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Cardinals boys prevail over Newport to earn first basketball win

  • Sean Moody, of Newport, left, shakes hands with Josh Stithen, of Stevens following Stevens win in Claremont, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. Matt Szelangowski, of Stevens, is at right. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Joey Ackerman, of Stevens, maintains tenuous control of the ball while being challenged by Josh Stithen, of Stevens in Claremont, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Stevens coach Dan Ryan reviews the first half against rival Newport with his team in Claremont, N.H., Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. The Cardinals ended the first half ahead 29-21. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Cody O’Brian, of Newport, looks to pass after keeping the ball in bounds while being covered by Derrick Stanhope, of Stevens, in Claremont, N.H., Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, February 11, 2019

CLAREMONT — Stevens High’s Ethan Johnson hit six of eight free throws in the final minute to help the Cardinals win their first NHIAA boys basketball game of the season, holding off rival Newport in a 54-51 victory at Stevens’ Frederick W. Carr Gymnasium on Monday night.

Josh Stithen led the way with 26 points for the Cardinals, who built an 18-point lead late in the first quarter before the visiting Tigers found their groove. Sophomore Sean Moody scored a team-high 20, including five 3-pointers, for Newport in the loss.

“That’s what we’ve been waiting for all year,” said Johnson, a senior. “It hasn’t been a great season, record-wise. But I’ve had a ton of fun with the guys on this team. It’s such a nice group of guys here.

“And with the rivalry against Newport, it’s always nice to get a win against them. They always play us tough. I’m going to really miss playing against those guys next year.”

It’s been a tough season for both squads, who enter the final stretch of the regular season a combined 2-27 overall. Newport’s only win this year was a 60-56 victory at home over the Cardinals, a result that was overshadowed by a tussle in the final two minutes.

The altercation resulted in a combined eight players on both sides ejected from the game and a number of suspensions. Doug Beaupre, the Stevens athletic director, said two of his players were suspended two games and another three who left the bench to join in the fray received a one-game suspension.

A month later, Johnson admitted the episode was a little embarrassing in hindsight. Three officials and three Claremont police officers were on hand during Monday’s contest, making sure things did not get out of hand.

“It’s definitely not what you want to see happen,” Johnson said. “We’re high school kids; we’re going to do some dumb stuff. I’m really glad that we got to bring a better vibe, better sportsmanship to this game. … I play baseball with a lot of Newport kids; I know a lot of them. They’re all a bunch of really good guys. I messaged some of them after the game (in January), just to make sure we’re all still on good terms. We were all set.”

Added Newport head coach Bill Page: “I’m proud of both teams for the way they conducted themselves with their behavior. The last game, it was all (good) but 30 seconds.”

Beaupre said he met with his players after the January game and said he considers, after watching video of the incident several times, the suspensions a fair consequence. He also said the event itself — which involved shoving but no punches — may have been blown out of proportion.

All the physicality on Monday came during the game, most of it from the Tigers. Stevens finished the game with an 28-11 advantage in free-throw attempts, knocking down 16. Newport’s Cole McNamara and Chase Hamilton fouled out of the game midway through the fourth quarter.

Stevens opened the night on a roll, taking a 23-5 lead into the final minute of the first quarter before Newport could answer. The hosts led, 23-10, after eight minutes, but managed only six points in the second stanza to allow Newport to close the gap. The Tigers trailed, 29-21, at the break.

“Shots weren’t going in for both teams. That hurt us, too,” said Page, who is in his first season as Newport’s coach. “We went to a 3-2 defense (in the second quarter to turn things around). We got better movement and stopped letting (Josh) Stithen get the ball in the box. That killed us. He’s a really good player. I’m glad I don’t have to play him again.”

The Cardinals maintained a two-possession lead until Newport’s Joey Ackerman hit a 3-pointer to open up the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to three points. Ackerman put the Tigers within one possession on three different occasions in the final quarter — a layup four minutes in to make it 44-41, and a 3-pointer with just over a minute to play to make it 48-45.

Moody cut the lead to two points, 50-48, with a 3-pointer with 28 seconds remaining and hit another 3 with four seconds on the clock to try and keep the Tigers in it. Stevens held on each time.

“I think, if anything, we focused up more,” Johnson said. “We cut back on the sloppy passes, on the turnovers. We made sure to keep Cole McNamara off the boards. He was a beast in our last game. That was huge for us. I thought we really came in the second half and showed what we’re made of.”

Johnson finished the game with 16 points, including 7-for-10 from the foul line, for the Cardinals (1-13), who are playing their first season up in NHIAA Division II after years in D-III. Stevens senior Derrick Stanhope and sophomore Owen Taylor each added six points.

Newport’s Ackerman netted 15 points on six field goals and three 3-pointers. J.T. Blaine added 13 points for the Tigers (1-14). Both teams return to action on Friday, with Stevens traveling to John Stark and Newport hosting Fall Mountain.

“It’s like we can finally relax,” Johnson said. “We wanted that first win so badly. Now that we have it, we can have fun and play basketball again.”

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.