Andover Lady Hoopsters Claim Victory In Heated Exeter Game

The Lady Blue sure know how to make a comeback. In the last game of their regular season, the girls came back to take the win from dreaded Exeter, finishing the game with a final score of 61-48. Using the momentum they gathered from the Exeter game, the girls came home with another victory last Wednesday in the first game of the post-season tournament. Facing Milton Academy at BB&N, the Big Blue came back from behind to upset Milton 60-44. The girls will continue on in the tournament facing the Suffield Tigers tonight. Coach Kennedy started the Exeter game her fron five, Captain Danielle Vardaro ’03, Meg Coffin ‘03, Krystal Freeman ’03, Mimi Hanley ‘04, and Kat Conlon ’04. The girls focused on preventing the Big Red from avenging their last defeat against Andover earlier this season. The Andover-Exeter rivalry, coupled with the two teams’ identical records standing at a solid 12-3, provided for fierce competition between the girls on both teams. This game also decided who was going to have a better spot in the post-season tournaments; last Saturday’s face-off determined whether the Big Blue was going to have an advantage or disadvantage in their first play-off game. The game began slowly, and it took the Blue quite some time to find their winning rhythm. Exeter got an early lead by making lucky shots and capitalizing on the Lady Blue’s initial weaknesses. It had been over a week since the Lady Hoopster’s last game and the girls needed time to adjust. The squad had foolishly assumed that the game against Exeter would be an easy victory. This was not the case, as the Big Blue trailed for the majority of the entire first half. The girls worked hard to catch up to the Red and finished the half trailing by two points, with the score 28-30. Coach Kennedy greeted the girls at halftime with a talk, as she explained the fact that the Big Blue needed this win and that they were completely capable of demolishing the Exies. She reminded the girls of their previous encounter with their rivals, saying that even though they were not back on Andover’s DiClemente court, it was still the same game. She also brought up specifics, telling the girls exactly what they needed to fix. Coach Kennedy summed it up, saying, “During the halftime we discussed our choice to struggle or to accept what is and counter.” In the second half, the Andover offense caught fire. The girls pumped up the intensity of their defense, maintained better control of the ball, and took it to Exeter’s hoop. Playing against the loud screaming and chanting eminating from the mouths of the Exeter fans, clad in red, the Lady Hoopsters were able to take control of the game and pull through for the win. The Big Blue managed to create a 13-point lead after trailing by a sizeable amount. Coffin talked about their amazing comeback, saying, “In the beginning, we were down by a lot, and how we worked through that to come back for the win is a great accomplishment.” The lead scorer for the game was Captain Vardaro. She contributed 15 points towards the team’s win, swooshing an impressive 60% of her shots. Conlon also stepped it up, bringing in 13 points, five rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Hanley also added ten points to the rising Andover score. In addition, Coffin brought in eight points in last weekend’s high scoring game. Cortney Tetrault ’03 explained the additional stress the team felt during the game and how the girls fared: “Although we had played Exeter earlier in the year and had beaten them by a considerable amount, we knew that they were going to come out strong because of the traditional Andover-Exeter rivalry—plus, they really are a stronger team than the previous score would lead one to thing. In the second half, after being behind, we stepped up our defense and our offense followed.” While most other sports have ended, and players are taking some time off, the girls are still out on the court practicing for the upcoming tournaments. Their biggest competitor in the upcoming Interscholastic Tournament is last year’s champion, the Tabor Seawolves. Accounting for two of Andover’s three losses this year, Tabor has had a good season, and the Lady Blue will have to work their hardest if they want their team goals to come true. Milton provided tough competition for the Blue, but the girls stepped it up to bring home a well-earned victory. With this game’s stakes so high, players attributed their level of intensity to nervousness. This was, after all, their only chance to become the League Champions. After a lackluster start, the Big Blue managed to recover and overtake Milton. In the second half, the Lady Hoopsters picked up their game and came through for the win. The defense increased their intensity so that the team could counter Milton’s star point guard. This left the court open for Coffin, Freeman, Hanley, and Conlon to take control of the ball and close the gap between Andover and Milton. Captain Vardaro, feeling a little under the weather after battling sickness, did not let the game go by without scoring and sinking a perfect three-pointer. This game did a great deal to boost the girls’ confidence and counteract the restless nerves that kept them down in the first half. Hanley explained, “Even though it was a shaky start to the tournament, hopefully we got all our nerves out and can start the next game more relaxed and confident.” The girls, who go on to play the undefeated Suffield Tigers today, will need to hit the court with intensity and heart. The girls had no opportunity to face Suffield earlier this season due to a canceled game. They enter tonight’s game without much knowledge of Suffield’s abilities, so they will need to be able to be prepared for whatever the Tigers throw at them. However, fans, coaches, and players alike all see the possibility that the Andover girls will take it all at the tournament.