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Tigers Tackle ’Cats

Langdon, n.h. — Even the Boston Celtics don’t take the floor this often.

Playing its third game in five days, the Newport High boys basketball team turned in a spirited effort in a 63-49 win at Fall Mountain Monday night.

While the Tigers are a lock to escape a play-in game, the contest was crucial in NHIAA Division III positioning as the regular season comes to an end on Saturday. The Tigers, now 14-3 in the league, entered Monday night’s game tied for sixth with Gilford with just Friday night’s game at home against Kearsarge left on the schedule.

In Division III, the top 12 teams get a day off while the seeds 13-20 teams have play-in games next Tuesday to determine the final four playoff spots.

The game was more important to the 9-7 Wildcats, who are scrambling to stay in the top 12. They were tied for Farmington for 10th with a Wednesday game at home with Stevens and a trip to Monadnock on Friday.

Fall Mountain, which didn’t tumble out of this game until late in the third quarter, fell behind 18-3 with 2:42 to go in the first period, but rallied to trail just 29-25 at the half. And they did this mostly without 6-foot-2 stalwart center Nick Burns, who went to the bench with his second foul at the 5:42 mark of the first period. He did come back for the final 2:35 of the second period, but had just one basket in the first half.

“Hey, our bench guys really did the job,” said Fall Mountain coach Jason Bardis.

While it has been a grind with all the games “and we lost five practices to snow days,” said Newport coach Steve Lavolpicelo, the Newport defense held the Wildcats to just five points in the pivotal third quarter and just 30 points in the first three quarters.

However, while Lavolpicelo was OK with his defense, it wasn’t a total pat on the back. “We allowed the Murdock kid (Ryan) to get three 3-pointers in the first quarter,” said the Newport coach. “That shouldn’t happen.”

The Tigers like to rebound and blast down the court on offense. With that strategy working, it took them 10 seconds to score and five minutes to construct that 18-3 lead. Andrew Houde started the surge with a 3-pointer from the side and ended it with a steal, drive and a layup.

At this point it looked pretty gloomy for the ’Cats with Newport flashing up and down the court and Burns on the bench, but Fall Mountain countered with two triples from Murdock and one from Garrett Ward. Fall Mountain used the input to close to 18-12 before Spencer Coronis hit a 3 for Newport to make it 21-12 after eight minutes.

Fall Mountain, which looked lost in the beginning, found whatever was missing and went on an 11-4 surge to start the second quarter and squeezed the Newport lead to 25-23 with 3:48 to go in a half. Newport clinged to a 29-25 lead at the break.

But that was as close as the Wildcats would get, as an 18-5 third period edge allowed Newport to take a 47-30 lead after three periods. Houde continued his stellar season with 22 points.

Coronis added 17 points as he hit three from beyond the arc. Hard-working Zach Whalen added 10.

Murdock topped the Fall Mountain scorers with 16. Sophomore Ethan Stewart, who came into the game when Burns got into foul trouble in the first period, had a 13-point game for the hosts.