Despite the fact that it started the 2015-16 Division I basketball season with a perfect 4-0 record before Christmas, the youthful Pinkerton Academy girls’ hoop squad is definitely still very much a work in progress. And veteran coach Lani Buskey won’t hesitate to tell you so.
The Lady Astros’ performances in their two wins in their inaugural Christmas tournament in Derry last week stood as prime examples of what Buskey is still seeking from her charges.
In the squad’s 45-28 defeat of Windham on the first night of the tournament on Monday, Dec. 28, the Lady Astros’ offense was tentative and Buskey was left reminding her cagers that she wanted all of the players on the squad to see themselves as offensive weapons who are constantly capable of posting points.
Two nights later – Wednesday, Dec. 30 – the tourney hosts faced a Division III Pelham High Lady Pythons’ bunch that might have literally had trouble hitting the broad side of a barn with a basketball from a distance of just five feet during the first half of what turned into a 45-24 Pinkerton victory.
Pelham hit the game’s first basket and then missed its next 16 shots from the floor and managed to sink just two of its next 24 tries. And the Lady Astros led by tallies of 9-2 after one period and 19-11 at halftime after playing sub-par hoop itself during those two periods.
The PA lead could conceivably have been in the twenties at the break fairly easily, had the hosts played even a bit better.
Case in point, Pelham shot a poor 3-for-12 from the field in the second quarter, while Pinkerton hit just three of its 15 shots during that same span.
The Lady Astros took 21 shots from the field in the third quarter and sank just three more of them, while Pelham only attempted eight shots during that period and hit half of them. Hence, the PA lead was still quite modest (27-18) rolling into the fourth quarter.
The Lady Pythons trimmed their deficit down to five points by netting the first four of the fourth period, but the Pinkerton girls finally put forth the fire and intensity that Buskey sought during the remainder of the game with the win on the line by netting 18 of the last 20 points.
Senior forward and co-captain Sara McLeman showed both her skills and leadership abilities during the decisive final stanza by scoring 10 of her squad’s points and playing intense defense. McLeman’s 14 points led the winning team, while Amanda Lemire contributed nine and Brooke Kane added six.
While she was pleased with her squad’s intense finish, Buskey warned that her bunch absolutely needs to put forth more complete performances much sooner than later if it’s to be a force in its league.
“It was good to see us score 18 of the last 20 (points), but there are a lot of Division I teams who we won’t be able to have that kind of rally against,” said the coach. “I have a team that’s not playing full games yet, and that’s a problem.”