Tomahawks overcome slow start to beat Owls

The Merrimack High School girls basketball team took some time to get warmed up, but once it did, it was too hot to handle in its 63-27 Division I victory over Timberlane on Monday.

And to think that Merrimack was behind 10-9 in the opening quarter.

The first quarter saw some points left on both ends of the court, as each team was able to get to the bucket, but tight defense underneath prevented the shots to fall.

The Tomahawks (5-6) jumped out to a 9-4 lead, only to have it narrowed by a Courtney Sickel 3-pointer within the closing minute. The Owls (0-11) went on take a 10-9 lead with a field goal from Celia Prescott and a free throw by Moesha Murray in the opening minutes of the second frame.

“We weren’t playing defense and we were fouling a little too much,” Merrimack coach Courtney Cheetham said of the opening stages of the game. “We practice defense a lot, but communication was breaking down. We ironed it out in the second quarter.”

From there, the Tomahawks’ defense pounced on Timberlane by using its size to force a slew of turnovers and prevent the Owls from getting down court. That sprung the Merrimack offense on a 22-0 scoring tear, which extended into the third quarter, to set the Tomahawks up with a 31-10 lead that was never again in danger.

“Offensively one of our goals was to attack the hoop more and on defense we were making sure that we were denying cutters from the backside,” Cheetham said. “Once we figured that out, it went really well.”

Elise Jolly, Merrimack’s 6-3 freshman, was a major presence to spark the rally by tallying 10 of her 16 points during the run, as well as pitching in on several takeaways.

“We came out and got our energy up and started talking on defense which is what we’re trying to work on,” Jolly said.

In addition to Jolly, Sam Hilston tallied eight points for Merrimack, Dana Mendes and Brianne Nordengren put up seven each and Lauren DuBois and Maddie Freed pitched in six a piece.

For Timberlane, Murray had up nine points, Janelle Colon tacked on seven, Prescott pitched in six and Sickel compiled five.