By Tris Wykes

Copyright Octopus Athletics 2021

HANOVER – Bad news for the rest of NHIAA Division II girls basketball: Hanover High might be even better than last winter.

Nine months after being nipped in the playoff semifinals, the Marauders scuffled early Friday before pinning a 66-27 defeat on visiting ConVal in the teams’ season opener. 

 

Hanover guard Caroline Adams cuts between the sideline and ConVal’s Allie Burgess. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

Hanover graduated only one starter from last season’s team and is considered a clear contender for its first state title since 2019, its second since 2008 and the fifth of coach Dan O’Rourke’s 21-year tenure. The Marauders have won six championships in program history.

Junior guard Stella Galanes sprinted, slashed, hopped and wriggled past the Cougars for a game-high 17 points. Senior forward Melissa Whitmore added 14 points and center Jane Lackley and guard Skouly Kachikis, both seniors, each chipped in 6 points.

“This is a very balanced, experienced team,” said O’Rourke, whose last three squads have gone a combined 56-3 with two of those losses in semifinal play. “We have athleticism and quickness and guard play and post play. I think this is the most balanced team we’ve ever had.”

Hanover led, 32-16, at halftime before outscoring the Cougars, 20-6, during the third quarter. The Marauders dominated the boards, were speedy and surgical in transition offense and never let up defense. 

Hanover’s Nina Marshall, right, pulls the ball away from ConVal’s Marin Burgess. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

“Rebounding is about effort and even though our early shots weren’t falling, we were rebounding really well, especially on the offensive boards,” said O’Rourke, whose team faces Bow, another title contender, next week. “Our guards were in there fighting and there are a lot of easy, second-chance opportunities if we get the rebounds.”

Hanover has three players who can contribute in the paint. Whitmore, committed to play at NCAA Division II Stonehill (Mass.) College next season, is a known quantity when she’s needed there, but can also shine out wide and keep up on the break. Lackley is a more of a classic center, while junior Amina Ajwang will confound foes by marrying bulk with a surprisingly-quick first step and rebounding tenacity.

The guards include the diminutive but fierce Galanes, whose demeanor and production practically scream “gym rat”, along with sophomore Sydney McLaughlin, who like many of her teammates, appears more poised and less frantic with last season under her belt. Senior spark plug Kachikas brings passing savvy and a physicality that catches opponents off-guard. 

Hanover’s Melissa Whitmore heads out on the break. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

“With both Stella and Melissa, because they’ve played so much and are more mature, the game has really slowed down for them,” O’Rourke said. “Stella tonight had the best pass I’ve ever seen from her and I’ve watched her since fourth grade. Just a bullet pass on transition where she threaded the needle.

“With all the skills work they’ve done and their experience, they’re now extremely confident.”

Guard Caroline Adams, one of Hanover’s best players last year, saw limited minutes Friday as she recovers from foot injuries that cost her the recent soccer season. A bout of sesamoiditis, an inflammation of the bones in the ball of one’s foot, was followed by a stress fracture. O’Rourke said he’ll deploy Adams for short stretches, increasing the senior’s minutes when the she says she’s ready.

“She’s been out since early summer and we want to be careful,” the coach said. “You don’t win a championship in December.”

During March, however? That’s a different story. Count on seeing the Marauders there.

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Hanover’s Eliza Daigle clashes with ConVal’s Makenna Proctor. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.