Friday, December 9, 2011

Campbell Tops Raymond on the Road in Opener

The Division III boys basketball Final Four takes place at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester - the road to SNHU began on Friday night, as D-III teams across the state tipped off the 2011-2012 season.

2 teams who have a shot at making it there squared off tonight, with Campbell going on the road to take on Raymond. Going into this game it was anyone's guess who the favorite was, as these seemed to be 2 very evenly matched teams. And that's the way the contest started out - both teams showed opening night jitters, and at the end if the 1st quarter it was tied 6-6.

Then the nerves started to go away and the offense began to pick up, especially for Campbell's bench. Sophomore guard Jesiah Wade (15 points, 9 rebounds and 3 steals) and junior center Caleb McKearin (11 points and 13 rebounds) both had big games off the bench for the Cougars. They led the way for Campbell, who came away with a 53-42 win on the road.

Wade and McKearin really came on strong in the 2nd half. Wade hit a three-pointer to put the Cougars up 31-21 with 3 minutes left in the 2nd half, McKearin dominated the boards and both players converted crucial and-1 finishes inside to help Campbell hold off a 4th quarter run by Raymond.

"I just worked hard and tried to help the team win" said Wade, who is also a standout on the football field for Campbell. "And then the rest of the team fed off my energy when I made the and-1."

And that's exactly what happened. McKearin fed off Wade's energy and then once he got going the rest of the team picked up their play as well. Senior forward John Houston made a big blocked shot to save a basket in the 3rd quarter. And junior wing Jacob Morgan (14 points) made some clutch free throws down the stretch and played tough defense on Raymond's top scorer Joe Morin.

Campbell went down 6-0 early on, but they built up a 22-14 lead at halftime. That's right, Raymond only scored 14 points in the entire 1st half.

"That's not going to cut it" said Raymond head coach Rich Winget. "Our execution on offense was a problem."

Campbell did a nice job of pressuring the basketball on defense and rotating over from the help side. They didn't let Raymond get anything easy, especially the Rams 2 best scorers, Morin and Jordon Richard.

"Jacob Morgan did a nice job defensively on Morin" said Campbell head coach Pat Roye. "Morin got 16 points but he really had to work for all of them. And I was impressed with Richard, he went to the rim hard all game."

Raymond make a comeback at the end but Campbell was able to hold on for the win. The Rams trailed 40-29 with 7:00 left in the 4th quarter - it looked like the Cougars had it wrapped up. But Richard then came alive, scoring back-to-back buckets inside, with the second one being an and-1.

The action really started to pick up on the court and you could feel the intensity in the gym, as Raymond fed off of Richard's play and the crowd's energy, and they picked up their intensity on defense. Senior guard/forward Ben Sytulek hit a big three-pointer late, while Tyler Peer and Eric Desilets played tough defense.

But McKearin was just too much for Raymond to handle inside down the stretch. The 6'7" transfer from Mt. Zion Christian Academy dominated the boards, making it tough for the rams to come back.

"Our biggest kid is 6'1" said Coach Winget. "That makes it tough defending a kid that size."

Raymond center Tom Daigle was in foul trouble for much of the game as well, which hurt their ability to rebound the basketball. Then right when Raymond was getting some good pressure on the ball McKearin rolled to the basket, caught a pass in stride, laid it in plus the foul. That made it a 44-35 lead for Campbell with 4:00 left to play.

Still, Raymond refused to give up. They forced a turnover, and then after another layup by Richard the Campbell lead was down to 47-42 with 1:43 left in regulation.

But from there Raymond's shots stopped falling and Campbell made their free throws late. The Cougars win it 53-42 in front of a good crowd.

Morin and Richard were tough, but Raymond will need more production from their other players in order to win more games this season. The Rams' chances also took a hit when they were called for a technical foul at the beginning of the 4th quarter. There were times when Raymond seemed to lose their heads a little bit, they started to worry about the officials too much, pointing fingers at each other and hanging their heads on the bench. Still, this is just the first game if the season. There's a long way to go, and Raymond has a lot of talent.

Campbell meanwhile was a deeper team, they played better team basketball and they were more poised down the stretch. While Raymond was a 2 man show, Campbell was much more balnced, with McKearin, Wade, Morgan, Houston, Max Gouveia, Kyle Mun and Chuck Neild all stepping up and making plays.

It was 20 minutes after the final buzzer sounded. The fans were filing out of the gym, Campbell was getting ready to get on the bus and most of the Raymond players had either left or were still in the gym socializing with friends or family. On the other side of the court though was Morin, putting up shots. A month from now these same 2 teams meet again, this time in Litchfield. Morin is determined to have that game result differently than this one.

"That's why he's such a dangerous player" said Coach Roye. "Just played 30 minutes out here and he's still out here shooting."

The 2011-2012 season is just getting started. But it's safe to say that both Campbell and Raymond will be in the hunt come March. Buckle up, D-III fans. It's going to be another fun season.

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