By: Ross Laorenza
Four teams remained at the start of semi-final round of the Chick-fil-A Holiday tournament, Saturday afternoon. Nashua South squared off against Souhegan in the early game; Thornton Academy, from Saco, Maine, battled with Hollis-Brookline for the second spot. And what a battle that second game proved to be - two overtime’s worth.
With 0.8 seconds left in regulation the Souhegan Sabers led 58-57. Their star player, Brandon Len, had just sunk 2 free throws to take the lead and South’s Tim Preston had just blown a lay-up that got knocked out of bounds off of a Saber defenders. Time out: Nashua South. And then it happened….
Trevor Knight (#42) made a lot of passes this football season, but I think he’ll remember this one better. Remember 0.8 seconds...that’s it. “It’s going to Preston,” said a nearby spectator.
Assuming senior Jack Preston, the big man for South, most eyes focused underneath the basket. Those who didn’t saw Danny Auger flash in front of a Saber defender leaving the younger Preston wide open for three. Catch. Shoot. Buzzer. BALL GAME!
South fans swarmed the court, reporters threw their notebooks and some loud guy in a red scarf started screaming, “WOW…wow…WOW!”
Viewers on the far-side of the court could see it all unfold. One can only imagine what it must have been like inside the huddle when coach Nate Mazzerole drew it up. Genius!
South grabs the first spot in the Championship Game. Tim Preston scored 16 points, including the game winning three-pointer. Brother, Jack scored 10 and had some big blocks down the stretch. Bench player (#13) Vinnie Ortolano was three-for-three from long distance, accounting for all 9 of his points in the game.
Souhegan stud point guard Brandon Len (#11) would have been the Saber hero if not for Knight’s pass to the younger Preston brother. Len scored 27 points, a game high, including 13/15 from the free throw line. Senior center Jake Kennedy (#31) and junior guard Brian Dworkin (#32) both had 8 points in the heat-breaking loss for Souhegan.
Thorton Academy catches fire late to oust Hollis-Brookline in 2-OT
It was 21-6 after the first quarter and most fans seemed content with seeing Thornton Academy play later. Malcolm Dopwell matches great with Jack Preston with length, size and intensity. Adam Ek runs a great point and would guard Auger, or Tim Preston well. Quinn Richardson-Newton is a length mismatch for most guys his size and has a sweet stroke from beyond the arch.
Well, we did get that match up….. but it took double overtime to prove some of us right. With three minutes gone by in the 2nd quarter Hollis-Brookline went on a 5-0 run, making the score 21-13. Then PJ Flaum hit a three and Shea Whalen scored and it was 21-18.
“Night and day…” said one broadcaster. ‘Twas, literally, a tale of two different teams, on both sides of the ball, for Hollis-Brookline.
Both team exchanged magnificent block over the next two possession, on by Whelan and one by Richardson-Newton. Thornton was still nursing a 3-point lead.
With 2 minutes left in the half Richardson-Newton was fouled and stopped the bleeding for Thorton, sinking both free throws. Shea Whelan sank a three-ball. Then, Adam Ek added two more of his own to make the lead stick, temporarily 25-21 at the half.
Presto! Change-o! Lead erased,
Senior Connor Walsh hit two buckets for Hollis-Brookline, to start the second half the tied the game at 25 apiece. After a flurry of baskets by both sides, the game was tied again a 33-33.
Thornton Academy took their next lead two seconds later when Quinn Richardson-Newton hit another clutch shot. PJ Flaum put Hollis-Brookline ahead a little over a minute later 36-35 and back and worth they would go until the end of regulation.
Tournament Magic - Round Two.
After seeing Tim Preston hit for three with no time left, it was hard to believe we were all at a similar juncture in the second semi-final. The tension was palpable in the gym was Thornton’s junior guard dribbled the ball. Gene Hackman once said, “Winners want the ball with the game on the line…”
With big man Malcolm Dopwell having trouble down low, confidence slowly seeped into the hands of Quinn Richardson-Newton. The shot swished with 2.1 second left on the game clock. GOOD! FROM THREE! BONUS BASKETBALL!
Fist pumps and high-fives were a plenty from parents and students wearing maroon and gold. Heartache; from those in blue and white. At the end of regulation the game was tied 48-48.
Hollis-Brookline had a five point lead with 1:52 left in the first overtime. Yes… seeing as the word “first” was just used, one can assume a “second” is brewing. Spoiler alert: The Golden Trojans come back from the brink again.
With the score 55-53 Malcolm Dopwell hacked the arm of Cavalier’s senior Tim Rencken. Four fouls. Dopwell was visibly upset, as anyone man in his position would be. Not sure what happened on the court, but he got a Technical. Five fouls for the big man and he was done with just over a minute to go. Dopwell us a good kid, very passionate about the game and has amazing athletic ability.
Lucky for him, the Hollis-Brookline shooters missed 3-of-4 from the stripe. 56-53. Thornton still had hope. With 51.6 left hope was almost vanquished back into Pandora’s box, because Tim Rencken scored two more points to put Hollis-Brookline up 58-53.
Senior Adam Ek hit a quick three and some solid defense cause Hollis-Brookline to travel with 16.1 remaining in Overtime. The Golden Trojans needed some more of that magic from Richardson-Newton. After a time-out they got it in the form of a pass from Quinn to senior forward Jeff Gelians. Bounce. Grab. Shoot. COUNT IT! Tie game 58-58!!!
The kids came too far from Saco to not win.
I’ll “second” that
After blowing a 15 point lead early on and clawing tooth and nail to stay alive not once; but twice Thornton finally saw their Championship ticket punched. With clutch shooting from, that man again, Quinn Richardson-Newton, Adam Ek and Jeff Gelinas the Golden Trojans won the second semi-final 73-66.
The 'master of comebacks' Richardson-Newton finished with 22 points, 10 of those coming in the extra sessions. Jeff Gelinas scored 23, including the first OT game tying bucket. Adam Ek finished with 12 points in the win.
So the final is set Nashua South would play Thorton Academy later on that same court that saw two magical semi-final games. That game story is coming next.
From Nashua South; Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook