Royals run out of upsets

  • Mascoma Valley guard Zach Thompson drives to the hoop against Kearsarge forward George Jallah during the first half of the Division III semi-final at Bedford High School on Tuesday, February 22, 2022. Kearsarge went on to win, 45-42. Concord monitor photographs — GEOFF FORESTER

  • Mascoma Valley guard Cole Moulton dives for the ball against Kearsard guard Samuel Carl (3) during the second half of the Division III semi-final at Bedford High School on Tuesday night, February 22, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Mascoma Valley guard Aidan Smith fouls Kearsarge forward George Jallah during the second half of the Division III semi-final at Bedford High School on Tuesday night, February 22, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Above: Kearsarge coach (and Lebanon High graduate) Nate Camp embraces the Cougars’ Connor Pillsbury (12) after Tuesday’s win over Mascoma. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staffA

  • Kearsarge head coach Nate Camp (left) celebrates with his assistant coaches after the Cougars defeated Mascoma Valley, 45-42 in the Division III semi-finals at Bedford High School on Tuesday, February 22, 2022. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/22/2022 9:44:35 PM
Modified: 2/23/2022 10:00:11 PM

BEDFORD, N.H. — Tuesday night’s game was following the script perfectly, as far as the Mascoma High boys basketball team was concerned.

The Royals had made a habit of upsetting the top teams in their division on the way to their first trip to the NHIAA Division III final four since 2011. So when Mascoma trailed Kearsarge by 11 points in the first half, it was hardly a reason to worry.

And sure enough, the Royals stormed back with a dominant third quarter, taking a five-point lead early in the fourth.

But the Cougars had one last run in them, finishing the game on a 13-5 spurt. Mascoma (15-5) saw its season end in the semifinals, with the No. 7 seed Royals falling just short against No. 3 seed Kearsarge, 45-42.

“That second half was amazing,” Mascoma head coach Silas Ayres said. “We were down, fought back, took the lead, and in those big games you just can’t make mistakes down the stretch. A couple missed layups down low and a couple turnovers.”

The Royals hung around despite an off night from star senior guard Ben Seiler, the division’s leading scorer in 2020 and 2021. Seiler finished with just nine points, forcing Mascoma, which had lived by the three-pointer all year long, to look for outside shots elsewhere.

Ayres’ team found them from junior guard Zach Thompson and senior guards Michael Loynds and Cole Moulton. The Cougars took their largest lead, 26-15, late in the second quarter, but Thompson’s long ball stemmed the tide, and Seiler’s only three-pointer of the night made it a seven-point game at the half.

“We’ve been a smaller team all year, so that’s nothing new,” Ayres said. “They did a good job packing it in on defense and forced us to shoot outside.”

The Royals’ run came almost immediately out of the break. A three-pointer by Loynds cut the Kearsarge lead to three, an and-one by Thompson tied the game and another Loynds triple gave Mascoma the lead entering the fourth, following a quarter in which the Royals held the Cougars to just four points.

But Kearsarge’s post game took over in the fourth, and Mascoma did not have an answer. A pair of layups in quick succession by Christopher Stanchfield tied the game and then gave the Cougars the lead back, and George Jallah converted a fast-break opportunity moments later. The 8-0 run started with the Royals leading by four and ended with them trailing by that margin.

Still, Mascoma was hardly through. Moulton hit from distance to cut the deficit to one, but with no shot clock, the Royals were forced to foul even though there was more than a minute left at that point. After a couple of empty possessions, Mascoma got the ball back with 12.8 seconds to go, down by three.

Although Seiler’s shot wasn’t falling, everyone in the building knew the ball was going his way. He put up an off-balance attempt at the buzzer that found iron before dropping harmlessly to the floor.

“I probably should’ve called something different,” Ayres said. “We were just trying to get it into Ben’s hands. He’s made shots for us, but tonight he missed ones he usually makes.”

Thompson led the Royals with 17 points, with Moulton adding eight and Loynds six.

Stanchfield had a game-high 20 for the Cougars, eight of them coming in the fourth quarter.

Mascoma’s best season in more than a decade included a win over Gilford, the top team in Division III; a regular-season home victory over Kearsarge; and an upset of No. 2 seed Hopkinton in the quarterfinals last Friday. It’s the end of the line for Seiler, Loynds and Cole Moulton, as well as Cole’s twin brother, Ian Moulton.

“These guys have been the underdogs all season,” Ayres said. “Nobody really gave us a chance to get here, nobody really gave us a chance in this game, so I’m proud of how we conducted ourselves.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at or 603-727-3302.

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