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Marauders’ Momentum Halted in Opening-Round Loss

Hanover — The Hanover High girls basketball team won eight of their last 10 regular-season games to clinch the No. 7 seed and a home game in the first round of the New Hampshire Division II tournament.

Unfortunately for the Marauders, they couldn’t finish as strong against Merrimack Valley last night.

Doubled up 18-9 in the fourth quarter by the Pride, the Marauders faded in a 47-43 loss.

No. 10 Merrimack Valley (12-7 league) avenged an earlier loss to Hanover and moves on to play at No. 2 Portsmouth in Friday’s quarterfinals. The Clippers beat No. 15 Oyster River last night, 55-34.

Hanover (15-7; 12-7 league) — which beat the Pride in January without leading scorer Lexie Hamilton — led by 14 points in the second quarter, able to pull away after both teams struggled with turnovers and poor shooting in the opening period.

Keyed by a stringent full court press and fast break production from Hamilton (nine of 11 points in first half) and JJ Daniell (eight of 13), the Marauders appeared poised to keep its impressive late-season run alive.

Hanover was 4-4 in league play Jan. 15 before winning eight of 10, including four wins in five road games to start February — two against squads they were jockeying with for playoff positioning.

“All year long, we’ve made runs against good basketball teams that showed we could play with anyone in the state,” Hanover coach Dan O’Rourke said.

“Basketball is a game of runs and that’s (what we’ve done to excel). ... There were just some moments tonight, like any playoff game, when only one team makes the plays to win.”

Tied 42-42 with a minute to play, Merrimack Valley’s Jordan Filion heaved up a turnaround 3-pointer that found twine for to give the Pride a three-point lead.

MV had a chance to put the game away on a steal and outlet pass from Erin Frost to Mary Mullen (12 points), but Mullen missed the open layup and Olivia Thurber (11 points) air mailed a follow-up attempt to give it back to Hanover and keep it a 45-42 game.

Hanover junior Eileen Daley hit one of two free throws, the second going out of bounds off a Pride player to give it back to Hanover with 12 seconds remaining.

With Hamilton smothered on the baseline, she dished to Daley for a missed layup. A rebound from Thurber and another outlet pass to Filion drew a shooting foul, and she sank both free throws with less than a second left to ice it.

“It was a wild fourth quarter,” said Pride coach Joe Raycraft, whose team shot just 15-of-57 from the field but hit 15-of-19 free throws. “We missed some shots, they missed some shots, and you could call it an ugly win. We’ll take ugly any time against a good team.”

Having emphasized the importance of rebounding against a taller Merrimack Valley team, the Marauders had a 12-11 advantage on the boards in the first half.

After trailing 8-4 early, the Marauders went on a 24-6 run, with Hamilton scoring nine and Daniell contributing six during the rally.

There were a number of steals and fast break layups executed by Hanover, which went up 28-14 on Erica Hinck’s trey 2:20 before halftime.

Merrimack Valley sparked a 7-0 run heading into the break, going 5-for-5 from the line with the Marauders in foul trouble. Thurber had a 3-point play during the run, which cut it to 28-21 at the break.

MV kept its rally going out of the gate in the third, cutting it to 30-28 on Filion’s 3-pointer. The Marauders turned it over three times in the first three minutes of the half.

“We talked at halftime about trying to come out strong to get (the lead) back to double digits, but we turned it over three straight times instead,” O’Rourke said. “We let them back in the game.”

A basket from Daley and a pair of free throws from Molly Cornell got it back to a two-possession game at the start of the fourth, but the Pride owned the final period.

Frost gave the visitors a 41-36 lead on a layup before Daniell responded with one last burst for the Marauders.

The sophomore went coast-to-coast for two after pulling down a rebound, then scored on another layup on a feed from Holly Schlosser. A pair of Hamilton free throws tied it 42-42, setting the stage for the Pride’s late rally.

Free Throws: Twenty-two of Merrimack Valley’s 28 rebounds were on the offensive glass. However, the Pride rushed a slew of off-the-mark putback attempts and shot just 15-of-57 from the field. ... Hamilton left the game momentarily with five minutes to play after being fouled hard by Thurber and staying on the floor in pain. ... Hamilton led the Marauders with 10.8 points per game this season while Daniell scored 9.5 per game. ... Safiya Walker, Hanover’s lone senior, scored three points and added seven rebounds in her final game.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.