Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Overtime Thriller in Lakes Region

The Pittsfield High boys basketball team came back from a 21 point 4th quarter deficit to force overtime. Then they took a a 3 point lead in OT, 72-69. However Moultonborough responded by going on an 8-0 run to end the game. They avoid a monumental collapse and keep their undefeated season alive with a 77-72 win at home on Wednesday night in an OT thriller over their rivals Pittsfield.

"We need to get better at finishing games and become mentally tougher" said Moultonborough Academy head coach Matt Swedberg, who has 3 sons on the team (Marcus, Drew and Riley Swedberg). "You can't lose a 20 point lead like that. The Lisbon game was similar - we pulled a win out after losing a big lead in that one too. The offensive rebounding on the 1st half was huge for us tonight though."

The main guy who was getting those offensive boards was 6'4" forward Nick Sindorf, who finished with 20 points and 19 rebounds (both are career-highs). 6'7" senior Marcus Swedberg also had a big game, with 27 points and 10 rebounds in the win in Division IV.

"Offensive rebounds killed us in the 1st half" lamented Pittsfield head coach Jason Darrah. "We were doubling Marcus, and when he would miss shots Sindorf was following everything up."

Pittfield was right in the game early on, and only trailed 25-21 with 5:00 left in the 1st half, as senior guard Ryan Perras was keeping them in the game. Perras already had 12 points on 4 three-pointers. He would end up with a game-high 28 points when it was all said and done.

But that's when Moultonborough made a run to extend their lead. They went on a 13-2 run. Perras started to go cold from the outside, Marcus Swedberg hit a nice fade away jumper on the baseline, Sindorf converted put-backs on back-to-back possessions, Tristan Price drilled a three from the corner. And then Marcus Swedberg capped the run by making a steal in the back court, taking one dribble and then slamming down a 2-handed dunk, which not only gave the Panthers their largest lead but it got the crowd into it as well. After another put-back by Sindorf it was Moultonborough on top 40-25 at halftime. It seemed like they were in complete control of the game, as Sindorf, Swedberg and Michael Donahue were all dominating the boards.

"Overall we average 50 rebounds per game" said Marcus Swedberg, who is a player of the year candidate in D-IV. "So if we're around that number we're doing ok."

To start the 3rd quarter Swedberg hit a shot from the right elbow off the catch and in rhythm. Then Pittsfield forward Donoven Emerson (a 2-time all-state player in D-IV) got called for a technical foul and did not return until halfway through the 4th quarter. Once again it looked like Moultonborough was in complete control.

But Pittsfield battled back. Perras started to gt it going again, hitting a three and then slashing to the basket and finishing in the lane for 2. Then Elias Doucette got a basket inside for Pittsfield which cut the Moultonborough lead down to 8, 44-36. Even with Emerson on the bench Pittsfield was getting some momentum going.

But then Moultonborough came storming right back, as Will Burke hit a baseline jumper, followed by back-to-back layups in transition by Drew Swedberg (the first one was an acrobatic and-1 finish). The Panthers were up 15 at halftime and they were up 15 heading to the 4th quarter, as they now led 53-38.

About a minute into the 4th quarter Marcus Swedberg hit a pair of free throws and Moultonborough took a 61-40 lead (their largest lead of the game). It looked like the game was over. Some folks even started heading for the exits at that point. And why not? When a team is down by 21 points in the 4th quarter that's it, the game's over. Right? Wrong.

That's when Pittsfield made a comeback which was nothing short of remarkable. They slowly chipped away at the Moultonborough lead, one basket at a time on offense and one stop at a time on defense.

"Our goal was to put pressure on them defensively and force turnovers" said Coach Darrah. "It just took 28 minutes for it to start working."

And force turnovers is exactly what Pittsfield did, as they brought a couple guys pressuring in the back court and then trapped around the half court line. Moultonborough was struggling to the get the ball across half court all of a sudden.

"We stopped going to the ball" said Coach Swedberg, who coached the program to a state title in 2009. "We were settling for bad shots and we weren't being strong with the ball."

Pittsfield was taking those turnovers and turning them into baskets on the other end by executing well on offense. Doucette, Perras, Emerson and Dominic Brooks all had big baskets down the stretch, as Pittsfield ended the 4th quarter on a 26-5 run.

Also helping the Pittsfield comeback was a technical foul, which was called on Donahue for Moultonborough. Pittsfield missed both FT's though (the 2 teams were a combined 0/4 on technical free throws), but they got the ball back, scored and had the momentum on their side.

Perras hit a three (his 6th of the game) which capped a 16-0 run by Pittsfield, cutting the Moultonborough lead to 61-56. Marcus Swedberg then answered right back, with a strong move to the basket along the baseline, and getting an and-1 finish. But Pittsfield just kept on coming, as Emerson scored inside to cut the Moultonborough lead to 63-60.

Marcus Swedberg then missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and Doucette (who scored a career-high 18 points including 14 in the 2nd half) and Bobby Lebel both scored inside. It was now Moultonborough 65 Pittsfield 64 with 30 seconds left in regulation.

"Elias works really hard in practice" said Coach Darrah. "He came up big for us. On offense we tried to get them up in the air because we know they try to block a lot of shots."

Pittsfield then had the ball and were down 66-64 with 25 seconds left in the 4th quarter. Brooks drove to the basket and found Tyler Booth open inside for a layup. Booth scored with just 1 second left on the clock. Moultonborough didn't even try to inbound the ball. We were headed to overtime tied up 66-66. Pittsfield had come back from a 21 point 4th quarter deficit to force OT!

"We didn't handle their pressure well" said Marcus Swedberg. "We only had 4 turnovers in the 1st half but we had 13 in the 2nd half. We need to jut settle down."

As amazing a comeback as Pittsfield had just made, this game wasn't over yet, they still had to finish the comeback. And it looked like they were going to do it, as they took a 72-69 lead as Doucette scored on back-to-back possessions followed by a basket by Brooks. Drew Swedberg then missed 2 free throws and it was really starting to look like Pittsfield was going to complete the comeback victory of the century.

However that's when Moultonborough would score the game's final 8 points and pull out the win. Sindorf once again made his presence felt on the offensive glass, converting yet another put-back inside. The Panthers then got a steal and Marcus Swedberg made an and-1 finish to put Moultonborough up 74-72 with 30 seconds left in OT.

Pittsfield had turnovers on back-to-back possessions late in the game, and they also had Perras take an ill-advised three-point attempt with about a minute left in OT and Pittsfield up 72-69. It was one of those shots that would have been a dagger if he made it but he missed it and it really ended up hurting them.

"Those are mistakes we can't afford to make come tournament time" said Darrah.

Drew Swedberg (who had 9 points, all coming in the 2nd half) then hit 2 free throws and after another Pittsfield turnover he made 1 of 2 at the line for the 77-72 final score.

"We stuck to our game plan and our guys played hard" said Darrah. "But they're a good team, there's a reason why they're 12-0."

It was a wild game, no question about it. Marcus Swedberg, Sindorf, Perras and Doucette all had outstanding individual performances. This game had a comeback for the ages, it had chippy play, it had 2 technical fouls, it had slam dunks. Oh yeah, and it had 3 brothers all on the court at the same time, and their father coaching them!

It was a great game, between 2 rival schools and 2 of the top teams in boys Division IV basketball.

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