Firecracker Seniors Finish Careers in Philly 3-1

The class of 2021 finished up their Firecracker careers in style this past weekend with a hard fought win against Mid Penn Motion, 50-41. After just 3 practices last year, the Firecrackers shut down due to the pandemic so for the first time ever, the National A team was comprised of several (6) seniors, who decided to come back and play a twelve game season, finishing 9-3 with a challenging schedule including The Rivals, Bay State Jaguars 2x, NY Extreme, etc. Game recaps from Philly Tournament below:
Game One: Firecrackers 75 Allysa Thomas Elite 29 Margaret McNeill got the party started courtesy of a Mollie Obar pass off “Highline Post” with less than ten seconds expired on the clock against Allysa Thomas Elite (former Maryland and WNBA star sponsoring the team) before Gemima Motema assisted Mollie Obar’s trey and Camille Clement hit her first of five three’s in the half to give the Firecrackers a 10-2 lead. Gemima Motema proceeded to score three straight baskets after steals before Adele Nadeau and Chelsea Graiver splashed threes of their own. Due to an ankle injury from standout Freshman Maddie Fitzpatrick, the “Precocious Post Puppy’s” Emma Lizotte (Freshman) and Bailey Breen (8th grader) quickly made their marks after getting “called up” from the National B team with 4 combined baskets courtesy of Bella McLaughlin and Graiver assists. This was the best shooting performance of the year for the Firecrackers with 8 treys and 51 points in the first half vs. 19 for ATE. The second half went quickly with the clock running due to a 20 point lead and the Firecrackers cruised to the finish. Clement led all scorers with 23 (7-10
from three), Motema had 17, Emma Lizotte 7, Bailey Breen and Obar 6 each, Nadeau 5, McNeill 4 and 8 assists, Graiver 3 pts/4 steals/5 assists, “Speedy” Bella McLaughlin right off the plane arriving mid-game with Delta pretzels in hand got a quick bucket and steal, while Amanda Kabantu added a foul shot to go with 7 offensive rebounds and four steals.
Game Two: Firecrackers 54  NY Extreme 55
This was a terrific back and forth game between two similar and evenly matched teams, both featuring strong guard play and three point shooting. The Firecrackers got on the board first off the tip play from Motema to McNeill to Clement for two but NY scored the next 7 points before Clement and Obar each connected on 3’s and Amanda Kabantu soared for an offensive rebound and put-back to tie the game at 10. Bella McLaughlin hit a pull up and layup for a quick 4 points but the Firecrackers trailed 17-14 until Adele “Dreamy Rotation” Nadeau drained a long 3 to tie the game yet again. When Bailey “Sternwoman” Breen calmly sank two foul shots and Clement hit her third three of the half the game was all even at 27 at the intermission. The second half was nip and tuck until the Extreme extended a small lead to 8 with 6 minutes remaining before Mollie Obar hit two clutch 3’s and McNeill found “Stanley the Lab’s Best Friend” Camille Clement for a long three that gave the Firecrackers the lead, 54-53 lead with two minutes left. With under a minute remaining NY was forced to foul 4 times to get into the bonus and the Firecrackers missed the front end of a one and one before fouling at the other end with less than a second left and the NY shooter made both free throws. A long pass from McNeill to Kabantu connected and Kabantu got off a decent shot but the ball caromed off the rim and the Mainers fell to 1-1. Clement (16) and Obar (14) led the scoring while Kabantu added 6 and held the star Extreme point guard (several scholarship offers) to eleven points.

Game Three: Firecrackers 56 Lehigh Valley Fever 32
Tip off began soon after the prior game and started off sluggish as the Firecrackers were cold in the first few minutes and clung to a 9-7 lead after three hoops by Motema and a trey from Obar. The bench took over with great energy from Graiver , McLaughlin,, Breen, Lizotte, and Nadeau as the Firecrackers surged to a 34 -19 halftime lead. Motema was unstoppable getting to the rim in this one, finishing with 20 points. Clement added 9, while Breen and McLaughlin chipped in 7, Gravier (6 pts/4 assists), McLaughlin (7 points/3 steals), Lizotte (3 pts/blocks), and Nadeau knocked in
a three to go along with 3 assists and her normal heady play.
Game Four: Firecrackers 50 Mid-Penn Motion 41
This was a contrast of styles with the Motion featuring a 6’5” center with multiple scholarship offers and a second 6’1” scholarship physical post player with a patient style of setting high ball screens and pounding the ball into the post. The Firecrackers are much more of a perimeter and up-tempo team so keys would be pace and the ability to defend larger post players. Gemima Motema started the game with a soaring drive over her 6’1” defender in a preview of what would be arguably the best Firecracker game of her career. Clement added two early long balls and McNeill added one of her own and the game was tied at 11 after five minutes. McNeill played outstanding defense while giving up 7” and was spelled by Lizotte and Breen, who both “grew up” in front of our eyes over the course of the weekend and gave excellent minutes on the defensive end while combining for six first half points. The Firecrackers clung to a 28-25 lead at halftime in large part to strong rotations and team defense with a tremendous defensive effort from Amanda Kabantu on the excellent Motion PG. Somehow, Kabantu managed to play stifling, aggressive, and physical defense while becoming close friends with the same player in the course of the same game. The chess match between teams led to the Firecrackers moving to a “5 Out” offense that forced the large Motion post players out of the paint and Gemima Motema took over and put on a show with several explosive drives to the basket while the Penn coach tried 4 different players to stop her, to no avail. A traditional 3 point play by Motema, a top of the key 3 from Clement
courtesy of a Graiver assist and two foul shots by Kabantu were the daggers and the Firecrackers closed out a tight game with a 50-41 victory. Motema led all scorers with 23 points, Clement 14 (4 three’s) and McNeill added 5 (8 rebounds) but the story was the Firecracker team defense, led by McNeill, Lizotte, and Breen in the paint. 

End of a Chapter: The Class of 2021 featured good players who were coachable and from wonderful families. Motema and Clement will continue to play together at Northeastern, Kabantu will join former Firecracker teammates Maggie Whitmore and Brooke Obar at Bentley, and the much improved Mollie Obar will take her silky smooth shot to Brandeis, while
Glory Blethen will play at Coast Guard Academy. Adele Nadeau opted to pass on division three opportunities for the bigger school/high academic combo at Wake Forest and Margaret McNeill passed up several basketball opportunities to study at Monmouth. Congratulations to all outstanding members of the Firecracker class of 2021.

The future of the firecrackers looks bright with steady inquiries from college coaches already underway due to an excellent relatively younger National B Team comprised of Junior Chelsea Graiver (committed to Stonehill), and Sophomore Bella McLaughlin from Hamden Academy combined with strong freshman class of Maddie Fitzpatrick
(Cheverus), Emma Lizotte (Cheverus), Ellie Gay (Gorham), Koral Morin (Lewiston), Natalie Beaudoin, and Emma Shaw of Portland, who is recovering from a broken wrist. Eight graders Bailey Breen of Oceanside and Abby Morrill of Cony round out the roster of exciting and talented young players coached by Chris Fitzpatrick.