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Streaking Woodsville outlasts Sunapee in D-IV quarterfinals

  • Woodsville's Billy Green.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, February 28, 2019

WOODSVILLE — It took Billy Green and the Woodsville High boys basketball team several weeks to reinvent themselves into the offensive force they were a year ago. A successful transformation has helped the Engineers punch their ticket to the NHIAA Division IV semifinals.

Green scored a team-high 20 points — his second 20-point effort of the postseason — for No. 4 Woodsville in a 66-57 victory over resurgent No. 5 seed Sunapee in a NHIAA D-IV quarterfinal match at Woodsville’s John Bagonzi Gymnasium on Thursday night. Branden Walker added 17 points, hitting four 3-pointers, and Conner Maccini added 16 for the Engineers, who have won 12 straight games since Jan. 22.

The difference, said 19th-year Woodsville coach Jamie Walker, was figuring out his team’s identity after losing much of its offense to graduation.

“Last year, we lost a lot,” Walker said. “This year, I feel like we have five guys on the floor that can score. Everybody does their own thing. ... As long as we’re moving the ball on offense, I’m not afraid of any of them taking it to the basket, shooting the 3.

“We lost everything from last year,” he added. “Basically, these five guys are asked to do so much more than they had to do last year. They’ve gotten better. Obviously we can improve, but they’ve gotten better as the season’s progressed.”

The Engineers were 17-5 last winter, eventually falling in the D-IV quarterfinals. They graduated Garrett Olsen, Cooper Davidson and Adam Cataldo in the offseason, three players who carried a heavy workload on both ends of the court. Green said it took a little while for Woodsville to figure itself out.

It did so after the first of the year and has been difficult to stop since.

“It was tough for a bit,” said Green, a senior. “We had to find ourselves. Last year, we weren’t really used to being the main people in the offense. It was kind of hard finding our rhythm and our ability to dominate the floor.”

The Engineers face top-seeded Epping (19-1) in the D-IV semis at Plymouth State University on Monday at 7 p.m.

Sunapee junior Jordan Chappell led all scorers with 24 points, keeping the up-and-coming Lakers in the game until Woodsville closed things out with free throws late in the fourth quarter.

The visitors trailed, 31-22, at halftime and 49-38 after three quarters, running into a congested Woodsville defense that allowed little space to drive to the basket. Sunapee cued up a comeback in the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to five points with 2 minutes, 48 seconds remaining and four points with 1:41 remaining.

For third-year Sunapee head coach Tim Puchtler, the rally was too little, too late.

“This small court, it throws everything off,” Puchtler said. “It makes it easier on the home team when it comes to that situation. We struggled in that first quarter; we figured it out from there, but we never really got our offensive sets going. You’re just playing catch-up all night.”

Woodsville hit four of eight free throws in the final minute to seal the victory, sparked by a corner 3-pointer by Maccini with 1:29 remaining, to put Sunapee out of reach.

“Our defense (in the first half) was good; our rebounding was horrible,” Walker said. “I think Chappell must have had 14 points on offensive rebounds. We discussed it at half; he continued to get it in the second half. That was a big difference. If we could have limited him to one shot, we would have been OK, but he was tough.”

Zach Belisle added 12 points for the Lakers, who finished the season 3-4 in their last seven games, and Sean Shisko added 10 points in the loss. Shisko, Blaise O’Mara, Mathew Nangeroni and Mac Cahill all graduate in the spring, leaving Puchtler with a returning core duo of Chappell and Brady Grzanna (eight points) for next winter.

“We’re winning games that we were giving away last year,” said Puchtler, whose team was 11-11 last winter. “We’re not a good team dealing with pressure. But games that were close last year, we’re winning this year. The kids are growing. ... Hopefully, next year, we’re that much better.”

Woodsville, on the other hand, has a chance to make history. The Engineers have not been to a D-IV final since 2007 and have not won a state title since 1977.

“We definitely exceeded what people thought of us,” Green said.

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