Mascoma boys have a moment of momentum

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/1/2023 8:37:20 AM
Modified: 2/1/2023 8:37:09 AM

WEST CANAAN — For one side, at least, Monday night’s game was worth the wait.

The Mascoma High boys basketball team’s home game against Stevens had been postponed twice because of inclement weather and, along with it, the banner-raising ceremony for the Royals boys soccer team’s NHIAA Division III runner-up finish in the fall. But the skies, for the most part, cooperated Monday, and Mascoma beat the brakes off a Cardinals team that had won nine of its previous 10 games, dominating from tip to buzzer in a 68-36 victory.

“They were ranked higher than us, so we came in as the underdog knowing we had something to prove,” Royals junior forward James Thomas said.

Thomas’ statement may technically be true, but in essence Mascoma (9-3 overall, 8-3 NHIAA after Monday) and Stevens (10-5, 9-4) came in as teams on equal footing. In the Royals’ first loss, a 46-38 defeat at Belmont on Dec. 21, star senior guard Zach Thompson left the game with an ankle injury in the first half, and he also missed Mascoma’s blowout loss at Winnisquam the following day.

The Royals were missing another key starter, sophomore guard Tanner Moulton, in their most recent loss, a 39-34 setback at Conant on Jan. 6. Since then, Mascoma has won four straight, putting up at least 60 points in each game, and Monday’s win brought the Royals to 5-0 at home.

“Our starting lineup has fluctuated a lot this year,” said Mascoma coach Silas Ayres, whose team reached the state semifinals last year for the first time since 2011. “We’ve had to plug guys in, and for the most part, they’ve stepped up.”

The win over the Cardinals was a full team effort. Thompson led the way with 15 points, among his lowest single-game totals of the year, but junior forward Tyler-Jay Mardin had a season-high 11, including seven in the first quarter, and freshman guard Brayden Pierce (10 points) had the first double-figure scoring game of his high school career. Moulton and Thomas added nine and eight points, respectively.

The Royals held a 17-5 lead after a quarter and a 40-14 advantage at halftime, and they went after every loose ball and crashed the glass on both ends of the floor. Moulton was tasked with defending Stevens’ leading scorer, senior guard Hunter LaRocque, and held him to just six points. The Cardinals’ 36 points were their second-lowest output of the season.

Stevens fell to Mascoma, 62-40, in the first round of last year’s postseason to cap a 9-8 season but had gone a combined 7-40 in its three previous campaigns. The Cardinals lost second-leading scorer Kayden LaClair, who transferred to rival Newport, but players like Lucas Belisle, Mason Ferland and Jai-Lique Ribeiro have taken big steps forward and helped put Stevens in position to earn its first home playoff game in several years.

Unlike many Upper Valley teams, the Royals have the depth to give their starters a rest with a large, late lead with 16 players on the roster. Such depth is critical this time of year — Monday was Mascoma’s first of three games this week, and the Royals play three more next week, including a road test against 11-1 Hopkinton, to close out the regular season.

“We’re starting to come into our roles,” Ayres said. “(Thomas) had a really good game, he was doing everything. He needs to be that Swiss Army knife-type guy. Tanner, we need him to be a lockdown defender. Zach, we need him to be a scorer and a facilitator.

“We’re starting to understand what our roles are and how to be successful, so that’s a good sign.”

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

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