped away and eventually held on for a 47-42 win over the Blackbirds Friday night in Purbeck Gym.
Junior Marin Shaffer finished with a game-high and career-high 18 points to go along with her three steals and a block, but North’s offensive push in the second half proved to be too much for the young Blackbirds defense.
North junior Olivia Mazerolle led the way for the Titans, scoring 14 points, including the team’s first eight points and ten of the team’s 13 first-quarter points to keep them around early.
Once others like freshman Aiden Walker (12 points) and junior Grace Cardin (10 points) started contributing, the Titans took the lead and kept the offensive pressure.
The Blackbirds were never out of it, even cutting the deficit to just three points with two minutes to play after junior Ashlyn Smith hit the front end of a one-and-one, but North immediately responded with four quick points to extend its lead back to seven with just one minute to play.
Shaffer had a few big shots in the fourth quarter to keep Keene within arm’s reach: a three-point shot followed by a quick jumper from sophomore Ivy Keating to cut into North’s lead, then an and-1 later in the quarter to again prevent North from pulling away.
“She’s relentless,” said Keene head coach Stacey Massiah. “She’s tough. Especially in the preseason, she’s been doing really well. She’s a leader on the court and off the court. That’s why she’s one of our captains.”
“We were definitely very positive in our game,” Shaffer said. “This’ll be a good year. Everyone has a lot of energy and positivity.”
But every time Keene got within striking distance, North had an answer and used those four points in the last two minutes to finalize the season-opening win.
“They definitely wanted it more than we did,” Massiah said. “But a few little bumps and we’re there. Back to work tomorrow. Our motto is, after midnight tonight, don’t even think about the game.”
Junior Cadance Gilbert scored five points in her Keene debut after transferring from Brattleboro Union High School, bringing down five rebounds and recording three steals and two blocks.
“She got acclimated this summer,” Massiah said. “These girls have welcomed her with open arms. She loves to pass the ball.”
“She’s fitting right in,” Shaffer said. “I’m so happy she’s on the team, she’s amazing.”
All in all, the Blackbirds forced 15 steals and 10 blocks.
“I’m proud of the girls, they gave 110 percent,” Massiah said. “Great effort.”
Keene (0-1) has the weekend off before traveling to Concord on Monday. The Blackbirds will play their next three games on the road, before returning home on Dec. 20 against Goffstown.