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After quarterfinal win, Woodsville girls want more

  • Woodsville's Morgan Wagstaff.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, February 21, 2019

HAVERHILL — The streak continues for Woodsville High sophomore Emily Prest and some of her teammates, who has been to five consecutive state semifinals in her five seasons of high school athletics. This time, the Engineers hope for a different ending.

The No. 4 Engineers settled down after a high-scoring first quarter in Thursday night’s NHIAA Division IV girls basketball quarterfinal match against No. 5 Groveton, shutting down the Eagles in the final three quarters in a 56-45 win at Haverhill Cooperative Middle School. Olivia Sarkis scored a game-high 18 points for Woodsville, which improved to 17-3 overall. It gets a date with top-ranked, undefeated Littleton, who beat No. 8 Derryfield, 70-15, in its quarterfinal match on Thursday, in the semis on Wednesday at Plymouth State University.

It is Woodsville’s second semifinal appearance in as many seasons, doing so last year on the backs of senior leaders Molly Clough and Lily Kinder. The pair graduated in the offseason, leaving Engineers’ fifth-year head coach Russ Wilcox with three sophomores and five freshmen newcomers on a 10-player roster.

Wilcox said last year’s seniors set the bar high. His young team has risen up to the challenge.

“Let’s give Molly Clough, Lily Kinder, Alyssa Prest and that whole crew credit for getting these kids ready,” Wilcox said. “When you have that caliber of leaders, they left us a little bit of themselves.”

Woodsville lost to eventual champion Hinsdale at last year’s semis and fell, 57-26, to unblemished Littleton on Jan. 4 in the only regular-season meeting between the two squads. The Engineers’ girls basketball program has never made a state final in school history.

“Last year, I was not very confident,” Prest said. “Like, ‘Wow, I’m starting in a Final Four game?’ It was a lot of pressure; I felt like I had to be good. … I know I have to be good now, but I’m more relaxed. I really feel comfortable with this team. We work so well together.”

The Engineers jumped out to a 8-2 lead early in the first quarter.

But Groveton’s fast-moving offense provided an answer, storming back for a 20-18 lead headed into the second quarter.

Five quick points by freshman Mackenzie Kingsbury — a layup and a 3-pointer — gave Woodsville the lead back a minute into the second stanza, and its defense held the Eagles to five more points in the final eight minutes before halftime. The Engineers led, 31-25, at intermission and never trailed again, stretching the lead to 10 points — at 44-34 — headed into the fourth quarter.

Sophomore Morgan Wagstaff added 11 points for Woodsville, which finished the game 16-for-36 from the free-throw line. Kingsbury added nine points and Prest netted eight in the victory, the team’s seventh in its last eight games.

“They don’t know that they’re young or old; they don’t know what pressure is in a game. They just show up and play,” Wilcox said. “Some nights I lose hair. … Sometimes they go out and play beautiful basketball. The problem is they’re so young, I don’t know what night we’re going to get.”

Luckily, the Engineers have had many more good nights than bad ones this winter.

For Prest, another trip to the semifinal next week will feel begrudgingly familiar. But a chance to knock out undefeated Littleton, and send Woodsville to its first final, is a little too much history to leave on the table.

“This time, I really want it,” Prest said of getting to a final. “It just keeps building.”

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.