Three-Peat! Concord Christian wins third-straight title

By Nathaniel Ford

DURHAM – The Concord Christian Kingsmen defeated the Pembroke Spartans 65-53 in the Division II Girls Championship at UNH.

The school of just 106 students won the Division IV title in 2022, the Division III title in 2023, and has now taken home the Division II title as well.

Lilli Carlisle, a junior for the Kingsmen, had a historic game. She finished with 29 points and 12 rebounds, both of which were game highs. She broke the individual scoring record in a Division II girls final, breaking the prior mark of 27 points set by Lebanon’s Jane Daigle in 1982. 

Concord Christian started off hot, jumping to an early 8-2 run behind 6 points from Carlisle. It looked like the Kingsmen could run away early, but Pembroke did not roll over. 

Kaitlin Arenella made a huge three to bring the game to three points. After some back-and-forth play, Pembroke ended the quarter on a 6-0 run. Behind a coast-to-coast layup from freshman Anne Phillips, the Spartans entered the second quarter leading 13-12.

The second quarter was a battle as well. Pembroke opened the quarter on a 7-2 run, which was driven by Arenella, who knocked down a deep three and got a finish inside. This extended the Spartan lead to six. 

The Kingsmen did not roll over, and they responded quickly with a huge run of their own. Sophomore Emma Smith powered this. She connected from beyond the arc and had an and-one finish inside. 

They quickly overcame the 6-point deficit, and in the blink of an eye, the Kingsmen were back in the lead. This game was shaping up to be a battle, and going into the second half, Concord Christian led 29-26.

Pembroke shot 0/7 from the free-throw line in the first half, which was a big contribution to their 3 point deficit entering the second half. 

Carlisle and Smith were carrying the Kingsmen offensively, scoring 27 of their 29 first half points. The team was dominated on the glass, out-rebounding Pembroke 21-12. 

The third quarter was nothing short of unbelievable. The game was absolutely blown open in favor of the Kingsmen. They opened on a quick 9-0 run to extend the lead to 12 points, and they never looked back.

Everyone on the team was contributing. Kayden Rioux knocked down a three, Taylor Rioux got a layup in transition, Kate Smith had a pair of baskets, and Emma Smith and Lilli Carlisle piled on points of their own.

They dominated the quarter and started to run away with it. Capitalizing on 7 turnovers from the Spartans, they won the period by 15 points and entered the fourth quarter with a 51-33 lead.  

Pembroke needed a historic comeback, and it was not in the cards today. They did not roll over, but the deficit was too large, with the Kingsmen leading by as many as 22 points in the final frame.

They made big three pointers late and got the lead to single digits, but Concord Christian stayed composed and knocked down free throws when they needed them. They closed out the game with a 65-53 victory. 

Fast break points and baskets in the paint were two of the biggest turning points in their win. They outscored Pembroke 18-4 in transition, and scored a whopping 48 points in the paint, as well as 14 second chance points. 

Another huge reason for their victory was the defense played on Pembroke’s Annelise Dexter, the leading scorer in the division. She averaged 24.9 points a game in the regular season, and she was held to just 4 points tonight. 

Concord Christian was led by two players, Emma Smith and Lilli Carlile, combining for 52 points. Smith had an extremely efficient 23 points on 9/13 shooting, and she added 9 rebounds as well. 

Carlile had 29 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals, putting together one of the most impressive individual performances in a Division II final. 

Pembroke was led by a trio of double digit scorers. Kaitlin Arenella led the way with 14 points and connected on 4 three pointers. Anne Phillips and Kate Stephens both added 12 points of their own. 

While they came up short in the championship, Pembroke had a stellar season this year. They went 15-3 on the season, finishing as the third seed and upsetting Laconia to make it to the title game, which was their first appearance since the 1995 season.

Winning the title caps off the Kingsmen’s dominant 17-1 regular season. Their roster of only eight girls is looking to move up to Division I next season. With only one senior on the squad, another championship may be on the horizon in 2025.

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