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Former rivals powering Endicott women’s basketball

Julie Manning (left), Endicott College women’s basketball coach  Brittany Hutchinson (center), and  Samantha Crough.

David Le

Julie Manning (left), Endicott College women’s basketball coach Brittany Hutchinson (center), and Samantha Crough.

South Shore duo drives Endicott

For eight years they were fierce opponents, beginning with basketball in the fifth grade.

The rivalry between Samantha Crough and Julie Manning became even more spirited in high school, when the South Shore League battles between Cohasset High and Hull High often reached epic levels.

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Four years removed from their heated high school rivalry, Crough and Manning are roommates and cocaptains at Endicott College. The former competitors have forged a strong friendship and are a major factor behind the Gulls’ strong start.

On Saturday, with Crough posting 17 points and nine rebounds, Endicott improved to 12-4 (7-2 Commonwealth Coast Conference) with a 71-55 win over Eastern Nazarene in Quincy. Manning contributed nine points and six boards, including five consecutive points that triggered a 19-2 first-half run and gave the Gulls a comfortable lead.

“We were rivals since fifth grade and now we are best friends, roommates, and cocaptains,” said Crough, a 5-11 forward from Cohasset.

“We joke about our past a lot. We played together on the Cape Cod Waves AAU team after our senior year, and we started to become friends.”

Manning, a 6-foot center from Hull, said that when the two arrived as freshmen, “we were able to blend together well and it’s been a really good experience. Being a captain with her and roommates has made our bond stronger.”

The duo has clearly made Endicott stronger as well.

Crough is averaging a team-high 15.8 points per game, ranking fifth in the conference, and also leading the Gulls in rebounding (7.5 per gam). Manning pulls down 4.7 boards per game and averages 6 points a game.

The offense revolves around Crough, who has added a dribble-and-drive aspect to her offensive repertoire this season. She is also regarded as Endicott’s best defender and her 25 blocked shots are second on the team.

Endicott coach Brittany Hutchinson has been impressed with Crough’s ability to improve at least one facet of her game each season.

“Samantha got a lot of playing time in her freshman year, and after the season we talked about her defense, which was OK but not great,” said Hutchinson. “She had her feet stuck in the mud and wasn’t moving well. She came back for her sophomore year and became one of our best defenders.

“After her sophomore year we addressed her shot, which wasn’t falling as much. She came back for her junior year and was killing it off the backboard, which I think is underutilized at this level. Before this season we talked about being more than a catch-and-shoot player, so she added a dribble-and-drive move. She continually adds new aspects to her game, which speaks volumes about her commitment.”

Crough has logged a team-high 499 minutes and is shooting at 43 percent (108 of 248) from the floor. Only Manning (48.7 percent) is higher. Crough scored 30 points in a 79-74 victory over Salem State in November, and poured in 29 points when she netted her 1,000th point in a 78-77 overtime victory at Roger Williams earlier this month.

After losing in the conference final in 2012, the Gulls are shooting for the title this season.

“Our major goal is to win the Commonwealth Coast championship,” said Crough, a psychology major who would like to get involved in coaching after graduating. “We’ve never done that at Endicott so we’d love to bring a banner back to the school.”

Hutchinson knows that Crough will be a major piece in that quest.

“She knows how to win and she will do anything to win,” said Hutchinson of Crough, who won a pair of Division 4 state titles at Cohasset. “Samantha is a scorer and she wants the ball in her hands more than anybody else. She’s not afraid to take the big shot. She wants the ball, and she capitalizes when she gets it.”

Junior forward Kayleen Whall of Foxborough is having another steady season for the Gulls, averaging 11.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Whall had 12 points in the victory over ENC, including 6 of 7 from the free-throw line. Whall has improved her shooting accuracy in all three categories this year, including free throws (82 percent), 3-pointers (37.1 percent), and field goal percentage (43 percent).

Battista leaves mark at Bentley

Lauren Battista is a two-time All-American for the No. 1 ranked Division 2 women’s basketball team in the country. And now the 6-foot senior from North Easton stands alone as the career scoring leader at Bentley College, after her 20-point effort Saturday afternoon in a 98-82 Northeast-10 Conference win over Saint Anselm. Battista entered the game 16 points shy of Kelly Barker (1,800 points, Class of 2001), but the Oliver Ames High graduate buried a turn-in jumper in the lane with 1:08 left in the first half to break the mark.

“Lauren has done everything we’ve asked, and has done so within the framework of our offensive system,” said Bentley coach Barbara Stevens , a Bridgewater State grad who also made history, earning her 900th career victory, the sixth in the women’s college game to reach the milestone.

“She is one of the best we’ve ever had. . . . This was a tremendous accomplishment for Lauren, but she and the rest of the team know they have more to achieve.” The 18-0 Falcons hosted Saint Rose Wednesday night.

Sure shots

Bates senior Meredith Kelly, who teamed up with Samantha Crough at Cohasset High, also scored her 1,000th point this month, reaching the milestone in a 69-47 loss to the University of New England. The 5-foot-8 guard finished the game with 24 points, eight rebounds, and three steals. Kelly paces the NESCAC in scoring (22.3 points per game). . . .

Junior forward Mike Driscoll’s eighth goal of the season proved the difference in a key ECAC East matchup Friday night, as sixth-ranked Babson scored a 2-0 victory over No. 9 UMass-Boston. It was Driscoll’s first game-winning tally of the season. Babson goaltender Jamie Murray (Scituate) recorded his fifth career shutout. The nationally ranked foes met again on Saturday, with Babson pulling out a 3-2 win. Norwell’s Nik Tasiopoulos notched the game-winner and Driscoll added another tally.

John R. Johnson can be reached at jjohnson49@comcast.net.
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