×

Littleton stonewalls Woodsville in D-IV semifinals

  • Woodsville's Emily Prest (4) moves the ball past Littleton's Jasmine Brown (25) during the NHIAA Division IV semifinals game at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, N.H., on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Woodsville's Olivia Sarkis (14) tries to get around Littleton's Laney Hadlock (24) during the NHIAA Division IV semifinals game at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, N.H., on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Head coach Russ Wilcox talks to the Woodsville girls basketball team during halftime of the NHIAA Division IV semifinals game against Littleton at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, N.H., on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. At halftime, Littleton led, 16 to 12. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 27, 2019

HOLDERNESS, N.H. — Maybe, just maybe, third time is a charm for the Woodsville High girls basketball team.

The No. 4-seeded Engineers ran into a brick wall named Littleton in the NHIAA Division IV semifinals at Plymouth State University’s John C. Foley Gymnasium on Wednesday, falling 46-31 against the division’s undefeated top seed. It was Woodsville’s second consecutive defeat in the semis, falling to eventual-champion Hinsdale last season. The Engineers have never appeared in a state championship game in school history.

This time, said fifth-year head coach Russ Wilcox, the result came down to a lack of execution.

“We lost. We didn’t come here to do that so I’m pissed off,” Wilcox said. “We should have played better. We needed to move the ball. We didn’t do the things we worked in practice the other day.

“Their 1-2-2 trap — which is fantastic, the best you’ll ever see — still, we didn’t beat it the way we were supposed to beat it. I guess we have a lot to work on.”

Littleton enters the D-IV final with an unblemished 21-0 record this winter. It faces No. 3 Hinsdale — a rematch of last year’s championship game — on Friday.

“We had to redeem ourselves from last year,” Littleton head coach Dale Prior said. “That’s not taking away anything from last year’s team, they deserved to be there. Hinsdale played better than us in the championship. It’s just really good for this team to stay focused all season. We’re one of the last two teams standing, it just happens to be the same teams as last year.”

Woodsville, with only one senior on its roster, held the Cougars at bay in the first half before Littleton opened the flood gates.

The Engineers led, 9-6, after the first quarter, including seven points from sophomore center Oliva Sarkis. She finished with a team-high 15 points and eight rebounds in the loss.

But Littleton — which scored 70 points in a 70-15 victory over No. 8 Derryfield in the quarterfinals late last week — woke up in the second quarter, outscoring Woodsville, 25-9, over the next two quarters to build a comfortable lead. Senior Laney Hadlock paced the Cougars with 13 points and senior Lexi Walker added 11.

“Not executing, forcing the ball into places we’re not supposed to force the ball to and not playing defense for three possessions in the second quarter. We gave up six points,” Wilcox said. “We gave up 18 points (in the first half), but six of them were on back cuts that we were supposed to defend.

“Credit to them. That’s a super, super team. … They’re everything. They’re big, they’re fast, they shoot, they don’t miss free throws, they’re very well coached.”

Wilcox’s Engineers seem to make running into D-IV’s super teams a habit; they’ve gotten the short end of meetings with Sunapee — which won three straight titles from 2015-17 — multiple times in the postseason over the last five years.

“Littleton plays differently than Sunapee does; they just do everything fundamentally right,” Wilcox said. “Sunapee won because they were really talented kids. Not saying Littleton kids aren’t, but they play really good basketball … they run really nice sets.”

Littleton added five steals — four in the second half — and was a perfect 11-for-11 from the free throw line – all in the fourth quarter — to secure its third trip to the state final in four seasons. The Cougars have not won a state title since 2012.

“We just went to a set that we’re pretty comfortable with where one of our point guards is flashing to the free throw line,” Prior said. “Laney (Hadlock) made some jump shots, got by (Olivia) Sarkis once. Jasmine (Brown), she’s our best facilitator. She just found the right person.

“I think that was the difference,” he added. “The first quarter, we were really hestitant to shoot. The second quarter we shot a lot better.”

Woodsville’s Morgan Wagstaff scored seven points and five rebounds and Mackenzie Kingsbury added five points and three rebounds off the bench. The Engineers, who shot 3-for-9 from the free throw line and 30.2 percent from the floor, graduate only Eliza Cowell off its roster in the offseason.

“Our goal is going to be the same as it was this year: win a state championship,” Wilcox said. “Not fulfilling our goal is hard.

“Maybe third time’s a charm. We’ll have to play better.”

The Engineers finish their season 17-4 overall.

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