By Tris Wykes

HANOVER – It wasn’t just the 72-29 score that stood out Friday during the Hanover High girls basketball team’s mauling of Keene. It was how the 10-0 Marauders methodically went about it.

Calling to mind the efficiency of a lunchmeat slicer, the hosts played as close to error-free hoops as you’re likely to see during a high school contest. 

Hanover High’s Stella Galanes accelerates past Keene’s Maria Shaffer. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

Grab a defensive rebound, snap off an accurate outlet pass and use another feed or two to advance down the floor.

Whip the ball around the perimeter or perhaps inside-out. Do so without any hesitation, then find a shooter alone deep in the corner. Three-point shot – good. 

“These kids have been playing together since fourth grade and they have very high basketball IQ’s,” said 20th-year Marauders coach Dan O’Rourke, whose team visits Bow on Saturday. “This year especially, they’re on a mission. The intensity in practice has been at an all-time high.”

The mission? To take down the arch-rival Lebanon Raiders, whom the Marauders play twice next week to conclude the regular season. Hanover, a combined 51-3 the past three seasons, fell to their neighbors in last winter’s NHIAA Division II semifinals, blowing a 12-point lead after starting point guard Maddie McCorkle broke her foot.

“We have unfinished business this season,” said O’Rourke, whose program won a state title two years ago.

Lebanon twice beat Keene earlier this season, but by only a combined six points. So the betting line isn’t likely to favor the Raiders this time around. 

Hanover High’s Melissa Whitmore prepares to shoot. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

“That was not the way we wanted last season to end,” said Hanover’s Stella Galanes, a slender guard who poured in 25 points Friday. “We use it every day to try and be better and do all the little things right, to build that team camaraderie that’s going to carry us all the way.”

Following an 11-point victory over Fall Mountain on Jan. 25, the Marauders went to school on lock-down defense. Keene (0-6) saw the result, a group that isn’t particularly vocal or physical, but which moves their feet superbly, sliding around their end in concert and frustrating foes who fail to find even the slightest seam.

“We worked on closing the gaps in our defense and making sure someone’s always there to help,” said Galanes, a 5-foot-8 sophomore. “We try to see the plays ahead of time and get to the right place and position.”

Galanes lives in Sharon but attended elementary school in Norwich and played youth basketball in Hanover. She’s not the Marauder who’s going to catch your eye getting off the bus, but she was a blur to the Blackbirds, running, shooting and stealing at every turn. College coaches are likely to overlook No. 3 because of her wispy physique, but she’s dealt with such doubts for years.

Hanover High’s Sydney McLaughlin, left, and Keene’s Elyza Mitchell hit the floor seeking possession. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

“I’ve definitely heard that I’m too small,” said Galanes, who gave up soccer in middle school to play basketball nearly year-round. “I can control everything else about my game except my size, so I’m going to work on those things to improve.”

Said O’Rourke: “Stella’s a special player. She’s very quick and can create her own shot or drive to the hoop, and she can shoot from anywhere on the floor.”

Galanes teams with junior swing player Melissa Whitmore, who had 15 points Friday. O’Rourke said the pair average a combined 40 points per game.

“They play at a high level of (club basketball) but if someone’s really trying to shut them down, they’re not afraid to give it to our other kids,” said the coach. “Melissa’s a tough matchup because she’s 6-1. If you put a guard on her, we’ll put her inside, where she’s a good back-to-the-basket player. But she can also drive from the elbow and finish with either hand.”

Hanover’s other three starters are senior Charlotte Johnson and juniors Caroline Adams and Jane Lackley. The first two are major contributors to Hanover’s high-flying girls soccer squad and virtually unflappable. 

“This is a true team,” said O’Rourke, endorsing the thought that the Marauders as a whole are worth more than the sum of their parts. “I’m not sure I’ve ever had a team where all five girls can score in double digits on a given night. They’re unselfish kids playing for each other and you can see the chemistry on the court. 

“They’re very prepared for whatever anyone can throw at us. Whether it’s a box-and-one or a triangle-and-two, we’ve seen a lot of different defenses this year.”

None of which has proven to be successful. 

Notes: Ivy Keating led Keene with 10 points… Whitmore is the daughter of Dartmouth College executive associate athletic director Richard Whitmore. “Whit” is a 1990 Brown graduate who played basketball and golf for the Bears. His father, Dick Whitmore, was 637-341 during 40 years as the men’s basketball coach at Maine’s Colby College… O’Rourke drew a laugh when, while standing on the sideline, he caught an errant, airborne ball and instantly faked as if to take a shot. The Keene player closest to him started to make a defensive move before realizing she was about to guard a coach… Third-year Keene coach Stacy Massiah is a former Keene State player who previously assisted with the Blackbirds’ boys hoops team.

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Keene High’s Elyza Mitchell (3) holds the ball in front of Hanover’s Jane Lackley (33). Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.