Fall Mountain girls’ basketball capture their own tourney title

LANGDON, N.H. – The initial MG Holiday Tournament trophy will reside in the Fall Mountain trophy case. In past years, Keene State College has hosted a girls’ basketball tournament. But when Owlville decided not to do the event this year, the Fall Mountain Athletic Department was ready to welcome the tourney with open arms. The Lady Wildcats were either the perfect hosts or not, depending on your point of view. Regardless, they used the comforts of home to their advantage – all the way to the tournament crown. Brian Pickering’s team bested neighboring Monadnock 46-45 in double overtime to capture top honors in Langdon.

Key performers Kendall McAlister and Zoe Utton (pictured) have missed time to injury and illness respectively. Earlier this campaign, Utton had the all important buzzer beater in a big win over Conant. Photo by Doug MacPhee.

In New Hampshire, tournament games don’t count in the standings. Fall Mountain and Monadnock meet twice during the regular season, and they were scheduled for the first meeting back on Dec. 12, 2017 at Monadnock when Fall Mountain stood 3-0. This winter’s weather got in the way, and the two teams had to postpone the contest until Jan. 26. Thus, the first meeting doesn’t count unless you want to be the champion of the first annual MG Tourney. In reality, the bet here is that both sides believe the game counts.

The final was a thriller between the two programs. Pickering’s team trailed the defending state champions 36-33 in the waning moments of the title game. Freshman Sophie Bardis found the ball in her possession with the clock winding down in the final seconds of the contest. She released a three, hoping to tie the proceedings. That is exactly what happened as her shot tickled the twine with 5 seconds to play and the rivals were headed to overtime, tied at 36.

Both teams tallied 4 points in the first overtime, and then the Wildcats outscored the Huskies 4-3 in the second overtime to make the difference. Chryssy Craig led Fall Mountain in scoring with 15 points, while Zoey Luopa and Bardis each contributed 10.

To reach the finals, the Fall Mountain team had to get by both Sunapee and Hinsdale. They beat the Lakers 55-20 before outrunning the Pacers down the stretch 56-36 in the semi-finals. The Wildcats led 14-2, following the first stanza of the Sunapee game and really didn’t have a challenge, but the Pacers proved to be much tougher.

Fall Mountain did run away with it in the final period, but this was a tight game for three periods. They trailed 16-12 at the quarter, had moved ahead 24-23 at the half, and had a small cushion of 38-34 at the third before blitzing their opponent 18-2 in the final 8 minutes.

Luopa paced the 11-person scoring attack with a team high 12 in the Sunapee victory, while Morgan Beauregard, Luopa, and Bardis tossed in 15, 14, and 11 in the semi-final effort.

The Lady Wildcats now stand 5-0 in the regular season with the latest two triumphs coming at the expense of Franklin 51-23 and Mascoma 44-33 in a pair of home contests in the Den. Fall Mountain raced to an 11-0 advantage in the Franklin game and never looked back. Luopa was high scorer with 15, while Beauregard had a strong night with 14, and Bardis added 8.

The undefeated team was in a catfight so to speak with Mascoma, as the two teams each kept things close enough until the final 8 minutes. An 18-13 halftime advantage was stretched by the winners to 32-21 after the third quarter and was big enough to keep the pressure on the team playing from behind. Craig’s 16 led the scoring column with Luopa adding 7 to the cause.

Pickering is a little surprised his team has played so well, but upon thinking about it, he remarked, “We are blessed to have so much depth. We have respect being behind at times and shown to be resilient and have shared the ball very well to set ourselves up to win some games that have been close.”

Fall Mountain begins the post-holiday part of their schedule, Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018 versus a tough Hopkinton team on the road.

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