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Young Hanover Hoops Team Optimistic Despite Opening Loss 

  • Hanover’s Cathleen Beliveau reaches low to get a hand on the ball, controlled by Hollis-Brookline’s Lindsey Beauregard during their game in Hanover last night. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Hanover’s Cathleen Beliveau reaches low to get a hand on the ball, controlled by Hollis-Brookline’s Lindsey Beauregard during their game in Hanover last night. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hanover’s Holly Schlosser is fouled on her way to the basket by Hollis-Brookline’s Michaela Dowling. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Hanover’s Holly Schlosser is fouled on her way to the basket by Hollis-Brookline’s Michaela Dowling. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lexie Hamilton and the Hanover Marauders fell to Hollis-Brookline in their season opener last night. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Lexie Hamilton and the Hanover Marauders fell to Hollis-Brookline in their season opener last night. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hanover’s Cathleen Beliveau reaches low to get a hand on the ball, controlled by Hollis-Brookline’s Lindsey Beauregard during their game in Hanover last night. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Hanover’s Holly Schlosser is fouled on her way to the basket by Hollis-Brookline’s Michaela Dowling. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Lexie Hamilton and the Hanover Marauders fell to Hollis-Brookline in their season opener last night. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Hanover — Football fans in New York, Philadelphia and Dallas are already bemoaning the realization that their teams will have to combat Washington rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III twice a season for years to come.

The only thing keeping Hanover High’s Lexie Hamilton from doing the same thing to NHIAA Division II girls basketball — if one evening can be extrapolated into a career — is graduation.

In four years.

A freshman point guard, Hamilton displayed the promise of things to come for both herself and the Marauders in a season-opening 66-55 girls basketball loss to Hollis-Brookline at Hanover High School last night. For her varsity debut, Hamilton produced a 16-point, 10-assist performance, adding five rebounds and five steals to announce that Hanover’s offense is on its way to becoming a strength again.

The down side: The Marauders remain a young squad, with just one senior on the roster. An 18-2 squad last winter with eight seniors back, the Cavaliers (1-0) used their experience as a lever to build a double-digit lead that even a frantic final 4½ minutes couldn’t undo.

“I thought, for opening the season, we played well at times,” Hanover coach Dan O’Rourke said. “We focused a lot on offense in the preseason and, from a positive note, we put 55 points on the board, which last year we struggled to score. Now we have to work on our defense and shore it up a little.”

After surrendering six of the game’s first eight points, Hollis-Brookline used a pair of runs to gain permanent control. The visitors scored 11 of the final 12 points produced in the opening quarter for a 13-7 lead, then employed an 8-0 charge early in the second to take the lead to double digits. The Marauders (0-1) didn’t get the gap back below 10 points until the final minute of play.

That was more than enough time for Hamilton to display the kind of skills Hanover will require to improve from last year, when its 37.6 points-per-game average played a significant role in an 11-11 campaign and an early exit from the NHIAA D-II state tournament.

“We’re still young; we have a freshman and three sophomores on the team,” O’Rourke said. “At times, I thought we shot a little too quickly, and I thought one of the keys that led to their getting transition points was we didn’t rebound the ball well. We’d have one shot, they’d get the rebound, go. Then we would give up two or three shots or opportunities, and … I think they hit almost every open shot.”

Hamilton wasn’t so fortunate in the early going for Hanover, rimming out a trio of 3-point tries while Hollis got its transition game into gear. Junior Lindsey Beauregard scored nine of her 11 points, including seven in a row, as the Cavaliers ended the opening quarter strong.

It continued in the second. Senior Erin Ackerly (14 points) converted a putback, senior Erin Flaum (team-high 16 points) canned a foul-line jumper and a short runner, and Kellie Messer converted a Beauregard feed on the right blocks for a 21-9 lead with 5:40 left in the half.

H-B owned a 20-12 lead in rebounds — 8-4 on the offensive end — and a 13-2 advantage in second-chance points by halftime, all part and parcel with owning a 29-20 edge. With Hanover fairly even in height, O’Rourke chalked the Cavaliers’ advantages to experience that his Marauders don’t yet possess.

“We lost the game because of the rebounding,” O’Rourke said, “and we put them at the line too much.”

In Hamilton’s hands, however, Hanover appears more capable of putting points on the board.

Besides the freshman, the Marauders have two other outside threats in sophomore J.J. Daniell (13 points) and junior Erica Hinck (15 points), skills that came in handy against a game-long zone defense from Hollis. The Cavs stretched their lead to 16 points after three quarters (46-30), but what could have been a rout didn’t materialize.

After several misfires, Hamilton drained a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter, then turned to feeding teammates when Hollis guards collapsed on her. Hanover turned to full-court pressure with 4:25 to go, and a rash of Cavalier errors enabled Hamilton to feed Hinck and Molly Cornell for buckets to get Hanover to within 11 points at 55-44.

Hamilton later whipped passes to Hinck and Daniell for trifectas, but the Marauders had already resorted to fouling at that point in a late rally attempt. Hollis-Brookline made the Marauders pay by going 18-for-21 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter, part of a 22-for-27 effort from the line all night.

As much as his new point guard influenced Hanover’s offensive fate, there’s one thing O’Rourke likes best about having Hamilton on the floor.

“She’s unselfish, she gets the team involved, she can move the ball well, and the biggest upside to her is she’s a freshman in her first game,” he noted. “There’s not too many freshmen in the state that are going to put those numbers in her first high school game ever.”

Hey, D-II: Might want to keep the Pepto-Bismol handy.

Free Throws: Captain and center Safiya Walker is the Marauders’ only senior. The rest of the varsity roster is made up of six juniors, three sophomores and freshman Hamilton. … Hanover shot 19-for-55 from the field (34.5 percent), a figure held down by 6-for-27 shooting (22.2 percent) from beyond the arc. The Marauders also converted only 11 of 24 attempts from the line. … Hollis-Brookline shot 21-for-56 from the field (37.5 percent). … Hanover visits Goffstown on Tuesday, then hosts Lebanon a week from today as part of the Jim Wechsler Cup girls-boys doubleheader.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.