With all of this snow and games being postponed it has put many teams in a bind. Souhegan had to play back-to-back games this week vs. Oyster River and Portsmouth. Pinkerton had to play Dover and Bishop Guertin on back-to-back nights. But no team has had it worse than Somersworth. The Hilltoppers had two play 3 games in 3 days. The most impressive thing was that they won all 3 games. Somersworth beat Inter-Lakes 61-48 on Friday night. Then on Saturday morning they had to get up for an 8 a.m. bus ride to Gilford where they defeated the Golden Eagles 62-52. Then on Sunday night they beat Raymond 62-56.
In a game between two of the top teams in Division III, Somersworth was the more disciplined team, they played better team basketball and they played better defense. And as a result they defeat Raymond to improve to 13-2 on the season.
"Never in my 20 years of coaching have I had to play 3 games in 3 days" said Somersworth head coach Lorne Lucas. "Other than a couple of silly turnovers though our kids held up ok."
It definitely helps when you are as deep as Somersworth is. They played 10 different kids in both halves, and 9 of them got into the scoring column. And oh by the way 8 of them are seniors, including their entire starting lineup which is all seniors.
Turnovers Hurt Rams
Raymond is a good team, and they have good guards. But they REALLY had problems holding onto the basketball in this game.
"We had 18 turnovers, and many of them came at key times" said Raymond head coach Rich Winget. "It wasn't necessarily their pressure, but we just seemed a little tentative against their zone."
During one stretch in the 3rd quarter Raymond turned the ball over on 4 consecutive possessions. Somersworth was playing excellent defense, extending their defense, forcing the Raymond guards out far beyond the three-point line and getting right up on the ball as well as in the passing lanes. Guards Matt Fauci and Pat Lavin really stepped it up on defense for the Hilltoppers.
"I'd like to be able to say that the defense we used was the genius move by me but it was the kids' idea" said Coach Lucas. "One thing I have learned to do as a coach is listen to my players. And during a timeout they said that we should go to our 1-3-1 trap to a 1-2-2 zone. And it worked. I have some very intelligent players."
Somersworth was able to turn those turnovers by Raymond into baskets on the other end. Lavin scored a team-high 14 points, with 12 of them coming in the 2nd half. Fauci had 12, Bobby Shatinsky had 11 and Brody Hornung (who was very good on the boards with 9 rebounds) had 9 points to lead a balanced scoring attack.
When Raymond didn't turn the ball over they were settling for the outside shot instead of running sets to get closer looks. This was in part due to the zone that Somersworth was running. And for the most part the outside shots were not falling for the Rams. Junior guard Joe Morin (game-high 15 points), senior guard Kevin Paynter (11 points), sophomore guard Jordon Richard (10 points) and senior Matt Escency (8 points) all helped to keep Raymond in the game.
Lack of discipline also hurt Raymond. Not only were there the turnovers. But defensively they had a number of break-downs. It seemed like all 5 of their defenders were staring at the ball and their help side defense was very weak. And Somersworth is a team that has good ball movement, so they were able to get a bunch of easy baskets inside from their ball movement or on offensive rebounds as the Rams were 'caught napping.'
"We need to protect the paint better" said Coach Winget.
Raymond Had a Shot
What is remarkable is that even with all of the turnovers, missed shots and weak help side defense, Raymond was only down 42-41 early on in the 4th quarter. Escancy made a nice drive and finish, and Morin started to heat up as well for the Rams.
"This game was our most hard fought win of the year" said Coach Lucas. "Where Rich (Winget) has gotten his program in 3 years is very impressive. They used to be an automatic win, but now they're tough."
1 Play Sums Up the Game
After Raymond cut the lead to 1 though Somersworth responded with the play of the game. Lavin came up with a steal around half court. The ball came loose, and was headed for the sideline right near the scorer's table. Lavin hustled after it, and was able to save it from going out of bounds. t the same time as he was saving the ball from going out of bounds Lavin was able to make a behind-the-back pass over Fauci who was cutting to the basket. Fauci caught the ball, and the Hilltoppers had a 2-on-1 break going towards the rim. Fauci made the return pass back over to Lavin, who then laid it in for the and-1 finish. That play was this game in a nutshell. Hustle, defense and teamwork for the Somersworth Hilltoppers. It sent the Somersworth faithful into a frenzy, and they used that momentum to build the lead up to 62-53.
Somersworth outscored Raymond 20-19 in a very high scoring 4th quarter.
Experience Helped Hilltoppers
Somersworth starts 5 seniors and has 3 other key seniors coming off the bench. These guys have been playing together for a LONG time - and it shows. The seniors are Fauci, Lavin, Shatinsky, Hornung, Dillon Lanctot (the team's best defender and also a very good rebounder), Ryan Ducharme, DJ Colbert (also a very good football and baseball player) and Collin Francouer (younger brother Drew is also a key guy off the bench as a sophomore).
"They're a great group of kids" said Lucas. "I wouldn't trade them for anybody."
Video highlights, plus a post-game interview with our Players of the Game Pat Lavin and Matt Fauci will be posted shortly.