Girls Basketball Falls to Tabor In Class A Championship Game

A championship win just does not seem to be in the cards for the Phillips Academy Girls Varsity Basketball team after losing in the championship game for the third straight year. Last weekend, the squad swept into the finals of the Class A League Tournament. The girls surprised fans, and perhaps themselves, in knocking off the previously undefeated and top ranked Suffield Academy team in the semifinals with a final score of 46-32. In the championship game, Andover faced Tabor, a team to whom the Blue owed two of their three regular season losses. Tabor had held a five-game winning streak over the Blue, including a win in last year’s championship game. The girls struggled to keep up with Tabor’s pace and, in the end, PA could not overcome the Seawolves. The final score was 52-37 in favor of Tabor. Friday’s game against Suffield was the kind of game for which you work all season. Defense, offense, passing, individual patience, and the other goals the girls have focused on all term came together to contribute to their win. Ignoring Suffield’s 18-0 record leading up to the game, the team focused on the task at hand, defeating the competition. While Andover remained slightly in the lead at the game’s commencement, the team never gained a lead large enough so that it could relax. The intensity of the game remained high and the girls continued to play with complete focus and determination. The first half ended with the Suffield Tigers trailing by a mere four points, 19-15. After the start of the second half, the Lady Blue reappeared on the court reading to attack and increase its lead. More determined than ever, the team was able to focus on its defense and rebounding, which Coach Kennedy had noted at half time could use improvement. By the end of the game, the girls were playing their best, increasing their lead to a 14-point margin, with the final score standing at 46-32. Although each member of the team contributed to the win, Captain Danielle Vardaro ’03, Mimi Hanley ’04, Meg Coffin ’03 and Cortney Tetrault ’03 had particularly stellar games. Vardaro led the team, pulling down 12 boards while Tetrault sunk three shots from behind the arc, a feat that nearly secured the win. Despite the individual successes, only a full team effort could explain PA’s significant 27-point second half. Tetrault reflected about the success of the game, “With the Suffield game, it was really good to win because they had been undefeated. We knew that they were going to be good, but we didn’t really know because they hadn’t played any tough teams this season. Overall, we really picked our defense up and frazzled their ball-handlers, and that definitely put pressure on them.” After their win, the girls had secured themselves a spot in the finals. Their opponent was Tabor, arguably their biggest basketball rival. As the Seawolves were the reigning champions from last year, this match was a clear opportunity for PA’s team to redeem itself from last year’s crushing double overtime loss. The Andover team hoped that this time they would come out with a win. However, Tabor proved itself to be deserving of its title when Andover could not pull out a miracle. The game started out with the early-season starters Captain Vardaro, Tetrault, Coffin, Hanley, and Kat Conlon ’04 setting out to avenge last year’s loss. However, considering Tabor’s track record of dominance, the girls were nervous about the big game. They were not able to play their best from the onset and allowed Tabor to score immediately following the first half tip-off. Tabor’s defense was too strong to allow Andover to make many baskets. The first half ended with Andover trailing 17-31, but neither the team nor the fans were willing to give up on a Blue revival. In the second half, the Lady Blue came back to prevent Tabor from widening its lead. The PA girls increased their defensive efforts considerably, but Tabor’s own defense remained too strong for Andover to regain the points they had lost. The game ended with the score 52-37 and Tabor defending its title. Conlon, Andover’s leading scorer for the evening, contributed 17 points, including three 3-point shots. With other key players sickly and not at their 100%, Conlon knew she had to step it up for the championship. She explained, “The past few times that we have played them, we had a hard time breaking their press. They have a really strong back-court, and we just had a hard time passing throughit.” Despite the finals loss, the girls’ season has been a remarkable one. They ended their season with a 15-4 record, three of their losses coming at the hands of the champions. They fully earned their spot at number two in the Class A league—not something upon which to look down. Throughout the season, the girls struggled to find their rhythm and intensity early in the game, as was their main problem in the championship. Next year looks bright, as one thing this team has is depth. The current Uppers and Lowers will have to “step up to the charity stripe” and take control of each and ever game to avenge Tabor’s win next year. Who knows, maybe the third time’s a charm, and the Lady Blue will come back to beat the Seawolves next winter.