Tensions were high as the Oyster River girls varsity basketball team faced the Somersworth Hilltoppers on Friday, February 19th, in Durham, after previously defeating them at the Hilltoppers’ home court 59 to 28.
Despite the pressure the Bobcats felt to sweep their games against the Hilltoppers, Oyster River won against D2 Somersworth 58 to 39. “My mindset going into the game, along with everyone else’s, I think, was to not let the fact that we had previously beaten them cloud how we played,” said Annabelle Svenson (‘24). “Playing a team back to back like that is a blessing and a curse because you know how they play but they also know how you play so it leads to an interesting match up. I knew that they were going to come out super aggressive and that we couldn’t let that rattle us.”
Coach Nicole Casimiro agreed, saying, “Somersworth is a really hard working team that can shoot from the outside, and taking a team like that lightly can be detrimental. We needed to focus on our game and play at our pace.”
Finishing last season 0-18, the Bobcats have come a long way. The Bobcats’ captain Carissa Miller (‘21) credits the team’s success to their shared determination and focus on defense. “Our team values defense and focuses on defense more than offense which I believe is a huge reason for our success this season,” said Miller. “Along with that, our team chemistry this year is unmatched from last year. We all really enjoy each other’s company and have a common goal of winning… It’s just great to see my teammates sharing that same drive to win that I have. In the past that hasn’t always been the case.”
The first quarter was a clear demonstration of the defensive work the Bobcats have been doing. When offense had trouble putting up points at the top of the quarter, defense stepped up. “I think the team’s defense definitely won us the game,” said Megan Moody (‘23). “We had a lot of great help defense and our press worked really well against Somersworth. We got a lot of traps and steals from that.”
With ten seconds left in the first quarter Abby Deane (‘23) scored a basket, bringing the score to 14-5.
The second quarter started out with a bang as the Hilltoppers scored a three pointer. Gracie Gagne (‘22) and Deane were quick to follow in their footsteps, however, putting up two consecutive three pointers. Thanks to their defensive work, the Bobcats were able to score the majority of their points in the second quarter and enter halftime with a 32 to 12 lead.
In the third quarter, both teams put a significant amount of points on the board. However Oyster River kept their stance, with a 48- 25 lead. “I was proud of how our team dominated,” said Miller. “You could see how confident we were on the court and that’s the reason we controlled the game.”
The team spoke to how their bond has helped with on-court confidence. “This year’s team bond is so, so good,” said Gagne. “We all work together so well. On and off the court we have so much fun and work so hard because we all want to win.”
Moody added in, “we don’t let each other drag our heads and I really love how even if we are losing we don’t let it ruin our bond.”
Somersworth netted 14 points in the fourth quarter, scoring the most in the final eight minutes. Gagne and Svenson kept Oyster River from trailing with a combined 10 points.
Moving forward, the Bobcats are excited to be seeing their hard work pay off as they head into the playoffs.
“I want to reiterate how resilient this team has been,” said Casimiro. “They have adjusted to a strange new normal without question and give it their all every time they step on the court. I could not ask for a better team to coach during such an unpredictable year. “
The Bobcats ended their season 9-6 and have their first playoff game on Tuesday, March 2nd at 6:00 pm. “This is the first time I have ever had a home playoff game in my high school basketball career, and we are ready to make the most of it and hopefully come out on top,” said Miller. “Being a senior and it being my last season, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of teammates to share it with.”
Photos by Madla Walsh