Sunday, November 22, 2009

Somersworth Escapes with Win Over Prospect Mt.

Prospect Mountain was the #11 seed, playing on the road against the 6th seeded Somersworth Hilltoppers. They were also playing without their starting point guard. Yet the Timberwolves gave Somersworth all they could handle. They even led 39-35 late in the game. But Somersworth scored the game's final 8 points, and escaped their home gym with a 43-39 win tonight.

This was a thrilling basketball game, especially in the second half. It was 23-18 Somersworth at the end of a very low scoring first half. Prospect Mountain hung tough though. They looked very shaky in the first quarter when they were outscored 13-5. They don't have much size, they're not very fast, they don't have a ton of talent. But head coach Robert Carpenter got the most out of his players tonight. They played extremely hard and left it all out on the floor. Even though they were a less talented team than Somersworth they hung tough and kept battling back.

They cut the lead down to just two early in the 3rd quarter, and from there it was back and forth action. The unsung hero tonight for Somersworth was 6'0" junior forward Dillon Lanctot. He had two BIG blocked shots in the 3rd. Both came at a point late in the quarter when the action and the intensity really started to pick up.

With 10 seconds left in the 3rd quarter Prospect Mt. trailed 30-25. Then junior guard Ben Couch, who hadn't hit a shot all game, nails a three to cut the lead to 2. Then Somersworth inbounds the ball, goes the length of the floor and with 2 seconds left Hilltopper swingman Bobby Shatinsky drills a three ball of his own to push the lead back up to 5, 33-28. Two big threes in a 10 second span! The third quarter was in the books, and the Somersworth crowd was going nuts! This is what high school basketball is all about!

4th quarter starts, Prospect Mt. goes on a 5-0 off the bat to tie the game at 33. Three of those points were on another three ball by Couch. Somersworth goes up 35-33, but then Couch hits ANOTHER three, this one went off the backboard and in! So Couch doesn't score a point all game, then hits 3 three's in the span of about 2 minutes. The last one gives the Timberwolves their first lead, 36-35 with 6:03 left in the game. Somersworth calls a timeout, and the Prospect Mt. faithful who made the trip are now the ones going nuts, and the gym was as loud as it had been all game. Good stuff!

Prospect Mt. then increases their lead to 39-35, and they were on an 11-2 run with 5:36 left. It looked like an upset was definitely brewing at this point. The Timberwolves were hitting shots, and they weren't allowing Somersworth to get out and run in transition. The Hilltoppers are a transition team. They have a 1-3-1, 3/4 court trap on defense that has been giving Class M teams fits all season. They thrive on forcing turnovers with the trap and then getting the ball ahead to their two guards, seniors Matt Fauci and Shante Cunningham who are two of the fastest players in Class M. When Somersworth had success tonight when they were getting in the open court and getting the ball in the hands of Fauci and Cunningham. But in the second half Prospect Mt. limited their turnovers and forced Somersworth to play a half court game. Somersworth does not have a very good half court offense. This combined with the fact that the Timberwolves picked up their defensive intensity down the stretch and the Hilltoppers were really having trouble scoring.

So Prospect Mt. has an 11-2 run and goes up 39-35 with 5:36 left. However, they went scoreless the rest of the way, as Somersworth scored the game's last 8 points to take home the win.

Somersworth did this by getting back out in transition and getting some easy baskets. Fauci made a great defensive play in the half court, coming out of nowhere to jump into the passing lane and picked the ball off. With the wheels that Fauci has, it was an easy layup on the other end. That tied the game up at 39 with 2:04 left in regulation.

Then came the the play of the game. With the game still tied at 39, and now just under a minute left, Fauci drove the lane. He found Lanctot on the left side under the hoop - layup is good, off the glass and in, plus the foul! It was pandemonium at Somersworth High!

Lanctot makes the free throw and it's 42-39 Somersworth. Bobby Shatinski adds a free throw at the end for the 43-39 final. So Lanctot, who had the two BIG blocked shots in the third quarter, also scores the game-winning and-1 shot at the end.

What's more impressive about this performance is that not only did Lanctot come off the bench for the Hilltoppers, but he was the third player off the bench. He did not see very much playing time all season. Somersworth head Coach Lorne Lucas usually went with a 7 player rotation, Lanctot not included. But Lanctot got his chance to shine this evening. And he made it count.

I mentioned at the beginning that Prospect Mt. was playing without their starting point guard. That would be senior L.A. Thomas (definitely a candidate for my NH Basketball All-Name Team which is coming soon). Thomas missed the Timberwolves last few games with mono. Like I said, Somersworth thrives on forcing turnovers with their 3/4 court trap. And if you take the starting point guard off any team it will be even more difficult to beat that trap. There's no doubt in my mind that if Thomas was able to play for Prospect Mt. they would have limited their turnovers better and this would have been a different game.

Think about it. #3 seed Winnisquam was upset tonight by #14 seeded White Mountains. The winner of that game plays the winner of the Somersworth/Prospect Mt. game in the Class M quarterfinals. So IF Thomas did play, and IF the Timberwolves did pull the upset (which ALMOST happened even without Thomas playing) then you would see a quarterfinal match-up in Class M with #11 seed Prospect Mountain hosting #14 seed White Mountains. Yikes! Pretty impressive considering all season people have been talking about parity in Class L and Class, but nobody has been talking about parity in Class M!

But the reality is that Somersworth did win this basketball game. So they advance to the quarterfinals and will host White Mountains on Saturday night at 7. You can hear live play-by-play of that game on WTSN AM 1270, and with myself and Andy Schachat.

A couple other things on tonight's game...Somersworth wins this one despite the fact that they missed 4 out of their first 12 free throws. They finished the game 8/19 from the line (42%).

A couple other players who played well but I haven't mentioned them yet...6'6" senior center Alex Denn. Only had 4 points on the game, but he had 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. He was a very effective inside player in the first half, although he disappeared a little in the second half...For Prospect Mt., they also got solid games from sophomore guard Zack Drouin (9 points including some big shots late), sophomore guard Patrick Cassidy (gets the most out of his 5'8" frame, only had 2 points but was the team's best defender), junior guard Anthony Frangione (no quit in this kid, left it all out on the floor, had 6 points) and senior forward Brian Jones (who looks like a 6'2" version of Sam Carney, hit a couple of three's despite only elevating about an inch off the ground on his jumper).

There was a packed gym at Somersworth tonight, standing room only by the end of it. Those in attendance included the Somersworth girls basketball team, who are the #1 seed in the girls Class M tournament. They play host to Conant (and Orioles star junior guard Brooke Springfield) on Friday night.

So if you're counting, that's FOUR basketball tournament games that will be played at Somersworth High School in a span of just SIX days. The girls team hosted Gilford in the prelims on Monday and won 50-42. The boys won at home tonight vs. Prospect Mt. Tomorrow the girls host Conant in the quarterfinals. And on Saturday the boys will host White Mountains in the quarterfinals. There's a good chance Somersworth will be the only program this year to host 4 tournament basketball games in a 6 day period.

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