Second-half run lifts Spartans

MILFORD – Most teams might have folded watching a halftime lead disappear while going scoreless for the first five minutes of the third quarter.

This year’s Milford High School girls basketball team is not most teams.

After No. 8 Pembroke opened the second half with an 8-0 run to take its only lead of the game, No. 1 Milford answered by outscoring the Spartans 26-8 the rest of the way for a 44-28 win in Friday’s Division II quarterfinal.

The win sends Milford to the final four for the second year in a row, something that before last season, hadn’t been done by Spartans team in 30 years. Milford will take on No. 4 Merrimack Valley, which defeated defending champ No. 5 Lebanon, at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Southern New Hampshire University.

“It’s a crazy thing to think about, from where we were my freshman year,” Milford senior Bri Hoffman said. “The program was so low and we turned it around. I’m just so out of my mind right now.”

Hoffman led all scorers Friday with 12 points, including two 3-pointers, the first of which put the Spartans ahead for good, 23-20, with 2:42 left in the third.

The second came early in the fourth quarter to give Milford a little more breathing room, 27-22.

That seemed like a luxury Milford wouldn’t have after the way Pembroke (13-7) opened the second half.

Milford led 18-12 at halftime, but Pembroke was able to go ahead thanks to a putback by Karli Loiselle, a 3-pointer from Hannah Seidner and a three-point play by Aleanna Clermont.

“We had a lull starting the third quarter,” Milford coach Steve Signor said. “We didn’t play defense as well as we should have, we had some turnovers on offense, allowing them to get 10 points.

“A big part of that was having Jen Dupuis off the floor. She had three fouls and get the third one late in the second. Not starting her in the third changed our continuity there. She’s our No. 1 defender on our rotations.”

The Spartans gameplanned to force Seidner to take difficult shots and keep Loiselle from getting into the high post, and after that run, they were able to.

Pembroke went more than eight minutes with just two points, as Milford got out to a 31-22 lead.

“Seidner hit a couple of 3s, but for the most part we contained her from taking good, quality shots,” Signor said. “That was a big focus, and the other was locking down on (Loiselle) when she came to the high post. We want to limit them to one shot, but we want to make a difficult shot. I think we did a pretty good job.”