By Chuck Frye
---- — MANCHESTER – If only the start could have equaled the finish.
To say Windham came out cold for its Division 2 semifinal matchup with Portsmouth would be an understatement. The combination of a fluid zone defense and the daunting frontcourt of 6-3 center Alicia Brown and 6-foot forward Devon Parker turned the Jaguars passive in the first half.
Only after Windham started playing its game – improved ball pressure and forcing the tempo on offense – did the tide start to turn. A 20-point, third-quarter advantage slowly melted down to four with 1:16 left in the game but, unfortunately, time and possessions ran out for Windham, which fell in the semis for the second straight year, 47-41 at Southern New Hampshire University.
Fourth-seed Portsmouth (now 18-3) will take on the winner of the Lebanon/Milford nightcap Friday night, while No. 3 Windham finishes at 18-6.
“In the first half, we were settling. We weren’t playing our brand of basketball,” said Jags head coach Joe Mason of a 14-percent effort (3 for 21, 3 for 13 on 3-pointers). “We were just looking to outshoot them. We live and die with the 3.”
And while Windham was struggling, Portsmouth’s twin towers were flourishing with 19 points and 14 rebounds combined en route to a 27-11 halftime lead. And when Christina Jones (10 points) muscled in a layup with 5½ minutes left in the third, the Clippers held their largest lead at 33-13.
But Windham broke out of its malaise when it extended an effective zone trap and started looking for points in the paint. Two hoops from Bernadette Connors (11 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals) powered an 8-0 third-quarter run, and six points from Amanda Schiebel (team-high 13 points) drove a 9-4 spurt late in the fourth that drew the Jaguars within four at 45-41.
“We showed heart and courage in the second half,” said Mason. “We did a better job attacking the seams of their zone and playing better transition defense. We had to get back to basics, good defensive pressure and not let No. 22 (Brown, who finished with a game-high 17 points and 11 boards) get her spot.”
But a trap-beating layup from Parker (15 points) extended the lead to six, and Windham’s last gasp, extended by offensive rebounds from Brianna Angelini and Amanda Schiebel, ended in a steal by Phoebe Collins that tapped out the clock.
“All of the credit for the success of the program goes to the kids,” Mason concluded. “All of our seniors (Amanda and Kelsey Schiebel along with Connors) were three-year players and true role models. They put in all the hard work off-season and in-season and made us what we are.”
agateHed:Portsmouth 47, Windham 41
agateText:Division 2 semifinals
agateText:at Southern N.H. University, Manchester
agateText:Portsmouth (47)@zzAgate:agateText:: Alicia Brown 8 1-4 17, Devon Parker 7 1-2 15, Christina Jones 5 0-2 10, Tighe Loch 0 3-5 3, Phoebe Collins 1 0-0 2, Brittany Linane 0 0-0 0, Abigail Salvadore 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 5-13 47
agateText:Windham (41)@zzAgate:agateText:: Amanda Schiebel 5 0-0 13, Bernadette Connors 5 1-2 11, Clairee Putnam 2 4-4 8, Brianna Angelini 2 2-3 6, Kelsey Schiebel 1 0-0 3, Amanda Carey 0 0-0 0, Danielle Fischer 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 7-9 41
agateText:3-pointers@zzAgate:agateText:: W — A. Schiebel 3, K. Schiebel
agateText:Portsmouth (18-3)@zzAgate:agateText:: 14 13 8 12 — 47
agateText:Windham (18-6)@zzAgate:agateText:: 3 8 10 20 — 41