From worst to a win: Hanover girls shake off slow start, pull away from rival Lebanon

  • Lebanon High’s Catherine Cole gets behind Hanover’s Melissa Whitmore en route to the rim during the teams’ NHIAA Division II game on Jan. 26, 2022, at Lang Metcalf Gymnasium in Lebanon, N.H. Hanover won, 59-38. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Members of the Lebanon High student section, including senior Colbie Delisle, hands on his head, and C.J. Childs, in sport coat, tie and camouflage hat, react to a referee’s call during an NHIAA Division II girls basketball game against visiting Hanover on Jan. 26, 2022, at Lang Metcalf Gymnasium in Lebanon, N.H. Hanover won, 59-38. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/26/2022 9:22:23 PM
Modified: 1/26/2022 9:21:06 PM

LEBANON — The Hanover High girls basketball team could not have picked a worse time to play what coach Dan O’Rourke called its worst half of the year.

Fortunately for HHS, Hanover followed that up with one of its best.

The unbeaten squad — which, after defeating NHIAA Division I powerhouse Bedford on Jan. 15, could make a claim to be the best in the state — was held to 16 points in the opening two quarters and trailed at rival Lebanon by five.

But Hanover turned up the defensive pressure immediately out of the break, made crisp, clean passes and started to knock down more shots. It all added up to a 59-38 victory as Hanover (14-0) outscored the Raiders (10-6) by 27 in the second half.

“Lebanon had a very good game plan. They were very motivated,” O’Rourke said. “We needed to get back to the basics. We weren’t moving the ball; we weren’t cutting. We just needed to stay focused, stay confident and get back to what we know we do.”

Hanover implemented a full-court press for the first time all season after halftime, and it worked like a charm — the Raiders didn’t get a shot off on several third-quarter possessions, turning the ball over in the backcourt on a few occasions. With so much of Hanover’s offense coming in transition, Lebanon’s two best players, senior guard Catherine Cole and senior center Ella Longacre, quickly found themselves in foul trouble.

Longacre picked up her fourth foul less than three minutes into the second half, and Hanover took advantage. With the Raiders’ best post player on the bench, Hanover grabbed offensive rebound after offensive rebound, setting up open shots for players like junior guard Stella Galanes and sophomore guard Sydney McLaughlin.

“The second half, we just came out with a different intensity,” said Galanes, who finished with 15 points. “This is a hard place to win, and it’s definitely hard when they’re keying on you like that. We brought up our defensive intensity, and that led to easy buckets on the other end.”

Senior Melissa Whitmore, listed as a guard despite being the tallest player on the roster at 6-foot-1, led Hanover with 19 points, including 13 in the second half. Whitmore was a force in the post but also made a couple 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help Hanover pull away.

Cole had 18 points for Lebanon, but she was clearly gassed down the stretch and fouled out with a minute and a half to go.

“She’s frustrated,” Raiders coach Chris Boucher said. “We really pushed her today.”

Hanover had outscored Lebanon, 19-4, in the third before Cole beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer. The fourth was more of the same, with McLaughlin and then Whitmore hitting from distance on consecutive trips down the floor to extend the lead from seven to 13.

This was the first of three games in as many days for the Raiders — they head to Milford on Thursday and host Manchester West on Friday. Hanover travels to Sanborn on Friday before a rematch with Lebanon on its home floor on Monday.

“These are the games we need,” O’Rourke said. “We’re not going to blow every team out, especially in the playoffs, so we need to learn  to handle adversity when things aren’t going our way. I was very proud of how the kids in the second half were able to refocus and not be bothered by how poorly we played in the first half.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.




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