By Roger Brown
If there was a surprise in this year’s Class I girls basketball championship game, perhaps it was this: Oyster River won the title despite an off night for University of New Hampshire-bound guard Jillian Friel.
Friel, widely considered to be the best player in Class I, missed her first 11 shots from the field and didn’t make her first field goal until 6:03 remained in the game. She finished the contest with four points and seven assists.
“Steals, rebounds – she did it all,” Oyster River coach Dave Nichols said following his team’s 39-33 victory. “That’s why she’s the best player in Class I. Whether she scored four or 40, she did what we needed her to do tonight.”
Any scoring slack was picked up by sophomore center Danielle Walczak, who scored a game-high 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the top-seeded Bobcats.
It was the third championship for Oyster River, which completed its season with a 21-1 record. The Bobcats also won the Class I title in 2003 and 2006.
“Since the beginning of the year, I made it my goal to be in this game,” Walczak said. “Now that we’ve won it, it’s such a great feeling.”
Hanover, which won last year’s Class I championship, finished with a 19-3 record.
“I told the kids they played like champions,” Hanover coach Dan O’Rourke said. “For a long time they’ve played great basketball. They can go out with their heads high.”
Hanover, which beat Oyster River 71-39 during the regular season, missed 35 of its 47 field goal attempts.
“When you can’t put the ball in the hoop it’s tough to win any game,” O’Rourke said. “The ball just didn’t go in for us.”
Hanover’s Lizzie BelBruno scored a career-high 22 points in the regular-season victory over Oyster River, but got herself into foul trouble in the championship game and failed to score in the loss.
Walczak scored 51 points in Oyster River’s four tournament games.
“Danielle and I have had a great connection all year long,” Friel said. “Anytime someone would come up and try to double me she’d be open. She’s definitely ready to lead this team.”
Boys Basketball: Tournament dates set
Two of the state’s four boys basketball tournaments will begin this week. First-round games in Class S and Class I are scheduled to start Tuesday night. The Class M and Class L tournaments will begin March 11.
The first two rounds in each of the four tournaments will be played at home sites. The tournaments will shift to neutral sites for the semifinals and championship games.
The Class S title game will be played March 13 at Plymouth State University (7 p.m.); the Class M title game will be played March 20 at Southern New Hampshire University (7 p.m.); the Class I championship game will be played March 14 at the University of New Hampshire (2:30 p.m.); and the Class L championship game will be played March 21 at the University of New Hampshire (3 p.m.).
Hockey: Manchester will be title town
New Hampshire’s four hockey state championships will all be decided March 15 at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester. The lineup: girls championship game (10 a.m.); Division III boys championship game (12:15 p.m.); Division II boys championship game (2:30 p.m.) and the Division I boys championship game (4:45 p.m.).
Roger Brown covers New Hampshire and Vermont for MaxPreps. He can be reached at email@example.com.