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Orioles Fly Past Tigers and Into Division III Final

Manchester — The Newport High boys basketball team’s most successful season to date met a most rude conclusion in last night’s New Hampshire Division III semifinal.

Pitted against high-flying Conant, the third-ranked Tigers trailed by double digits for most of the evening in a 65-42 loss to the No. 2 Orioles at Southern New Hampshire University. Conant (20-1 D-III) will face Campbell in Saturday’s final back at SNHU after the fifth-ranked Cougars’ 62-44 upset of No. 1 Berlin in last night’s late semi.

Senior guard Devin Springfield scored 26 points for Conant (20-1 D-III), which is headed to its sixth final in nine years. Playing in the final four was much less familiar for Newport (22-2; 19-2 D-III), which reached the semifinals for the first time in 13 years after setting a program record for wins.

Newport sophomore sensation Andrew Houde scored 18 points, but was guarded well while hitting 7-of-22 from the floor. Robert O’Brien added 14 points for Conant, which shot 54.3 percent as a team (25-of-46) compared with the Tigers’ 31.9 percent (15-of-47).

Conant charged out of the gate, going up 7-0 in the first 1 minute, 53 seconds and extending the lead to 16-4 six minutes in.

“You try to coach guys to be ready for the speed of the game, but this was a level of speed we hadn’t yet seen,” said Newport coach Steve Lavolpicelo. “This was a wake up call for us.”

Layup after driving layup, Conant punished the Tigers on the fast break. The Orioles nearly touched the rim on many of their leaps to the basket. Springfield netted seven of his team’s first 10 points before O’Brien scored five straight to make it 22-8.

“It was huge for us to start out strong, take it to the basket and take good shots,” said Conant coach Eric Saucier, whose team held a 35-21 rebounding advantage. “You have to give this Newport team credit because they have a lot of tough kids who give you a lot of problems if you’re not on your game.”

Springfield scored another five to give the O’s their largest lead of the first half, 28-12, before Newport executed a 9-2 run on three 3-pointers — two by sophomore Derek Pare — to cut Conant’s advantage to 30-21, 45 seconds before halftime.

A pair of free throws from Tiger sophomore Spencer Coronis (four points, seven assists) for the first points of the second half made it 32-23, but that was the last time Newport cut it to single digits.

A 10-0 Conant run featured a no-look bounce pass in the lane from Elisha Hodgson to Springfield for two, a jump shot from freshman Craig Bilodeau and a pair of transition baskets from guard Kyle Carland (eight points, six rebounds) to make it 40-25.

Newport continually tried to get back in it from downtown, finding some success as Pare finished with 12 points on four 3s and Houde’s trey made it 48-35 late in the third quarter.

“I liked the way we battled back and stayed in it,” Lavolpicelo said. “We weren’t trying (to rally via the 3), just looking for open shots and that’s where some of them came from. Pare had a great game and there were times tonight when we really stepped it up.”

Conant was too much in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Tigers 15-7 despite facing bonus foul trouble. Instead it was Conant getting to the line, hitting 8-of-11 free throws, including the completion of 3-point plays from Hodgson and Springfield. The later gave the Orioles their first 20-point lead with 4:50 to play, 59-39, and Conant only extended it from there.

A Springfield free-throw miss was swept up for a put-back from Hodgson and Springfield was 4-for-4 from the line in the last two minutes.

With three sophomore starters and only a pair of seniors graduating, Lavolpicelo sees a bright future for the Tigers.

“The last couple of years we sort of laid the foundation, and this year we took it up a big step,” he said. “This experience is only going to make us better in the long run.”

Free Throws: The O’s won five straight Class M crowns from 2006-10 before being upset by Somersworth in the quarterfinals two years ago and losing to Prospect Mountain in the semis last year. ... Houde shot 5-of-15 in the first half, four more attempts than the rest of the Tigers combined. ... Houde, a transfer from Pembroke Academy who attended elementary school in Newport, scored 511 points this year (22.2 points per game). ... Conant entered bonus foul trouble with 1:32 left in the third quarter, yet the Tigers drew just two fouls after that. ... The O’s attempted to dribble out the final 1:30 of game-time and did so effectively until Newport’s Peter Wacholtz fouled Springfield with 22 seconds left. ... Wacholtz and Devin Wade are the Tigers’ only seniors.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.