Cougars Nip Cardinals to Keep Playoff Dream Alive
Kearsarge’s Ollie Gallo gets pulled down in a tangle under the net during the Cougars’ 42-40 win over Stevens last night. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Kearsarge’s Casey Laughinghouse maintains control despite close coverage by Stevens’ Donald Pellerin, left, and Trey Dansereau, right during Kearsarge’s 42-40 win last night. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
North Sutton, n.h. — While last night’s matchup between Stevens and Kearsarge was a battle between two teams struggling down the stretch, it was also a game of some importance. The Cougars came into the game at 4-11 and in danger of missing the New Hampshire Division III tournament. Stevens, at 8-8, was trying to stay in the top 12 to get a first-round bye in the D-III tourney.
Kearsarge received a boost to its playoff chances last night when it scored the game’s final six points to win 42-40. The Cougars were in a battle for one of the remaining spots with four other four-loss teams.
For Stevens, which entered the day in the 12th spot, the loss could knock the team into a play-in round. The Cardinals have eight days off before closing the regular season out with Hillborough-Deering on Feb. 22. Kearsarge’s remaining games are against Mascoma (Tuesday) and Newport on Friday the 22nd.
Unfortunately, the loss for Stevens was somewhat typical of the Cardinals’ season, as they have struggled closing out late games. The Cardinals led 40-36 with 5:21 to go and never scored again. Kearsarge didn’t score a lot, but it scored enough to win. Stevens took a 40-36 lead following a 13-0 run as the Cardinals came back from 36-27 deficit.
What happened next was what Kearsarge coach Nate Camp called the biggest play of the game. Stevens had the ball, but the Cougars’ Ollie Gallo made a steal, followed by a Peter Allen put-back to make it a 40-38 game.
“That was a huge basket,” Camp said. “We hadn’t been scoring and needed a spark.”
The game was far from over, but the Cardinals, who had gone into a delay-type game with 5:21 to play, still tried to work the clock and hold the lead. It didn’t work, as the Cardinals turned the ball over and Allen made a jumper to tie the game at 40-40. There was 1:11 to go and Stevens had the ball. Turnovers by both teams followed before an off-balance Stevens shot was rebounded by Kearsarge’s Casey Laughinghouse, who was quickly fouled. The senior forward made both free throws to give the Cougars the lead. Stevens had one final chance when it got the ball with 2.9 seconds to go and had to travel the length of the court.
The play was set up so that Logan Batchelder would put the ball in play to Ryan Tanguay somewhere near mid-court. But the Kearsarge defense forced Tanguay to take the pass deeper than he wanted, and his desperation heave was off the mark.
During the course of the game, Stevens coach Scott MacNamee made wholesale changes, at times taking four starters out.
“We’re just trying to figure things out,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going on. All our games seem to be like this. What have we had one win by more than 10 points.”
The Cardinals had moments when the ball was dropping and the defense was tight, but not enough of those moments.
“We’ve got to compete the whole game not just two or three minutes at a time,” MacNamee said. “I don’t know what it is. What I do know is this is not the time to get down on each other. It’s time to support each other.”
When Kearsarge got the lead to 36-27 with 1:44 to go in the third quarter, it looked like the Cardinals were doomed. But MacNamee got the right combination as Tanguay had eight points and Haines five as the Cardinals went on a 13-0 run to take the lead. But that was the scoring for the night for the Cardinals.
“I thought we showed a lot of poise in the face of some adversity,” Camp said. “I thought we held together real well. Hopefully this will help us the rest of the way.”