LEOMINSTER -- For the 2012 Groton-Dunstable girls' basketball team, defense has become a calling card. The Lady Crusaders play a hounding style of man-to-man that allows them to stay competitive despite a distinct lack of size that limits their ability on the boards.
This style of play was on display on Wednesday night. Groton-Dunstable forced 24 turnovers, contested shots and clogged the passes lanes in a beautiful display of team defense. This allowed the Lady Crusaders to overcome a 33-21 deficit on the boards and defeat Littleton 28-20 to improve to 5-1 on the summer.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair, with neither team holding a lead of larger than three points. After falling behind 2-0, Groton-Dunstable got a steal and lay-up from Lindsey Werner and a pair of free throws from Cate Cullen to take a 4-2 lead, their first of the night.
After a driving lay-up by Kristen Smith put the Lady Tigers back in the lead, the Lady Crusaders responded with five unanswered points to regain the advantage. Cullen buried a pull-up 15-foot jumper, Arianna LaCombe hit a single free throw and Samantha Gagne converted a Celina Antonellis feed into a lay-up to make it 9-6 before Groton-Dunstable settled for an 11-10 lead after 20 minutes of play.
Coming out of the break, the Lady Crusaders finally got things going on offense, opening up the second half on a 12-0 run to blow the game open. Leanne Mueller got things started with a 15-foot jumper before Gagne
Littleton responded with an 8-1 run of their own to get back within striking distance. Smith was the catalyst, hitting on a short jumper and a pair of free throws while Anna Jackson knocked down a long three pointer that drew the Lady Tigers to within six at 24-18 with four minutes to play.
It would get no closer as the Lady Crusaders closed things out with their defense. Groton-Dunstable forced four turnovers on the next five Littleton possessions while Pray and Mueller added lay-ups off great feeds by Antonellis and Werner, respectively, to close out the win.
Cullen led the Lady Crusaders with seven points and six steals. Pray (seven rebounds) and Gagne each finished with six points. Mueller chipped in four points while Werner added two points, two assists and five steals.
Smith led the Lady Tigers with seven points and 10 rebounds while Sarah Woods added two points and four boards.