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Cardinals Have No Answers

Claremont — The frustration is beginning to show.

In the preseason, Stevens High was figured to rise toward the upper echelon of New Hampshire Division III. Now there is concern about just making the postseason.

With Wednesday’s 60-45 loss to Hopkinton, the Cardinals are 2-5. Coach Scott MacNamee keeps thinking the face he sees in the mirror might have something to do with it.

“I’m frustrated,” MacNamee said. “I have no more buttons to push. We’re a great team on paper, but when the game begins, we lack toughness.”

Stevens lacked a lot of things Wednesday night, but that was a pretty good opponent that took the floor. Hopkinton is 7-1, with its only loss coming to mighty Conant. The 15-point difference marked Hopkinton’s “narrowest” win of the year,

Hawks coach Dave Chase was worried because a flu bug was running through the team, he said before the game. Liam McNicholas, an all-state guard averaging 14 points and 10 assists per game, didn’t make the trip. Teammate Gabe Nichols (24 ppg) had the flu, but came to school on Wednesday so he could play against Stevens. Nichols had 14 points Wednesday before he took a rest.

The biggest surprise of the night, however, was 6-foot-3 Hopkinton junior Luke Luneau, who averages four points a game. He had 16 by the half and finished with 19.

“Where did that come from?” Chase asked.

Hopkinton also has a lot of height on its roster with 10 players at least 6 feet tall. That may have played a role on the offensive boards as the Hawks had 10 put-back baskets, five in the first quarter.

Chase said because of the flu that was running through the team, the Hawks played a lot of delay ball in the second half. It nearly cost them as the Cardinals were within seven, 49-42 with 3:26 to play. But the rally stalled at that point, and the Hawks closed out the game with a 11-3 run.

“I was worried,” Chase said. “This has never been a comfortable place for us to play.”

He was not as worried as MacNamee, perhaps. When asked if the situation was correctable, MacNamee said he didn’t know.

“I didn’t think Hopkinton played especially well tonight, but we were worse than they were. I’m just frustrated,” he said.

No Stevens players scored more than 10 points, and the Cardinals reached the foul line just four times.

It was evident early the Cardinals were going to have trouble with the taller and aggressive Hawks as Luneau scored 10 points in the first quarter, four on put-backs, which enabled Hopkinton to take a 19-9 lead after one period. The teams played even through the next two periods, but the Cardinals couldn’t take a sizeable bite out of the lead until the fourth quarter, and then it was too late.

Stevens will head to Monadnock on Friday.