Saturday, January 22, 2011

Solid Team Effort For Salem Boys in Win Over North

The Salem High boys basketball team continues to be one of the surprise teams early in the season. Nashua North made a nice 2nd half comeback, as they were down 39-21 but then cut the North lead to 41-38. But Salem was able to hold on for a 53-42 victory on Friday night at home.

Meisser and Klecan = VERY Underrated Back Court
When discussions about the best guards or the best back courts in the state, you rarely hear any mention of Salem's Jeff Meisser and Jonny Klecan...but you should. With these 2 guys the Blue Devils have no question about it one of the best shooters (Meisser) and one of the best defenders (Klecan) in the entire state.

Meisser dropped a game-high 26 points in this game (exactly half of his team's points), including 7 three-pointers and 17 points in the 1st half. You simply can not leave this kid open, and North left him open way too many times this game. When he has his feet set, is able to square up to the basket you mine as well just mark it down as 3 points in the score book.

Salem went up 10-0 to start this game, with 8 of those 10 points coming from Meisser, including the back-to-back threes that he hit right off the bat. Then in the 2nd quarter he once again drained back-to-back treys to put Salem up 32-17 (their largest lead of the half). Meisser then hit the biggest shot of the game with 2:31 left in the 4th quarter. After North had stormed back to cut the Salem lead to just 5, he had a wide open look at a three. He missed it, but Salem was able to grab the rebound (they out-rebounded North all game). The ball was kicked back out to Meisser, who was again wide open from beyond the arc. This time he didn't miss it. The shot splashed through the net, and put the Blue Devils up 46-38. Just moments earlier North had a chance to make it a one possession game. But now it was an 8 point deficit and time was not on their side.

"That was a dagger" said Nashua North coach Andy Otocka.

As for Klecan, he may not have scored as many points as Meisser, but he made just as much of an impact on this game. Klecan is only 5'5", he's not the most offensively skilled player in the world, nor the most athletic. But the kid plays as hard and with as much heart as any player in the state. He's a gamer (and I'm not talking about Sony).

"Klecan just makes plays" said Salem first-year head coach Rob McLaughlin. "He makes all of the big plays right when we need them. he has to be one of the best on the ball defenders in the state."

The junior guard tallied 8 points, 5 assists, 5 steals and 4 rebounds. But what he brings to this team goes far beyond just stats. He pressures the basketball defensively, forces turnovers, has a high basketball I.Q. and simply wreaks havoc on the defensive end of the floor. Offensively he is VERY unselfish, always making the extra pass, and playing disciplined.

Salem went on an 11-2 run in the 4th quarter after North had cut their lead to 41-38. Meisser hit his dagger three during that run, but Klecan was all over the court making plays in that run as well. North cut the Salem lead to just 3, and then Titans junior forward Mike O'Connor made a big play by taking a charge to give North the ball back with a chance to either tie or make it a 1 point game. Klecan then grabbed a defensive board, went coast-to-coast with the ball while being pressured heavily by Titans defenders. He then finished nicely on the break to put Salem back up 43-38. Meisser hit his big shot, but then O'Connor grabbed an offensive board and laid it. North was now down 46-40 and not giving up quite yet. The Titans got the ball back with a chance to once again make it a 1 possession game. But that's when Klecan came up wit a BIG steal right around half court, then took it all the way in to the basket for 2.

Then Salem was able to break the North press and Blue Devils 6'5" senior forward Joe Gallant got the ball open under the basket. He slammed it down with both hands, the Salem crowd went nuts, and the Blue Devils were now up 52-40 with 30 seconds left. Game over.

Also playing well for Salem were Gallant and 6'4" senior forward Mike Lorenz, who controlled the boards all game. Matt Cannone is a solid role player and defender for this team as well.

Salem is a very disciplined team that executes their half courts sets very well, is patient on offense and tough and physical on defense. They are as good as advertised. As well as they played, they still can't be happy about letting North back in the game after being up by so much.

"We let teams back into games before" said Coach McLaughlin. "It happened against Londonderry, and it happened against Pinkerton, and it happened again tonight."

Gauthier Leads Titans Comeback
While Salem played very solid, team basketball in this game to earn the win, you have to give North credit for the way they battled back. They were down 39-21, then made a 17-2 run to cut it to 41-38 Salem.

Ryan Gauthier led the way during this run. After going scoreless for the first 21 minutes of the game, Gauthier exploded with 11 points in about a 3 minute stretch late in the 3rd quarter and into the early part of the 4th. He started the run off with a nasty crossover dribble, spin move and laid it in with his left hand. Next he once again showed the nice crossover dribble, this time going to his left and hitting a fade-away jump shot at the buzzer at the end of the 3rd quarter. It was VERY close to being a three-pointer, but the officials said that it was a long 2. In the last 3 minutes of the quarter the Titans cut the 18 point Salem lead to just 10, and it was 39-29 heading into the 4th.

In the 4th quarter Gauthier just kept on rolling. He started the frame with a nice hesitation spin move, the a hard drive and and-1 finish. Then he came back down the court and drilled a three. Then Gauthier hit a pair of free throws and just like that it was a 41-38 ball game, with still plenty of time left.

O'Connor also played well during the run for the Titans. He not only took the big charge on defense after North cut the Salem lead to 3, but he also hit a clutch baseline jumper as well. The 6'3" junior forward finished with 10 points and 8 rebounds.

While North was getting beaten badly for the game's first 21 minutes, it was the play of guard/forward Anthony farmer who kept them in it. Farmer scored the first 10 points of the game for North, and he had 12 points in the 1st half and ended up finishing with a team-high 14 points. The 6'1" junior's contributions to the team go far beyond the scoring column. He is also a very tough defender, he plays hard all of the time and he does all of the little things on the court to help his team.

"Anthony is by far my most consistent player" said Coach Otocka. "I cut him in the 8th grade, but he's worked his tail off since then. He's the toughest, scrappiest kid I've got."

Unfortunately, Farmer was the only one playing well in the 1st half for the Titans, and the 2nd half deficit they had was too much to overcome.

"We're like Jekyll and Hyde" said Otocka. "We're very inconsistent. We always make a run in the 2nd half, but we need to start games out better."

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