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Tigers Hang On, Stay Spotless in D-III

West Canaan — Without a second source of scoring, the Newport High boys basketball team’s 24-hour reign atop NHIAA Division III might have ended in 36 minutes.

Ever since a breakout performance at Keene State College’s Zero Gravity Holiday Tournament last month, however, Newport junior Spencer Coronis has been that second outlet the Tigers need. The guard scored six of his team-high-tying 18 points in overtime as Newport edged archrival Mascoma, 52-49, on Tuesday night to remain atop the division.

The Tigers (7-0 league, 8-2 overall) needed every bit of Coronis’ assistance to beat the Royals (6-3, 7-4), who led as late as the final 2½ minutes of regulation and had chances to win the contest before overtime. Newport earned a season series sweep with the victory, by a combined margin of four points.

“Spencer had a great game down at the (KSC) Christmas tournament, and that jump-started his confidence,” Newport coach Steve Lavolpicelo said. “Since then, he’s played very well offensively like we know he can. And that’s really important for our team down the road; we really have multiple guys, but (we need) to have two guys that we can go to for offense.”

Newport had one last year in Andrew Houde, at 22.22 points per game one of the Upper Valley’s top scorers. Although the Tigers went 21-2 and reached the D-III semifinals, Houde never had an alternate scoring threat to reduce his workload.

He has one now. The junior can still be a one-man show when needed — his 25.11 ppg entering the week led the area — but Coronis, thanks to a 24-point outing in a Dec. 29 Zero Gravity win over Keene High, has grown the self-assurance to pick up the slack.

“It’s not me and him; we’ve all stepped up our game,” Coronis said. “We’ve all got to score here and there. It can’t be just him. It’s got to be all of us to get better.”

Mascoma coach Jim Barry set his team to give Houde (18 points) as little room to move as possible. In the four-minute overtime, that opened space for Coronis.

The junior curled around the left corner and swished a running one-hander 21 seconds into OT for a lead Newport wouldn’t relinquish. Two Coronis free throws extended the advantage, and two more less than a minute after a bunny from Jason Teeter (10 points) left the Tigers holding a 52-47 lead with 26.8 seconds to play.

Taking the helm for a sluggish offense, Mascoma senior Kyle Kosiorek (team-high 17 points) hit a layup against a sagging defense with 16.5 ticks left, and a Will Morrison rebound of a Coronis one-and-one miss gave the Royals one last chance to extend the game. Andrew Cashe found Kosiorek open in the right corner, but the senior’s 3-point try rimmed out at the buzzer.

“It wasn’t by design,” Barry admitted of Kosiorek’s clutch performance. “He kind of grabbed the bull by the horns. I admire the fact that he tried to carry us offensively. That’s probably not his forte; we need to spread it around, find the (open) guy.”

Well-versed in each other’s ways, neither team shot well on Tuesday. As such, neither was able to gain much of an advantage on the other.

Mascoma owned the first edge, going up 9-2 early and 13-10 after one quarter with Kosiorek sinking three baskets on a layup, a putback and a curl move around the right side. Coronis and Houde frequently played a game of chuck-and-duck, each trying to find the range and doing just enough for a 19-19 halftime tie.

A spurt out of the break, started with an Ethan Neily bunny, a Kosiorek elbow jumper and a free throw from Cashe (12 points), pushed the Royals in front to open the third quarter. But Coronis and Houde scored 10 of Newport’s 14 points in the stanza, keyed by a Coronis three-point play, a Houde lane runner and a Coronis 3-pointer to keep the Tigers within 34-33 entering the fourth quarter.

Mascoma pulled away again, taking a 40-35 lead with 5:07 left. But Houde reeled the Royals back with a pair of twisting 3-pointers in the final three minutes to extend the contest.

“Those shots he made,” Barry said of Houde, “most high school kids don’t make those shots.”

Conant’s loss to Campbell on Monday night opened the door to the division lead, and it’s a position the Tigers hope to enjoy for a while. Clearly, it takes two — at a minimum — to get there.

“He’s highly skilled; he’s got a good shot, although he struggled early from the floor tonight,” Lavolpicelo said of Coronis. “I think he’s playing with more confidence, and I think that’s the difference for him.”

Free Throws: Newport shot just 30.6 percent from the floor (19-of-62), while the Royals were only marginally better at 37.0 percent (20-for-54). “It’s a rivalry game,” Barry said. “Both teams know each other’s tendencies. They know each other inside-out. The probably know each other’s cellphone numbers.” … Kosiorek’s tally was one short of his season high. He entered the night averaging just over eight points a game. … Coronis and Houde have shared the Newport scoring lead in the Tigers’ last two games. … Neily contributed eight points to the Mascoma cause. … Both teams return to action on Friday, with the Royals hosting Hopkinton and Newport at the Towle School for a date with Mascenic.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.