Milford’s season ends in semifinals again
MANCHESTER – For the seniors on the Milford High School girls basketball team, Thursday was their third straight trip to the final four.
Ultimately, it was also their final game together, without a trip to the championship game.
The severity of the situation appeared to get to the No. 2 Spartans throughout their semifinal against Goffstown, and it eventually led to a 43-23 loss to the No. 6 Grizzlies at Southern New Hampshire University.
The win sends Goffstown to the final for the first time since winning it all in 1988, while Milford was looking for its first trip to a title game since make the Class L final in 1981. The Grizzlies will face No. 1 Coe-Brown, which held off No. 5 Pembroke 39-32 in the other semifinal, in the championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday at SNHU.
Milford struggled early to score, finishing the first quarter with just three points, and although the Spartans were able to get back in it before halftime, it was more of the same in the second half.
“I think this game was far more emotional than I had anticipated for these girls,” Milford first-year coach Rich Parent said. “Having been here two other times, I don’t think I really appreciated how emotional it was going to be for them to come back.
“To them, this has been sort of a hurdle. I thought we had the experience and we’d do better because Goffstown hadn’t been in this environment and we had.”
Kaitlyn Matthews led Milford (18-3) with eight points and six rebounds as the Spartans shot 16
percent from the field, including 1 of 17 from behind the 3-pointer line. Jess Ryan added six points and four rebounds and Adelle Pitsas had four points and six rebounds.
Goffstown (16-5) got 15 points from Kathryn Howe, as she made five of the Grizzlies’ seven 3-pointers. Sarah Doherty was also in double figures with 11 points and she grabbed seven rebounds as Goffstown outrebounded Milford 38-26.
“I think we’re doing a great job peaking at the right moment,” Goffstown coach Deanna Goodwin said. “We like the team concept and defensively, we really focus on that. A lot of communication, a lot of help, everybody knows there is someone right there to step up and help.”
Goffstown ended the first quarter on a 12-1 run that saw the Grizzlies take a 15-3 lead into the second. Milford was able to get back in it, cutting the lead to seven at halftime, but things began to unravel early in the third quarter, as the Grizzlies opened the half on a 10-1 run to take a 31-15 lead.
“I think they hit a couple of 3s, and we got right back out of our game again,” Parent said. “We weren’t able to execute.
“When we came in at halftime, it felt like we had finally gathered ourselves. It felt like we’d gotten things under control, and they came out and hit those 3s early, and as soon as they did that … it felt like we were doing what we talked about doing and they were still making them.”
A 3 by Howe with 1:10 left in the third made it a 37-17 lead for Goffstown, and the lead grew to as many as 22 in the fourth.
“All we talked about was settling our nerves,” Goodwin said of Goffstown’s halftime.
“If we had any, they came out in that second quarter. We had a few more turnovers. We talked about having patience on the offensive end and finding the open shooter, and I think we did that in the second half.”
Milford’s three straight trips to the semifinals were the program’s first final four appearances in 30 years. The Spartans were able to make, despite playing half the season with two starters – Erin McGuire and Becca Cleary – out with season-ending knee injuries.
“If you had told us at the beginning of the year that we would lose both Erin (McGuire) and Becca (Cleary) and still make it to the final four, I think every one of us felt that was just not going to be possible,” Parent said. “But we just didn’t know how deep we were. We didn’t think we were very deep, but as the season went on, some of our girls stepped up and we found girls who were able to play more than we thought. In the end, it just wasn’t enough.”