Balanced Royals Roll Into D-III Quarterfinals

Canaan — “All man, all the time. Total accountability.”

Mascoma Regional High boys basketball coach Jim Barry was talking about his team’s defensive philosophy following the Royals’ 59-43 win over Laconia in an NHIAA Division III second-round matchup on Thursday night, but his words rang equally true regarding both sides of the ball.

It’s not that the Royals shied away from riding the hot hand, it’s that the hot hand changed with each passing quarter. Kyle Kosiorek scored all eight of his points in the second quarter, Justin Marsh had 10 in the third, and Walt Hammond had 10 in the fourth as Mascoma built a comfortable halftime lead and cruised to the victory.

“We play that way all the time,” said senior guard/forward Marsh, who finished with 16 points and a team-high four assists. “Our main thing is that we don’t rely on just one guy. Everyone can score. You can’t key on just one guy when you’re playing us.”

Laconia certainly did its best to keep the hosts off balance, displaying a variety of defensive looks. The Sachems utilized both 2-2-1 and 1-3-1 zone presses after baskets, and in half-court defensive sets began the game in a 2-3 zone before switching to man defense after falling behind. The Royals might not have had the exact answers to the test beforehand, but they sure looked like they’d studied well.

“We definitely expected to see those different looks,” Mascoma coach Jim Barry said. “When we threw the ball to the right places, we got layups.”

After a somewhat tentative start to the night by both teams — the Royals led just 8-6 with 46 seconds to play in the opening quarter—Mascoma’s Ethan Neily (eight points, eight rebounds) knocked down a jumper from the left elbow and freshman point guard Alex Schwarz finished a late fast-break layup to up the advantage to 12-6 heading into the second.

Hammond (game-high 19 points), Marsh and Will Morrison each converted early in the second quarter for Mascoma, and just like that, it was 18-6. For the record, the 10-0 Royal run featured buckets from five different players.

“That’s how we try to do it. We’ll take what we can get,” Barry said. “We look at it like we’ve got five scorers on the floor at all times.”

Even so, sometimes one of those five scorers catches fire. And the final five minutes of the second quarter belonged to Kosiorek, whose personal eight-point outburst included an 18-footer, a pair of fast-break layups, and a nifty back door cut for another layup, courtesy of a pinpoint pass from Marsh.

By the time the second quarter ended the Mascoma lead was 30-13, and the visiting Sachems had converted on only five field goal attempts. Over one seven-minute stretch spanning the first and second quarters, Laconia was held to just two points.

The Sachems featured a quick and capable ballhandler in senior point guard Aidan Dean, but for most of the night the Mascoma paint was as clogged as an L.A. freeway. More often than not the Sachems were forced to launch shots from the perimeter, and did not appear comfortable doing so. Laconia made just a single 3-pointer on the night in 14 attempts, and Mascoma’s Hammond (15 rebounds) made sure any second-chance looks were few and far between.

“We knew (Dean) was a point guard who liked to drive and dish,” Barry said. “And we were not going to allow dribble penetration.”

Marsh’s 10 points highlighted Mascoma’s 13-point third quarter effort, and despite the fact the Royals quickly ran into foul trouble by picking up seven team fouls in the first 4:25, Laconia converted just two of its first 10 free throws during that stretch, and was unable to cut into the deficit.

Mascoma led 43-26 after three, stretched the lead to 51-28 behind six quick points from Hammond in the fourth, and despite a less-than-sharp stretch midway through the quarter, never led by fewer than 12 points the rest of the night.

Next up for the No. 8 Royals (13-6, winners of six straight) is a quarterfinal visit to No. 1 Hopkinton (18-1). Back in January, Hopkinton edged the Royals by a 52-47 count in a game hosted by Mascoma.

“Make it ugly, get a win,” Barry said, when asked of his planned approach to the rematch. “Hopkinton is a big, talented basketball team, but we’ll be ready.”

No. 9 Laconia finished the season 11-8.