Boys Basketball, Girls Hockey Advance to Semifinals

Two winter teams saw their seasons continue with wins in the quarterfinal games of their New England tournaments on Wednesday.

The top-seeded boys basketball team pulled away late for a 74-55 victory over #8 Berkshire that was close for most of the game. Playing in a packed Fowle Gymnasium featuring raucous student sections from both schools, the Bearcats (21-1) withstood repeated runs from the Bears, and managed to maintain their lead throughout the game.

Brandon McCreesh ’23 led the charge for Hotchkiss with 32 points on 11-for-16 shooting, including four three-pointers. Also scoring in double figures were fellow starters J.J. Paul ’22 with 16 points and Kenny Noland ’22, who scored 15 despite playing with early foul trouble.

Long-distance shooting helped Hotchkiss hold onto its margin, as the team seemed to counter each Berkshire rally with a timely three-pointer. Overall, the Bearcats made 10 threes, nearly shooting as well from distance (43.5%) as they did from in close (47.2%).

Rebounding would also prove to be an advantage for Hotchkiss, especially as Berkshire began taking its own share of threes. The Bearcats outrebounded the Bears 29-18, led by Johnnie Walter ’22 with nine boards.

Despite the final margin, the game felt close for the majority of the contest. After Berkshire jumped out to an early 6-2 lead, the Bearcats rallied with a 9-2 run to take a lead they would ultimately not relinquish. Three straight threes from Walter, Paul, and McCreesh opened up an early 17-8 cushion, and Hotchkiss nursed an 8-10 point lead for the majority of the first half.

A late rally by Berkshire closed the margin to six points at halftime, but shortly after the break, Hotchkiss opened the margin back up to 10 points at 47-37. The Bears scored five quick points to cut the lead in half, but another three-pointer by Noland helped restore the margin.

The win earns Hotchkiss another home game, this time against unfamiliar competition. Hotchkiss will host #5 Milton, who upset #4 Exeter 62-66, in a semifinal game on Saturday. The winner of that game will play on Sunday against #2 St. Sebastian’s or #3 Belmont Hill.

Also advancing to weekend play were the girls hockey team, who entered this year’s Patsy Odden bracket as the #6 seed and upset #3 Choate 2-1 on their home ice. The Bearcats (9-9-1) scored first and last, recording the second goal midway through the third period and then holding off several charges by the hosts.

Head coach Corey Cooper reports: “Hotchkiss got an early goal (just under four minutes into the first period) when Caroline Bergin ’23 made an impressively quick zone entry play, carried the puck deep into the offensive zone, and moved it to Molly Donegan ’24, who made a nice escape turn and got the puck to captain Lydia Bullock ’22, who took a beautiful shot from the right in-zone faceoff dot that beat the goalie high, and led to the team's going into the break following the first period with a 1-0 lead.

“In the second period, we had a breakdown on an attempted but failed breakout, which resulted in a Hotchkiss penalty. On the following Choate power play, Choate put a great shot on net, on which Steph Ionescu ’24 made a strong initial save, but Choate was able to pick up and put the rebound in the back of the net with about three minutes left in the second period. Heading into the second period break, the game was tied 1-1.

“Then, about four minutes into the third period, Hotchkiss earned a power play and took advantage of the man-up situation. Following the faceoff, Luna Lu ’23 made a pass from low to high in the offensive zone to Jami MacDonald ’22, who got a shot from the point through to the net that the Choate goalie initially stopped. Captain Ellie Traggio, with an especially quick and talented play, then put away the rebound to take a 2-1 lead.

“Stellar defense from Etta Coburn ’24, Annabel Raffin ’24, Charlotte Moody ’23, captain Catherine Martin ’22, MacDonald, Bergin, and Ionescu anchored the team's efforts on Wednesday and gave the Hotchkiss forwards great confidence in making the most of their scoring chances and opportunities.

“We commend Choate for an awesome game, and we are especially grateful to the Choate coaches and athletic staff, who went out of their way to support our team from the moment we arrived in Wallingford until the moment we departed.”

The Bearcats will now travel to #2 BB&N on Saturday, with the winner of that game playing in the finals on Sunday against either #1 Deerfield or #5 Governor’s Academy.

Unfortunately, the playoff run for girls basketball came to an end on Wednesday with a 47-37 loss to top-seeded Thayer Academy. The Bearcats (10-9) rallied to trim five points off the lead in the fourth quarter, but were unable to pull out the victory. With only captain Jordyn Harrison ’22 graduating this spring, the future looks bright for the team going forward.

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