AMHERST – Mike Heaney has always thought that being a part of a team meant being a part of something bigger than one’s self.
On Saturday, the Souhegan High School girls basketball coach got to see that belief in action.
Both the boys and girls basketball teams hosted Tony’s Games, a doubleheader against Hanover that also served as a fundraiser for the Tony Barksdale Memorial Scholarship. Barksdale, a Souhegan graduate and former basketball player, died last March.
The games had originally been scheduled for Friday, but with school canceled in Amherst, the games were pushed back a day. And while both Souhegan teams lost to the Marauders – the girls by a score of 59-42, the boys 46-40 – the day was otherwise a success.
“What was cool about it was that the girls got excited and got behind it,” Heaney said. “Some of the girls kind of knew him, but most of them didn’t. They loved the idea of basketball supporting something bigger and they know how special it was to me.”
Heaney, who had coached the boys team while Barksdale was at Souhegan, joined with the school to begin the scholarship at the end of last season. It was only open to boys players that first year, but this time around, its open to both girls and boys who are on the basketball teams.
“It’s part of the Souhegan Scholarship Foundation umbrella,” Heaney said. “We wanted to keep it simple (for applicants). They have to write a one-page essay about how they believe they honor Tony’s spirit. It was easy for the boys last year, but what’s neat is that (down the road) they’re going to have to ask teachers or ask me about Tony. They’ll have to learn about him a little bit.”
Both Souhegan teams wore T-shirts with Barksdale’s No. 42 on the back, and similar T-shirts were on sale. There was also a raffle for various items, something the girls team had done in the past as part of a fan appreciation night.
Saturday’s efforts raised almost $1,000 for the scholarship, which Heaney said would take care of this year and will give it a reserve for future years. Barksdale’s family will also be holding a benefit concert in April to raise money for the scholarship.
“It’s not going to put a huge dent in someone’s tuition,” Heaney said. “But maybe it covers books or some of the dorm.”
GIRLS: HANOVER 59, SOUHEGAN 42
In the girls game, Hanover’s Lexie Hamilton scored a game-high 20 points, including six 3-pointers, and Eileen Daley added 17 points to give the Marauders (12-2) sole possession of second place in Division II.
“We were falling apart, making mistakes left and right, and they started to hit shots,” Hanover coach Dan O’Rourke said. “We started to unravel a little. I told them I thought Souhegan was playing harder. I told them ‘stick together’ and I thought we had to attack. In the fourth, offensively, we were aggressive and that’s what we had to do and it worked.”
Hanover turned the ball over nine times in the final 4:14 of the third, and the Sabers (11-3) took full advantage, going on a 12-3 run to cut the deficit from 32-20 to 35-32 at the end of the quarter.
But in the fourth, Souhegan ran out of gas.
“One of the really difficult things for teams when you dig a hole, you spend so much energy coming back, you don’t have anything left,” Heaney said. “We did that. We had a great third quarter, we cut it two, and you’re exhausted. Then all it takes is a 4-0 run for the other team and it’s a six-point lead and you can’t get back.”
The Marauders scored the first six points of the fourth and opened the quarter with a 12-2 run to take a 47-34 lead with 5:34 left in the game. Souhegan’s Morgan Brady hit a 3 to get it back to a 10-point game, but Hamilton answered with a 3 of her own and the lead never dipped below double digits again.
Brady finished with eight points for the Sabers, while Jaime King had a team-high 12 and Cammie Formby-Lavertu added nine.
It’s the second loss in a row for the Sabers, after they had a seven-game win streak snapped by Hollis Brookline on Feb. 11. Despite the loss, Heaney believes his team will be prepared for the tournament, which starts March 4.
“I was disappointed because, and the scoreboard shows it, we got outplayed,” Heaney said. “I think the good thing is, because we’re senior laden, even if we drop a couple like we have, they’re not going to drop their heads and panic. We’ve talked about this stretch for a while now, that this was a mini-tournament. We’re losing out of it, but it’s getting us ready.”
BOYS: HANOVER 46, SOUHEGAN 40
The Sabers trailed by 13 at halftime, but managed to hold Hanover to just four points in the third quarter. The Marauders (8-5) lead was six, 32-26, going into the final eight minutes and it quickly got back up to 10, but Souhegan (4-10) stuck around until the end.
“They’re not giving up and they’re playing hard,” Souhegan coach Peter Pierce said. “We’re always preaching as a program that ever possession matters. You keep saying it and you drill it home, but it’s never more apparent than in a close game, when you look up and you’re only down by a possession or two at the end and you don’t win. That’s when it comes home and has some gravity.”
Two free throws by Rocco Linehan (14 points) gave the Marauders a 36-26 lead with 5:12 to play, but the Sabers went on a 7-0 run to pull within three on two free throws by Brian Dworkin. After John Flory (22 points) hit two free throws to give Hanover a 38-33 lead, Brock Lefebvre for Souhegan to make it a two-point game.
But the Sabers couldn’t get any close, as Hanover made 6 of 8 from the line in the game’s final two minutes.
A.J. Hayes led Souhegan with 13 points, while Dworkin had eight.
“We had plenty of possessions and plenty of opportunities,” Pierce said. “We’re not quite there, but we’re getting closer.”