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Cards Look to Get Even With Tigers

Newport's Zach Whalen jumps over the crowd for a first-half rebound during last night's win over Mascoma. 

Valley News - Sarah Priestap

Newport's Zach Whalen jumps over the crowd for a first-half rebound during last night's win over Mascoma. Valley News - Sarah Priestap

Claremont — On Jan. 4, when the Stevens High boys basketball team traveled to Newport, Wheeler Gym was filled to the bursting point. The ends and corners were crammed and dozens of young people sat on the floor, just on the edge of the playing surface.
Newport athletic director Doug Beaupre, however, was ready for the gathering and he did what he could to see that the night went smoothly. He hired an extra official to help control everything on the floor, police were present and faculty members roamed the floor.

The two teams were undefeated, Stevens at 4-0 and Newport at 3-0, and the third and fourth ranked teams in New Hampshire Division III.

But when the night was over Stevens left town with its first loss, 53-49.

To everyone’s credit, the players, fans and coaches, behavior everywhere was outstanding even though the game was not decided until the final seconds.

“The atmosphere was great,” Stevens coach Scott MacNamee after the game said.

“It was awesome, like Boston Garden,” Newport coach Steve Lavolpicelo said.

The scene now shifts to Stevens High’s Carr Gym, where at 7 tonight the teams will meet again. What has also shifted is the standings. Newport is now the top team at 12-0, while Stevens entered last night’s game at Hopkinton in 10th place at 7-4.

Before the game in Newport, students in the Sunshine Town were reminded about proper game behavior. Beaupre spoke on the public address system along with faculty member Shannon Martin, a Stevens graduate.

About 500 people were squeezed into Wheeler Gym on Jan. 4. Carr Gym is estimated to hold about 100 more than that. In anticipation of an exciting night, Stevens will allow anyone dressed in red free admission.

An hour before game time at their last meeting, the gym was full. The hallways were filled with folks hoping that some people would leave their seats after the junior varsity game. Not many did, but everyone got in as Beaupre and other faculty members, along with police, found room. A fire department spokesman had told Beaupre that he could get as many people in as he could because there were plenty of exits.

Several years ago, when Stevens hosted a playoff game against Berlin, the partition in back of the south basket at Carr Gym was raised and fans were allowed to sit in the auditorium. It is not yet known if that is going to be the case tonight. Parking tonight may be a little easier than it was in Newport because of the off-street availability and the huge parking area adjacent to Claremont Savings Bank.

While Newport is undefeated, it has not been an easy ride. The Tigers have been tough when the chips are down, winning five games by five points or less. Meanwhile, Stevens has lost three of its last four, which has frustrated MacNamee a bit. Not only did he have to suspend top player Billy Brooks for one game, but after taking an 87-56 thumping from Conant last week, MacNamee said his players were not motivated.

“That it’s my job to motivate them, and I’m not doing my job,” he said.

Game time is 7 p.m., with the Middle Street entrance open at 5 p.m.