By Tris Wykes

Copyright Octopus Athletics 2021

HANOVER – Hanover High’s gymnasium filled with the usual sneaker squeaks, shouts and ball thumps Thursday as the school’s girls basketball team overcame a slow start to defeat Bow, 50-28, in an NHIAA Division II game.

The soundtrack ground to a halt two minutes before halftime, however, when Marauders guard Caroline Adams dropped to the floor after making a sharp, offensive cut and remained on the hardwood, clutching her left ankle. 

Hanover High’s Caroline Adams winces as she’s helped off the court by trainer Cassie Lapple and coach Dan O’Rourke.Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

A senior easing her way back from hip and foot problems that have sidelined her on and off for the past six months, Adams’ fight is well-known to Hanover players, parents and fans, and they held their collective breath while coach Dan O’Rourke and athletic trainer Cassie Lapple knelt alongside No. 11.

After roughly a two-minute pause, Adams walked tentatively to the sidelines, where she soon plunged both feet into a Gatorade cooler filled with water and ice. She progressed to stretching exercises and finished the contest seated on the bench with her left ankle tightly wrapped.

“I had just gotten back to playing again,” Adams lamented after the game, leaning in an all-too-familiar posture on a pair of crutches. “It’s been a journey.”

A three-sport standout in soccer, basketball and lacrosse, Adams has accepted an offer to play the latter sport at Middlebury (Vt.) College, which has won the NCAA Division III national title seven times since 1997, including in 2019. The younger sister of former Hanover soccer standout Charlie Adams, now playing that sport at Brown (R.I.) University, Caroline Adams hadn’t previously dealt with serious injury.

Hanover High’s Elena Mierke, left, guards Bow’s Juliette Tarsa. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

“You have to come at things from a different perspective, especially if you’re trying to be a leader,” she said. “I view it as a growth opportunity. I haven’t been able to play but I’ve grown as a person.”

Adams first dealt with a right hip injury during lacrosse season in the spring. It flared up again after she made the rounds of college soccer and lacrosse recruiting camps in June, and she injured the sesamoid bone in the ball of her right foot early in soccer season.

Adams elected to keep playing and then suffered a stress fracture in the same foot, breaking her third metatarsal bone and having to wear a orthopedic immobilization boot and use crutches. She played limited minutes during Hanover’s first two basketball games and started for the first time against the Falcons.

“I kind of knew when I hurt my toe that I could play for a bit, but it wasn’t going to last very long,” Adams said. “I think the hardest part was having that injury right after a summer of inactivity, given that I’m someone who loves to keep moving and stay busy.”

Bow High’s Jessica Chamberlin defends Hanover’s Melissa Whitmore (22). Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

Adding to the situation’s difficulty was that Hanover suffered its worst girls soccer season in memory, going 5-10-2 and losing its first playoff game. Adams had never spent much time on the bench, and watching the action gave her greater appreciation for her reserve teammates and made her search for ways to help, given her sidelined status.

“I’ve always led by example and I’ve learned to lead with my voice and connect with people on my team when I’m not on the field,” she said. “It’s brought me closer to my teammates. I stepped in as a little bit of an assistant coach and I’ve learned to appreciate the energy the bench can bring and how everybody on the team matters.”

Adams said she expects Thursday’s ankle injury to keep her out a week or two, but at least it’s on the other side of her body. Hanover doesn’t have to have Adams to be good, but her skills, poise and vast experience in pressure situations might well be what allows the Marauders to be great.

Hanover (3-0) played strong defense from the start against Bow (1-1), but lagged on the boards and at matching the visitors’ fire. Senior forward Melissa Whitmore drove into the lane with a chance to put her team up, 18-7, during the first quarter, but was called for traveling and not long after, the Marauders’ lead was down to 16-15.

Hanover High’s Caroline Adams stretches her injured ankle. Trainer Cassie Lapple is alongside. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

“In the first half, they outhustled us and got all the 50-50 balls and we weren’t rebounding or boxing out well,” said Hanover coach Dan O’Rourke, whose team fell in last season’s NHIAA Division II semifinals. “We talked about that at halftime, because you can’t fast-break if you don’t rebound well. At one point, they got five rebounds in a row.”

Hanover led, 21-17, at halftime but scored 12 of the third quarter’s 18 points and began to pull away. Guard Stella Galanes finished with 14 points and Whitmore had 10. Center Jane Lackley and guard Sydney McLaughlin each added 9 points. Alex Larrabee led Bow with 9 points.

“This is the first game we’ve played against a team with that much physicality, so there was definitely an adjustment period,” O’Rourke said. “But our kids were eventually able to get out in the lanes and get some easy buckets in the third quarter.”

Hanover High’s Amina Ajwang, left, battles Bow’s Madison Speckman for the ball. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

Junior forward Amina Ajwang had six points but the stocky forward, listed at 5 feet 9 inches, plays bigger than her size because of her willingness to compete physically without being flagrant about it. At one point, the junior casually bounced an opponent completely out of the lane with a swing of her left hip, sending the Falcon sprawling as if she’d struck a vertical trampoline.

“Amina’s deceptively quick and she runs the floor very well and does all the little things on the boards,” O’Rourke said. “Every team needs that.”

Hanover travels to Timberlane on Saturday. The Owls lost their opener to John Stark, 59-18, so the Marauders and Laconia should each be 4-0 when they meet off Hovey Lane on Monday evening in what promises to be another gritty matchup.

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Hanover High’s Sydney McLaughlin, left, fights off Bow’s Lindsey LaPerle. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.