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Cards Soar in Opener

Stevens Pulls Away From Hillsboro

  • Stevens center Morgan Busby brings down a rebound over Hillsboro-Deering defenders during their game at Stevens High in Claremont, N.H., on December 6, 2013. The Cardinals won the game 50-26. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

    Stevens center Morgan Busby brings down a rebound over Hillsboro-Deering defenders during their game at Stevens High in Claremont, N.H., on December 6, 2013. The Cardinals won the game 50-26. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Stevens guard Alexis Melcher dribbles past Hillsboro-Deering's Bridgette Winters during their match at Stevens High in Claremont, N.H., on December 6, 2013. The Cardinals won the game 50-26. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

    Stevens guard Alexis Melcher dribbles past Hillsboro-Deering's Bridgette Winters during their match at Stevens High in Claremont, N.H., on December 6, 2013. The Cardinals won the game 50-26. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Stevens guard Cheyenne Kemper, center, tries to advance past Hillsboro-Deering defenders during their game at Stevens High in Claremont, N.H., on December 6, 2013. The Cardinals won the game 50-26. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

    Stevens guard Cheyenne Kemper, center, tries to advance past Hillsboro-Deering defenders during their game at Stevens High in Claremont, N.H., on December 6, 2013. The Cardinals won the game 50-26. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Stevens center Morgan Busby brings down a rebound over Hillsboro-Deering defenders during their game at Stevens High in Claremont, N.H., on December 6, 2013. The Cardinals won the game 50-26. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)
  • Stevens guard Alexis Melcher dribbles past Hillsboro-Deering's Bridgette Winters during their match at Stevens High in Claremont, N.H., on December 6, 2013. The Cardinals won the game 50-26. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)
  • Stevens guard Cheyenne Kemper, center, tries to advance past Hillsboro-Deering defenders during their game at Stevens High in Claremont, N.H., on December 6, 2013. The Cardinals won the game 50-26. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

Claremont — Opening night always brings with it the jitters. That’s what the Stevens High girls basketball team was experiencing in the first half of its debut with Hillsboro-Deering on Friday night at Carr Gym. Fortunately, the halftime break calmed the nerves and the Cardinals went to an easy 50-26 victory.

“We have a goal each game to get more than 40 points and hold the opposition to under 30, and we did that tonight,” Stevens coach Ross Dole said.

Dole was surprised by the amount of space Stevens senior sharpshooter Alexis Melcher had to fire away. Melcher has long had a reputation of making the 3-pointer, and she had four last night, without a hand in her face, on her way to a 20-point night. One particular shot showed it was her night as the left-hander somehow banked a 3 from near the corner.

“Yes, I did think they would have guarded her closer,” Dole said.

While Melcher had the big night, she wasn’t alone. Junior Maddy Whipple had a nine-point game, and some hefty board work was done by Amerin McCall and Morgan Busby. Dole was also pleased with the game sophomore Emily Varnkham gave him off the bench.

“You certainly have to have some depth to go anywhere in this division and Emily had a nice night,” said Dole.

Stevens lost to Hillsboro-Deering last year and Hillcat coach Bill Warnken, who once coached the Stevens varsity boys, was unsure just what happened.

“We just stopped playing offense and defense in the second half,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

What was perhaps most impressive was the Stevens defense, which allowed the Hillcats just nine field goals all night.

“We’ve been working on that, and it was a good thing we had some defense in the first half, because we certainly had some jitters,” Dole said.

The first half was not one that could be used as a training film. Baskets were hard to come by and turnovers piled up at each end of the floor.

The game started changing quickly in the third quarter, as the Cardinals began distancing themselves from the Hillcats with a 13-4 advantage in the period. Melcher had two of her 3-pointers in the quarter.

The game got out of hand in the fourth period, as the lead increased and Hillsboro-Deering continued to have trouble with the Stevens defense. One time an inbounds pass ended up in the hand of Warnken, who was standing in front of his team’s bench.

“How that could happen is beyond me,” he said as he handed the ball to the official.

Hannah Pepper with nine points and Paige Yincent with eight combined for all but nine of Hillsboro-Deering’s points.

Stevens, which is off until next Friday when it goes to Hopkinton, was 9-of-13 from the foul line. Nine different players scored.