Spartans, Sabers each win in hoop doubleheader
AMHERST – Souhegan girls basketball coach Mike Heaney said that before the Sabers even took their home floor, his team felt like it was a winning experience.
For the first time, the girls game was the main event of the Milford- Souhegan basketball doubleheader and Heaney’s Sabers enjoyed the spotlight in front of many of the program’s alumni.
"That’s never happened before," Heaney said of playing the second game of the night. "It’s always emotional just playing our rival, but then to add on to that the chance to play the late game, it was so special for the girls."
Souhegan transferred the good vibes into a good performance.
The Sabers jumped ahead with a strong first half and held off a Milford rally for a 40-34 victory over the Spartans at Souhegan High School. Milford cruised to victory in the boys game, 74-33.
Mia Len led the Saber girls with 11 points and four steals, while Emma White added nine points, four assists and two steals and Beth Greenwood chipped in eight points and five steals.
"In a way, our message before the game was no matter what happened, we won because tonight was such a cool night," Heaney said. "Then to go out and tough out a tough win against a well-coached, gritty team just kind of made the icing on the cake."
Erin McGuire paced the Spartans with a game-high 13 points to go with five rebounds and three steals, but Milford could never quite get over the hump after a slow start.
Souhegan limited Milford early on and took an 18-9 advantage into halftime.
"We came together at halftime," Milford coach Dan Ricker said. "We got a couple of turnovers here and there, played well on team defense and that created good shots, and we started hitting shots. I think that boosts everyone’s confidence when we start making some baskets."
Milford scored the first seven points of the third quarter, including a 3-pointer from Emma Gray that cut the deficit to 18-16.
"Milford came out in the second half with great energy," Heaney said. "We took a deep breath and settled down, and in the fourth quarter we really kind of gutted it out. Tough with the ball, tougher on the glass and better decision making.
Souhegan never relinquished the lead and converted from the free-throw line to seal the triumph.
"I thought both teams in the second half played good, tough basketball," Heaney said. "They have a great senior leader in Erin McGuire and some good, young players who stepped up for them. It was a fun game."
Heaney was particularly impressed with White, who has stepped into a leadership role this season.
"This is her third on varsity and it showed down the stretch," Heaney explained. "She made some clutch free throws, was tough with the basketball, made herself available. I was really proud of her and happy for her."
Milford is seeking its first visit to the win column, but Ricker is happy with what his team has shown in the early goings of the season.
"Every day we move forward. They give me 110 percent all of the time and that’s all I need," Ricker said. "They push and push and push, even down 10, 12 points, they never give up. That’s the core of our team. … The effort is always there and you can’t teach the effort."
Milford 74, Souhegan 33
Ryan Banuskevich scored a game-high 17 points, Jamie Pare added 16 and the Spartans cruised to a victory in a mutual season opener at Souhegan.
Weston Pare and Shane Winnett chipped in 11 points apiece for Milford.
The Sabers were led by Jeffrey Boehm and Ryan Hickey with eight points each, while Ryan Boehm tallied seven.
Milford led 12-7 after the first quarter, but expanded its lead to 39-15 by halftime and padded the advantage further in the second half.
"We got on a nice roll," Milford coach Dan Murray. "They can all shoot, so we’re tough to defend."