GROTON - One of the biggest things that can break the will of a team is playing 25 seconds of great defense only to give up an offensive rebound and have to do it again. On Tuesday night, that is what the Groton-Dunstable girls' basketball team went through. The Lady Crusaders played tough defensively throughout the night, but could not keep Nashoba off the boards, finding themselves on the wrong end of a 56-26 number on the boards, including 26 on the offensive glass in a 49-42 loss.
"It is going to be nearly impossible to beat a good team when you give them second, third and fourth opportunities like we did tonight," said Groton-Dunstable coach Mark Hennelly. "Defensively, I thought we played very well, but we just couldn't come up with rebounds at key moments. That ended up being the difference tonight."
After falling behind 5-0 early on by five points from Emmalie Keenan, the Lady Crusaders slapped together a 12-5 run to close out the opening quarter. Rachel McCarron was in the middle of the run, scoring six points on a pull-up 17-foot jumper, pair of free throws and a lay-up off a Leanne Mueller feed. McCarron also played the role of facilitator, setting up a Mueller lay-up in the closing seconds that gave Groton-Dunstable a 12-10 lead.
An Erin Cressman lay-up off a Kelly Poole look drew the Lady Chieftains even at 14-14, but the Lady Crusaders responded with seven of the next nine points to take their largest lead of the night. McCarron knocked down a trey off a Jamie Park pass, set up a Lindsey Werner lay-up and then connected on a 12-foot jumper, assisted by Riley Rogers to make it 21-16.
McCarron closed out her big first half by scoring the Lady Crusaders last six points, including a lay-up off a Celina Antonellis feed that made it 25-20. But Nashoba cut the lead to three at 25-22 going into the intermission on a Keenan lay-up off an offensive rebound, a theme that would continue into the second half.
"We struggled offensively early as we couldn't find a rhythm in the early going," said Hennelly. "Then Rachel kind of caught fire and carried us for most of the first half. I thought we did a decent job on the boards in the first half (22-14 disadvantage), but we took care of the ball (only six turnovers) and that offset the rebounding numbers."
It took just 50 seconds for the Lady Chieftains to take the lead in the third quarter. Cressman hit a lay-up off a Keenan feed while Poole knocked down a three-pointer off a pass from Emma Duggan to make it 27-25 and force a quick Groton-Dunstable time-out.
McCarron answered back with a pull-up trey to even things at 29-29, but Nashoba hit for eight consecutive points to open some breathing room. Poole scored the first four on a pair of jumpers while Duggan scored on an offensive rebound and put back and 17-foot jumper to make it 37-29.
Early in the fourth quarter, Cate Cullen connected on a 14-foot jumper off a Rogers dish that completed a quick 7-2 spurt and drew the Lady Crusaders within three at 39-36, but it never got closer. Nicole Boucher hit a lay-up off an offensive rebound, Keenan drained a pull-up three off another second chance opportunity and Cressman hit a pair of free throws to make it a 10-point game before the Lady Chieftains settled for the seven-point win.
"We gave up 17 offensive rebounds in the second half and all of them were costly," said Hennelly. "Rachel was outstanding again and did everything she could offensively to keep us in the game. Cate was solid tonight and gave me everything she had. We just didn't have that steady second scoring option tonight. But I liked our effort and now we need to move on and get ready for the next game."
McCarron led Groton-Dunstable with 25 points and nine rebounds. Cullen finished with six points, six boards and three steals while Werner chipped in three points, five rebounds, three assists and five steals.
Keenan led a balanced Nashoba attack with 14 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Cressman contributed 11 points and 21 boards. Poole added 10 points and three assists. Duggan finished with eight points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots while Boucher scored six points and grabbed five boards.