Pinkerton Girl Cagers Get as Far as the D-I Semifinals

For the second straight season, the Pinkerton Academy girls’ basketball squad got as far as the Division I tournament’s semifinal round before seeing its title hopes wilt on the vine.

Coach Lani Buskey’s fifth-ranked Lady Astros got within spitting distance of the D-I title game Monday night, March 9, at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester but were eliminated by the ninth-seeded Winnacunnet High Lady Warriors of Hampton in a frustrating 48-41 semifinal-round decision.

Winnacunnet’s girls had disposed of the top-seeded Bedford High Lady Bulldogs a round earlier, and they’ll try to pull off a feat that’s nearly as impressive by besting the second-ranked but injury-addled Londonderry High Lady Lancers in the D-I title contest this Friday night at SNHU.

In that semifinal battle, Pinkerton led 15-14 after one quarter, 30-20 at halftime, 37-28 going into quarter four, and 39-36 with 3:35 showing on the game clock.

But the Lady Astros experienced loads of trouble trying to score in the second half – tallying only 11 points to the Lady Warriors’ 28 during the third and fourth quarters – and they were overtaken by their upset-minded opponents late in the fourth period as their 2014-15 campaign was brought to a close.

“You can’t score 11 points and allow the other team to score 28 and expect to win. You can’t win that way,” said Buskey. “We had open opportunities on offense and the ball didn’t go in, and we didn’t get the job done on the defensive end.”

PA senior star Val Martin ended her high school career with a strong night, netting a game-high 18 points, snagging 11 rebounds, and making seven steals. Fellow 12th-grader Jaime Caron was good for eight points, five boards, and three steals on a tough evening for the locals.

Pinkerton had reached the semis by besting number 12 Salem in Derry and then fourth-ranked Bishop Guertin in Nashua .

The Astros began their involvement in the 2014-15 tournament Tuesday night, March 3, with a 60-44 first-round thumping of the 12th-seeded Salem High Lady Blue Devils in Derry.

The Astros had bounced Salem out of its home gym by a 68-30 tally when the teams had a regular-season meeting early in the new year, and although the Lady Astros’ tournament defeat of the Lady Devils wasn’t quite as lopsided, it was a solid victory nonetheless.

Pinkerton led 14-10 after one quarter, 27-19 at the half, and 45-32 rolling into the final period of play.

Pinkerton got points from seven players, with Melissa Martel and Marissa Stacy each netting 14, Jaime Caron and Val Martin each collecting eight, and Emilie Laliberte tallying seven. The victorious locals sank six, three-point shots, with Laliberte and Martel each hitting two.

In its quarterfinal-round, 36-33 edging of Bishop Guertin in Nashua Friday night, March 6, the academy crew had trouble getting the ball to fall through the basket. But Guertin – which had defeated PA by a 52-39 score in Derry in the two teams’ lone regular season meeting on Feb. 20 – also experienced difficulty with getting its shots to drop, and part of the trouble was created by the Lady Astros’ intense defensive effort throughout the battle.

Pinkerton led 8-7 after one quarter and 16-13 at the half, but the host Lady Cardinals were up by a point (23-22) going into the fourth quarter before the academy side put forth clutch work to squeak out the win.

“We had a real simple game plan. We needed to have more than one (scoring) attempt every time we had the ball, and (BG) couldn’t have more than one chance every time they had the ball,” said coach Lani Buskey. “And our girls accomplished that probably 80 percent of the time tonight.”

BG sank only two of the 12 shots it attempted from the floor in the first period, while the Lady Astros only put home two of their nine shots from the field during those eight minutes as they ended up grasping the 8-7 lead.

It continued to look as though there were invisible lids on both hoops in period two, as the two sides combined to hit just two of the first 13 shots they attempted from the floor.

The Lady Astros wound up going 5-for-23 from the floor in the first two quarters – with BG 3-for-23 – as the locals grasped the 16-13 advantage at the half.

Pinkerton missed its first 11 shots from the floor in the third quarter, and a 5-0 Guertin run during the last two minutes gave the hosts their tiny 23-22 lead heading into the final stanza.

The score was knotted up at 26-26 early in quarter four, but when PA regained the lead on a Sara McLeman bucket with 5:27 left to go, it never let the lead go again.

Pinkerton never led by a comfortable margin, but Val Martin’s three-point shot with 1:15 left put the locals up by five (36-31) with 1:15 left, and only two more points were scored by BG the rest of the way.

Martin and Marissa Stacy each scored nine points to lead the victors, and Jaime Caron contributed six.