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Mascoma Girls Stand Tall, Win Home Opener

  • Mascoma's Alex Van Zandt reaches for the rebound while trailed by Kearsarge's Anna Cahill during the Kearsarge at Mascoma girls basketball game in Canaan, N.H., on Dec. 10, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Mascoma's Alex Van Zandt reaches for the rebound while trailed by Kearsarge's Anna Cahill during the Kearsarge at Mascoma girls basketball game in Canaan, N.H., on Dec. 10, 2013.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kearsarge's Morgan Johnson keeps the ball from flying out of bounds while trailed by Mascoma's Kaycee Lashua during the Kearsarge at Mascoma girls basketball game in Canaan, N.H., on Dec. 10, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Kearsarge's Morgan Johnson keeps the ball from flying out of bounds while trailed by Mascoma's Kaycee Lashua during the Kearsarge at Mascoma girls basketball game in Canaan, N.H., on Dec. 10, 2013.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mascoma's Alex Van Zandt reaches for the rebound while trailed by Kearsarge's Anna Cahill during the Kearsarge at Mascoma girls basketball game in Canaan, N.H., on Dec. 10, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Kearsarge's Morgan Johnson keeps the ball from flying out of bounds while trailed by Mascoma's Kaycee Lashua during the Kearsarge at Mascoma girls basketball game in Canaan, N.H., on Dec. 10, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

West Canaan — Early season play doesn’t normally elicit brilliant execution, and Tuesday night’s girls basketball matchup between New Hampshire Division III rivals Kearsarge and Mascoma was right on par.

The teams combined for 48 turnovers and struggled shooting from both the floor and the free-throw line as the Royals escaped with a 48-43 win in their home opener.

Mascoma (2-0) never led by double digits against a much-improved team in the Cougars (1-1), who matched last year’s win total with a victory in Friday’s season opener against Newport. Kearsarge, which returns all five starters, received a game-high 19 points from its lone senior, Anna Cahill, who drained five 3-pointers.

The Royals countered with a career-high 14 points and 10 rebounds from 5-foot-9 senior Lindsey Thompson, 10 points from fellow senior tri-captain Alex Van Zandt and seven points with a game-high 13 rebounds from 5-11 junior center Michaela Selinga.

Despite a lofty height advantage, Mascoma held just a 17-16 rebounding edge in the first half as the Cougars hustled underneath. The Royals appeared more inspired in the second half and ended up with a 34-31 rebound advantage for the night.

Mascoma led at halftime, 22-15, despite 13 turnovers.

“We had too many unforced turnovers in the first half, where we just had bad passes and bad plays,” said Mascoma coach Mike Neily. “In the second half, we did a better job on the boards and did a better job handling the ball.”

Mascoma never trailed, opening with an 8-2 run to build its largest lead until the final minute of the second period. Selinga and Amanda Guerin hit jump shots and Guerin found Van Zandt for a baseline layup during the run before Cahill countered with a 3 and layup for Kearsarge to make it 10-7.

After turning it over too many times running sets during the first four minutes of the second quarter, Mascoma turned to the fast break before halftime and got the lead back to six. Thompson scored three straight hoops for the Royals during a 6-2 run to make it 18-12.

“This team can run, and we don’t have to play set offenses if we execute (in transition),” Neily said. “Usually, we run a triangle offense after we build a good lead, but that never happened tonight.”

The Cougars hit just five field goals in the first half and, even though they pulled down nine offensive rebounds in the first two quarters, they weren’t able to convert many into second-chance points.

“We struggled a little bit (contending with Mascoma’s) height, but if we make four of the wide open layups we missed, we have a lead,” said Kearsarge coach Kurt McCandless. “But we battled and stayed in the game because of our defense, and that’s how it’s going to have to be, night in and night out.”

Turnover troubles for both squads continued early in the third quarter, though Cahill scored a pair of 3s in the first 3:10 to cut the lead back to three. Van Zandt answered for Mascoma with her team’s lone trey of the night to make it 27-21.

Thompson set up Kaycee Lashua for an underhanded layup in the fourth quarter to stretch Mascoma’s lead to eight, but Kearsarge responded with a 6-1 run. Freshman forward Devi Kraushaar set up Morgan Johnson for two, Lexi Bryk had a steal and layup off the bench and Sydney Bryk hit a bank shot to make it 41-38 with 1:55 to play.

Thompson’s hook shot on a feed from Van Zandt made it a six-point game again, but Cahill’s fifth 3-pointer capped a 5-0 Kearsarge spurt to cut it to 44-43 with a 1:00 left.

Another 3-point attempt by Cahill with 44 seconds remaining was off the mark, and Mascoma was able to hold on while shooting 4-of-8 from the free throw line in the final minute.

“We didn’t have the best shooting night tonight, but our defense helped compensate,” said Thompson.

Added Van Zandt: “We definitely need to work on our passing.”

Free Throws: Mascoma point guard Danielle Jones, normally a starter, scored four points off the bench while recovering from an ankle sprain. ... Mascoma’s Guerin was held to two points after scoring 14 in the Royals’ season-opening win at Inter-Lakes on Friday. ... Both teams shot under 30 percent from the floor, the Royals hitting 17-of-57 field goals and Kearsarge 13-of-56. ... Mascoma was just 13-of-30 from the free throw line (.433), while the Cougars were 12-of-21 (.571). ... Referee Gary Bean thanked Mascoma fans for helping to raise nearly $5,000 to assist former Royals girls hoops coach Ed Kehoe at the Hoop It Up jamboree at Mascoma on Nov. 29. Bean helped organize the event, which went to Kehoe to assist with expenses in his battle with brain cancer.

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