Draining the game-winning shot is a dream shared by most, if not all, hoop junkies.
Now add this element to the drama: Knocking down the 3-pointer that serves as the knockout punch to your former team.
Manchester Central High's Dawson Dickson didn't just dream such a scenario. He lived it Jan. 10. The sophomore point guard's trey earned the Little Green a 41-40 Division I boys' basketball road win over fierce Queen City rival Trinity High.
“I've wanted to hit a game-winning shot my whole life,” said Dickson, who transferred from Trinity, this year's championship favorite, after his freshman year. “I didn't even think about the situation. I was open, so I shot it.”
Reacting rather than thinking served the sophomore well. McHugh Gym – one of the smaller, yet most electric hoop venues in the state – was packed.
“It was my old school and bragging rights were on the line,” Dickson said.
It was hot. It was loud. And, hardly surprising, the home team's unforgiving student section didn't give Dickson a break for four quarters.
On the court, the game was tied at 38-apiece inside the final minute. Dickson, a year removed from shooting countless jumpers on Trinity's home court, hadn't attempted a single 3-point shot.
Until, that is, a defensive breakdown left him open beyond the arc.
Muscle memory – and a go-for-the-jugular mindset – kicked in. Dickson lofted the 3-ball with 52 seconds to play.
Central's one-possession lead, however, was trimmed to a point. The Pioneers also had a chance to take the lead in the final seconds, but couldn't convert the critical field goal.
Dickson's former team was saddled with its first league loss of the season.
As for the underclassman, hardly overwhelmed with the game in the balance, what was he feeling once the score went final?
“Relief,” Dickson said. “The Trinity kids were on me the whole game.”
Hampton's Winnacunnet High has been home to the state's most dominant girls' basketball program since, perhaps, the John Fagula-coached nationally ranked Nashua High teams in the 1980s.
So it figures that Winnacunnet's 84-game win streak ended in, of all places, Nashua.
Winnacunnet – the five-time defending Division I champion – had no answer for Meghan Green on Jan. 10. The 6-foot 1-inch junior forward scored 37 points, pulled down 23 rebounds, and led Nashua's Bishop Guertin High to a 77-66 victory.
The Cardinals improved to 7-0 with the win, and became the first opponent since Merrimack High four years earlier to defeat the Seacoast's premier program.
“It's kind of a weight lifted off our shoulders,” Winnacunnet senior and San Diego State soccer recruit Kirsten O'Neil told the New Hampshire Union Leader after her 21-point effort. “Now we have more to work for. Now we can fix things and go over what we did wrong.”
Guertin set the tempo, and controlled it, throughout the contest. The Cards played fast – and made sure Green got her touches.
Backcourt duo Jamie Sherburne and Megan Kerutis, both underclassmen, combined for 21 points. Sherburne, a sophomore, and Kerutis, a freshman, handled Winnacunnet's full-court pressure nicely.
Winnacunnet's 30-27 halftime lead turned into an eight-point deficit, 50-42, in the final frame.
“I guess it's significant,” Green told the statewide newspaper of the win, “but it's nothing special to us.”
Clearly, BG is focused on achieving bigger goals.
Andrew Hadley doesn't look like a freshman. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound forward for Concord's Bishop Brady High didn't play like one in consecutive hockey contests against contending Manchester clubs, either.
Hadley played the hero's role in one-goal wins over Memorial High and Central on Jan. 7 and 11.
Brady's rapidly rising star fueled an unlikely comeback Jan. 7 to hand then-first-place Memorial its first Division I loss. Hadley sandwiched two goals, including the game-winner in overtime, around an assist on Nate Philbrick's game-tying tally in a 3-2 triumph.
The freshman's first goal sparked the Green Giants with less than 6 minutes remaining in regulation.
The freshman's assist came with 35.1 seconds to play.
The freshman's game-winner? It was a sizzler from the high slot with 3-plus minutes to play.
Four days later, Hadley struck again in Brady's 2-1 win. He unloaded a rocket wrist shot from the right-wing circle to snap a third-period deadlock with Central.
WHITE HITS 1,000
Friday the 13th was only partially unlucky for Souhegan High's Jane White.
First, the bad news. The Amherst squad lost its Division II girls' basketball contest to Northwood's Coe-Brown Academy, 58-52.
The good news, second. White, back from an ankle injury, scored her 1,000th career point. She entered the game 11 points shy of 1,000, and hit the mark late in the third quarter.
White's milestone point was converted from the free-throw line, where the senior hit 11 shots overall.
Fouled on a 3-point attempt, White (team-high 16 points) calmly sank all three shots. She hit the magic number with the third free throw.
What do you get when same-town Seacoast hockey rivals square off? High emotions and physical play, for sure. But 19 combined penalties?
That was the total Jan. 16, when Division I St. Thomas Aquinas High and defending Division II champion Dover High went toe-to-toe at the Dover Ice Arena.
STA overcame 11 penalties – including a pair of 5-minute high-sticking majors, a disqualification and game misconduct – to score a 3-2 win over Dover.
Dover coach Steve Riker certainly didn't pull punches after the game.
“The difference in the game was (STA) took a bunch of dumb penalties. They played like the Johnstown Chiefs,” Riker told the Union Leader. “I think they thought they were going to come out here and be physical with us. When we responded, they didn't like that very much.”
Riker, of course, mixed fictional and real-life minor league hockey teams when delivering the jab.
He was referencing the gang of goons, the Charlestown Chiefs, from the movie “Slap Shot.” It is said the fictitious club was inspired by the Johnstown Jets, a hockey team from the 1970s.
Regardless, Riker's remark had some sting.
Marc Thaler is a reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News. He co-hosts the “N.H. High School Sports Show” on Manchester's WGIR-AM 610 and the Seacoast's 96.7 FM every Saturday from 7-9 a.m. Read his “New Hampshire GameDay” blog and follow him on Twitter: @marc_thaler.