Girls’ basketball: Concord beats Dover on Senior Night to keep playoff hopes alive

Concord senior Sofia Payne dribbles the ball against Dover’s Lila Pellatt during Friday night’s regular season finale.

Concord senior Sofia Payne dribbles the ball against Dover’s Lila Pellatt during Friday night’s regular season finale. Chip Griffin / Photos By Chip

Concord’s Delaney Duford floats up a shot as Dover’s Tory Vitko (22) and Lily Nossiff (54) leap for a block during Friday’s win for the Tide.

Concord’s Delaney Duford floats up a shot as Dover’s Tory Vitko (22) and Lily Nossiff (54) leap for a block during Friday’s win for the Tide. Chip Griffin / Photos By Chip

Whitney Vaillant (right) dribbles the ball for Concord against Dover’s Tory Vitko on Friday.

Whitney Vaillant (right) dribbles the ball for Concord against Dover’s Tory Vitko on Friday. Chip Griffin / Photos By Chip

Concord senior Aidah Smalley floats up a shot to give the Tide a 33-30 lead in the fourth quarter against Dover on Friday night.

Concord senior Aidah Smalley floats up a shot to give the Tide a 33-30 lead in the fourth quarter against Dover on Friday night. Chip Griffin / Photos By Chip

Concord’s Madison Kelley controls the ball for the Tide as Dover guard Olivia Rutland defends her on Friday.

Concord’s Madison Kelley controls the ball for the Tide as Dover guard Olivia Rutland defends her on Friday. Chip Griffin / Photos By Chip

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 02-24-2024 9:30 AM

CONCORD – Friday night was a whirl of emotions in the Concord High School gymnasium.

It was Senior Night, it was head coach Rob Darrell’s final game coaching in the gym and the Crimson Tide needed to beat Dover (11-7) to keep its playoff hopes alive.

Concord prevailed in a defensive slog, 35-32, in a game that was 8-4 Concord after the first quarter and 17-9 Concord at halftime, but results elsewhere in Division I leave the Tide’s playoff status unclear.

The team entered Friday at 7-10, tied with Nashua North for the 14th and final playoff spot. Bishop Guertin entered Friday a half game ahead of both teams at 7-9, and Nashua South entered at 8-9. BG won to move to 8-9, and Nashua North won while Nashua South lost to create a three-way tie at 8-10. The NHIAA bracket will officially be released on Monday.

Regardless of the ultimate playoff seedings, Darrell said Friday was the best defensive game he’s seen his team play all season.

“They were communicating better. They were cleaning up the glass well. That was probably the best they rebounded all year long,” he said. “The communication was huge. That was the best communication they’ve had, and they wanted it. They wanted it more than the other team. A lot of times, in some of these games, I don’t see that all the time. This game, every one of them on the floor wanted it. That was important.”

Tide senior Whitney Vaillant led the team with 11 points, while the four other seniors, Delaney Duford (seven points), Aidah Smalley (seven points), Sofia Payne (five points) and Madison Kelley (five points) comprised the rest of the team’s scoring. 

The fact that Concord was even in position to qualify for the playoffs after a 2-8 start was a feat in itself. Concord won six of the last eight games to wrap up the season at 8-10.

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“They fought hard every game,” Darrell said. “Even when we lost, the next practice, they came back and worked harder. They always believed. They believed in themselves today. They kept doing it. I think defensively they wanted it. They paid attention in practice this week, and we scouted them really, really well. And they were ready for it. They wanted it. That’s the bottom line.”

Meanwhile, Darrell said Friday was his final home game coaching the team. He took over the head coaching duties before last season after Tim LaTorra moved from the girls’ head coach to the boys’ head coach. He’d initially only planned to coach last season, but with a group of seniors coming back that he’d developed strong bonds with over the years, he wanted to see them off.

“Today was a very emotional day because I’ve had these girls so long,” Darrell said. “I’m not coaching anymore after this year, so this is the last time I'll coach in this gym. … Bittersweet. And the girls knew that too, and they were fighting hard for me also I think.”

Even though this group might not have a chance to play together again, Darrell was proud they wrapped up the regular season on a high note.

“Best freakin’ win of the year for us,” he said.