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Deja vu: Portsmouth girls basketball to face Bedford in semis for fourth straight year

Members of the Portsmouth High School girls basketball team celebrate after a 58-24 win over No. 5 Salem on Friday in a Division I quarterfinal. The fourth-seeded Clippers advanced to the semifinals for the fourth straight year and will face top-seed Bedford on Tuesday.
Members of the Portsmouth High School girls basketball team celebrate after a 58-24 win over No. 5 Salem on Friday in a Division I quarterfinal. The fourth-seeded Clippers advanced to the semifinals for the fourth straight year and will face top-seed Bedford on Tuesday.

PORTSMOUTH - As much as things change, some things stay the same.

And for the fourth straight season, the Portsmouth High School girls basketball team will advance to the Division I semifinals - and, for the fourth straight year, will play Bedford.

The fourth-seeded Clippers punched their ticket to their latest Final Four with a 58-24 quarterfinal win over No. 5 Salem Friday at Stone Gymnasium.

Senior Avery Romps had a game-high 14 points for the Portsmouth High School girls basketball team in Friday's Division I quarterfinal win over Salem.
Senior Avery Romps had a game-high 14 points for the Portsmouth High School girls basketball team in Friday's Division I quarterfinal win over Salem.

Avery Romps scored 12 points in the first half and led Portsmouth (17-3) with 14 points. Margaret Montplaisir added 10 points for the Clippers, while Maddie MacCannell had nine, and Sydney Pettis and Haley Coombs both had eight.

"I think we came out just wanting to play really good team basketball," Romps said. "(We wanted to) come out super hard and get a lead right off the start, which I think we did after the first quarter."

"We knew it was going to be a really aggressive game, Salem is the No. 5 seed for a reason," Montplaisir said. "We came out with a lot of energy. We had a bunch of people here and we were really determined to get to the Final Four again. We just did everything we needed to do."

Top-seeded Bedford (19-0) advanced with a 74-32 win over Exeter.

"For this group to have the opportunity to go to four Final Fours, it doesn't happen all the time," Portsmouth head coach Tim Hopley said. "Maybe if you're at a Bedford, or you're at a Pinkerton, some of the bigger schools. We're still relatively small in relation to the rest of Division I. We've been so fortunate the last four years to have a senior group. This year's senior group, they're not all basketball-first players, but they each have a part, each have a role, each have things they bring to the table."

You can almost pencil it in..

Not to overlook other contending teams in Division I, but if you were proposed with a bet that Portsmouth would be one of the four teams in the semifinals, recent history would have been a very persuasive factor to take that bet.

Bedford beat Portsmouth the last three years in the semifinal round; 64-60 last year, 45-24 in 2022, and 66-43 in 2021.

Portsmouth's Margaret Montplaisir is defended by Salem's Lindsay Goetz during Friday night's Division I girls basketball quarterfinal game.
Portsmouth's Margaret Montplaisir is defended by Salem's Lindsay Goetz during Friday night's Division I girls basketball quarterfinal game.

"We know what's there, we know how good they are, how well they're coached they are, we know all of that stuff," Hopley said. "To have that opportunity to get another chance at it, we're going to spend the next three days doing everything we can to make sure we are mentally and physically prepared for (Bedford)."

Are the Clippers on the verge?

In the most recent bout against Bedford, back in the end of January, Portsmouth showed that a future matchup with the two teams could produce a different outcome.

Portsmouth lost 56-50, but outscored the Bulldogs, 47-35 the final three quarters. Hopley said that game was sort of a fact-finding mission.

"We found out that we needed to show up right from the opening tip, instead of 20 minutes later," Hopley said. "We dug ourselves a huge hole in that first quarter, and found a way to dig ourselves out of it. We had a lead with under four (minutes) to play. We're going to do everything we can to show that we're up for the challenge, and try to take that next step over that huge hurdle that's in front of us."

Romps said she's hoping things go the Clippers way in her final year.

"Just play as hard as we can and leave it all on the floor," Romps said. "Especially having such a strong senior class, I think we all just want to play our best in our last season together."

"We've struggled in the past, we just have to make sure we're doing the right things," Montplaisir said. "Mentally, not getting in our heads, not turning the ball over and physically being strong. It's going to be a really tough game, it always is against them, but we know we can compete with them, we know we can bring the competition. We just have to do all of the little things."

"We know that we can play with them, that's not even a question for us," Montplaisir added. "It's just going into the game, not letting the crowd overwhelm us, playing to our standard and just doing what we need to do to win."

Portsmouth breaks game open in second quarter

The Clippers led 15-10 after the first quarter, and then outscored Salem, 17-0 in the second to take a commanding 32-10 lead at halftime.

"We were just really relentless on the defensive end," Romps said of the second quarter. "We wanted to really work on the defensive end and get stops, and stop their best players, which I think we did."

Two of Salem's best top scorers were held in check as Lindsay Goetz finished with nine points, and Lily George was held scoreless.

"Salem has some really good point guards, and we knew we had to keep them out of the paint," Montplaisir said. "They're fast, they can score, and we knew we had to keep them in front of us. Our on-ball defense was great."

Romps scored five points in the second quarter, while Coombs, Montplaisir and Maddie MacCannell all had four.

Romps gets into rhythm early

Romps scored seven points in the team's first-round win over Nashua South, but matched that output in Friday's first quarter.

Her first basket came in the post, off an assist from Mackenzie Lombardi, then Montplaisir found Romps for a 3-pointer, and Romps then finished with a steal and layup.

"My teammates were rebounding really well and finding me on the outside," Romps said. "We were swinging the ball really, really well and playing really good team basketball; hitting those shots really helped. Then I was just finding the open paint a lot."

Romps added a layup and another 3-pointer in the second quarter.

"(Romps) is an amazing player," Montplaisir said. "She's always a leader, always making the right plays and we know when we drive, she's open and she's going to hit it. We have a lot of trust in each other. She's a lockdown defender, and a great leader. She can do everything on offense and we're really grateful to have her on our team."

Coombs dominates off bench for Portsmouth

Coombs is another Clipper who makes an immediate impact whenever she checks into the game.

She made two shots in the first half, and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the foul line, as well as attacking the glass and blocking shots.

"That girl right there, you're going to look at it and say who's Haley Coombs and what does she do," Hopley said. "She only played five minutes or whatever it was ... in short minutes to have that kind of production from a backup big, we're going to obviously need all of that and then some come Tuesday night. She was incredible, hat's off to Haley."

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Portsmouth girls basketball beats Salem in quarterfinal; Bedford looms