Wilton-Lyndeborough girls’ basketball victorious in delayed home opener

WLC's Cailin Swett drives to the hoop in front of the Warriors' white-out crowd.

WLC's Cailin Swett drives to the hoop in front of the Warriors' white-out crowd. PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

WLC's Kelsey Crouse grabs an offensive board and goes up for a shot. 

WLC's Kelsey Crouse grabs an offensive board and goes up for a shot.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

WLC senior Adri Bausha drives to the basket during Wednesday's game. 

WLC senior Adri Bausha drives to the basket during Wednesday's game.  PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

Wilton-Lyndeborough sophomore Lexi Bausha drives to the hoop as two Mount Royal defenders collapse during the Warriors' 36-24 win over the Knights in Wilton on Wednesday, Jan. 3.

Wilton-Lyndeborough sophomore Lexi Bausha drives to the hoop as two Mount Royal defenders collapse during the Warriors' 36-24 win over the Knights in Wilton on Wednesday, Jan. 3. PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

WLC's Maddy Labrecque goes for a layup.

WLC's Maddy Labrecque goes for a layup. PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

WLC head coach Tom Crowley instructs his team during a second-half timeout.

WLC head coach Tom Crowley instructs his team during a second-half timeout. PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

 WLC's Adri Bausha pivots to the hoop.

 WLC's Adri Bausha pivots to the hoop. PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

WLC's Dani Stratton looks to pass against Mount Royal.

WLC's Dani Stratton looks to pass against Mount Royal. PHOTO BY BEN CONANT/BEN CONANT PHOTOGRAPHY

By BEN CONANT

For the Ledger-Transcript

Published: 01-04-2024 11:48 AM

Modified: 01-04-2024 12:51 PM


The Warriors finally came home Wednesday night. 

After a month away from the Wilton-Lyndeborough gym, the WLC girls' basketball team won its home opener over visiting Mount Royal, delighting the white-clad fans, players and coach Tom Crowley alike. 

"I've never been more excited," Crowley said after Wednesday's 36-24 victory. "I'm always smiling when I'm in here."

Thanks to a water main break in the high school gymnasium and a subsequent lengthy renovation, both the WLC boys' and girls' teams have been practicing in the smaller elementary gym, splitting the short court for practices that left the Warriors a little underprepared for full-court conditioning. 

"We were all feeling it today because we've only had one practice in here so far," said WLC senior captain Adri Bausha after the game. "Our first practice in this new gym was yesterday, and we really like it, but it's a big adjustment because it's so different and it's so much brighter and it looks so much bigger."

Between the unfamiliar home court, the conditioning and the nerves caused by the packed white-out crowd, the Warriors weren't on top of their game, but they played well enough to get a win. Bausha scored a game-high 12 points, as the senior is just too physical driving to the basket and working in the paint for most defenders to handle. 

"She's so strong," Crowley said. "How do you stop that?"

Younger sister Lexi Bausha scored 10 points, attacking the Mount Royal ballhandlers to force turnovers and start fast breaks. The Baushas, along with teammate Kelsey Crouse, play a tough brand of defense that is outstanding for Division IV competition, and as the rest of the Warriors begin to lift their intensity to the same level, Crowley hopes that defense will be his team's calling card. 

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"I think by the end of the season we'll be a better defensive team than an offensive team," Crowley said. "I think that's ultimately where we'll make our money - that should be our bread and butter."

The Warriors also get good contributions from guards Maddie Labrecque and Cailin Swett, along with forward Dani Stratton. The remainder of the roster includes five players -- Naomi Bozarth, Haidyn Paquette, Maddie Clough, Naomi Bozarth and Sandy Sanchez -- who either haven't played basketball in years or are entirely new to the game, but they're getting up to speed, and practicing in their true home gym should help. 

WLC is now 4-2 on the season and placed second in their holiday tournament. Crowley and the Warriors are looking for a final record in the ballpark of 12-6, or whatever it would take to host a home playoff game. They'll have a schedule backloaded with home games that should give them a slight boost for the remainder of the season; Adri Bausha said their rematches with Epping (Jan. 10) and Farmington (Jan. 20) are two big ones to watch. 

"We have to finish the season strong," she said. "Get in the playoffs. Hopefully we'll get a home game for the playoffs."

A home playoff game? That would be one thing guaranteed to put a smile on Crowley's face.