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Big Fourth Quarter Sends Tigers Past Cougars

Newport — Newport, down by nine points to start the fourth quarter, went on a 26-point rampage to pull out a 44-41 win over Kearsarge in a New Hampshire Division III girls game last night at Wheeler Gym.

It was the opener for both teams.

Newport first-year coach Dave Muzzey couldn’t say “wow” enough after the game as he began his varsity coaching career with a blood pressure-raising, down-to-the-wire win.

Muzzey is the math department chairman at Keasarge High School and one of his teachers is Kurt McCandless — the Cougars’ coach. Muzzey has also coached golf at Kearsarge for 14 years, but admitted he had never been in a frenzied situation like the one he encountered in the fourth quarter last night.

“Never anything like this,” he said in a still-anxious state long after the game was over.

Newport had a bunch of heroes down the stretch, but hero No. 1 was Ashley Plante, who had 10 points in the last 4:50 to bring the Tigers into contention.

“I don’t know what happened.” said Plante. I just know that there was a lot of early nerves and I just kept telling myself to relax.”

“Ashley works hard at her game and she can make shots,” said Muzzey.

Plante finished up with 13 points.

Another secret to the win was clamping down on Kearsarge’s Anna Cahill, who had 17 points, but just one in the final 4:24.

“We knew we had to shut her down,” said Muzzey. “She was killing us.”

The atmosphere in Wheeler Gym was intense as both schools were well represented. For a long while it looked like Kearsarge would have a pretty easy time of it as the Cougars steadily built up a nine-point lead with eight minutes to go. As it turned out, however, the first three periods were just the appetizer. The main course was on the way.

The comeback began when Newport made five free throws to cut the lead to 31-26. Plante then hit a put-back shot and it was a 31-28 ball game with 4:50 to go. The teams were never separated by more than three points the rest of the way, and with 1:52 to play the Cougars were clinging to a 40-37 lead.

Then perhaps the most important shot of the night was made as Newport’s Hannah Merrow sank a 3-point shot from the side to tie the game at 40. Kearsarge, still had a chance to pull the game out, but the Cougars missed five of six free throws.

With 47 seconds left, Newport took a 42-40 lead when Darien Hubert made two free throws. Cahill made one of two to make it 42-41 game and with 24.4 seconds left, Newport took a timeout. The plan was to hold onto the ball if they could and Kearsarge was unable to foul anyone and with the clock expiring Jen Kidder hit a 2-pointer to account for the final score.

Newport goes to Fall Mountain on Tuesday, when Kearsarge hosts Mascoma.