U-32 narrowly tops Thetford 58-56

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 2/19/2020 10:04:44 PM
Modified: 2/19/2020 10:04:35 PM

THETFORD — Senior night ended in heartbreaking fashion Wednesday at Thetford Academy with the boys basketball team losing to U-32, 58-56, in a Capital League showdown.

The Panthers (9-9) had the ball down a point when Alex Emerson found Ryen Wolf under the hoop with 6.8 seconds remaining. Wolf was fouled on his layup attempt, but stayed collapsed on the floor due to injury. Because TA coaches came on to the floor to tend to him, he was forced to come out of the game. Jacob Gilman came off the bench to replace him, but both of his free-throw attempts missed the mark.

“That’s a hard situation, when you sit there cold and then have to come in and shoot them,” Thetford coach Jason Gray said of Gilman. “It’s a lot of pressure on a freshman.”

The Raiders (17-2), who extended their win streak to six games, capped their victory with a late foul shot.

It was a frustrating finish for the defending VPA Division III champs, who have had a streaky season. The Panthers enjoyed a six-game win streak early in the season before stumbling into a five-game losing streak later on. The skid included losses by one, two and four points. TA had won two straight prior to Wednesday’s setback.

Eli Dunnet led TA with 20 points. Eamon Deffner — one of four seniors being honored prior to Wednesday’s final regular-season home game — scored 19. Wolf had eight, including a key 3-pointer during a fourth-quarter rally, and Emerson finished with seven.

U-32, which entered Wednesday’s action second in the D-II standings, got 15 points apiece from JP McGinley and Owen Killington and 14 from Carter Pelzel.

The first half was a back-and-forth battle, with the Raiders jumping out to a 16-9 lead before the hosts fought back to tie the score, 18-18. The visitors extended their lead back to six points by halftime.

Emerson opened the game with a 3-pointer, but the Panthers’ outside shooting wasn’t a factor for the most part, with the bulk of their points coming from drives and/or dishes.

The Panthers ended the first half with Deffner completing a three-point play set up by an Emerson assist. Wolf drew a charge for TA on the next play, but the Panthers couldn’t convert a hoop in their final possession of the half.

Thetford came within three points during a third-quarter run that included back-to-back layups by Dunnet, a putback by Jackson and a three-point play by Dunnet. The hosts went down by 11 early in the fourth quarter prior to their late surge.

Three starters graduated from last year’s championship team, leaving several voids to fill.

“It’s just putting guys in the positions that (they) haven’t been in,” Gray said. “Last year, I kind of shot myself in the foot, realistically, because I played, at the end of the season, those five guys. Five guys ran all the time, so at the pressure points of the games, those guys were the ones there.”

The Panthers, who entered Wednesday fifth in the D-III standings, still have an outside chance to claim a top-four seed. The team visits Lake Region (5-14) on Thursday and Lyndon Institute (10-8) on Saturday to close out the regular season.

The Panthers have signature wins against Randolph, Hazen and Williamstown.

“It’s a wide-open thing,” Gray said of the playoff picture. “The teams that we’ve beat and that are in the top are beatable, we’re just struggling with some of the D-II schools.

“To have three D-II schools right in a row is really hard, but it only makes us better. Wherever we stand in the standings is what it’s going to be; we’ll be fine. We need to take one game a time, keep working it.”

Senior Night ceremonies also included Emerson, Alex Xi and Zachary Beland along with their families.

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy