Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mighty Sabers Move on in D-II Tourney

By: Ross Laorenza
The Souhegan Sabers move on in Division-II after a dominant 55-33 victory over Hanover tonight. Senior Jake Kennedy scored 21 points, over matching each Marauder defender who attempted to cover him near the basket.

“It was the best game of his high-school career” said Sabers Coach Mike Heaney, postgame.

This kid was all over the court tonight. You could see the focus in his eyes and the eyes of all of his teammates. They wanted this game; they wanted to move on.

Kennedy was joined in the starting line-up by Brandon Len, Zack Simmonds, Tyler Ford and Tanner Kent. Hanover countered with Liam Gantrish, Evan Greenwald, Cyrus Rothwell-Ferraris, Ben Lynch and Noah Huizenga.

From the opening tip, Souhegan set the tone with pressure on both sides of the ball. The ball was constantly fed to Kennedy underneath the hoop for several easy buckets. The Sabers jumped out to an early 8-0 lead, 6 of the points by Kennedy. The ended the first quarter with a 13-6 lead.

When Hanover tried to counter attack, the baskets simply wouldn’t fall. Excellent defensive effort by Brandon Len, AJ Hayes, and Tyler Ford kept key Marauder shooters far away from the basket all game.

It is never good to have a bad night shooting, and it is even tougher to swallow in the playoffs. Seniors, Liam Gantrish and Cyrus Rothwell-Ferraris did what they could for Hanover to try and slow down the Sabers offense. They kept constant pressure on Len all game was he tried to set up plays. There were several plays in tonight’s game where the pressure forced the ball loose. All the shots wouldn’t fall though. Gantrish finished with 9 points and Rothwell-Ferraris finished with 8 points. There is no shame in losing in sports, when you have such great friends around you on the court.

It is inspiring to meet great coaches like Coach Winslow of Hanover and Coach Heaney for Souhegan. Both men truly understand the game of basketball and what it means to the kids who get to play the game.

Souhegan’s lead continued to grow in the second quarter. With more baskets by Jake Kennedy and Tyler Ford, and some nifty passing by Brandon Len, the Sabers were able to outscore Hanover 15-6 in the second quarter.

They outscored Hanover again in the third. Kennedy even hit a three pointer! I was stunned. Jake plays great down low, but seeing him attempt a three caught me off guard. I’m not even mad he took the open look. His Father seemed very pleased in the stands as well. By the start of the fourth quarter the lead had reached 24 points (44-20).

Hanover fought to the bitter end and did outscore Souhegan 13-11 in the final quarter, but it wasn’t enough. Final score, Sabers: 55, Marauders: 33.

In a touching tribute, Brandon Len wore #42 tonight for Souhegan to honor his former teammate Tony Barksdale. Barksdale tragically passed away this weekend in Boston, Massachusetts. Len has received permission to wear #42 for the remainder of his senior year. Prior to tip-off, Coach Mike Heaney addressed the crowd. He shared a story about young Barksdale and expressed what a great kid he was. There were a lot of heavy hearts in the gym tonight as a community mourned the loss of a dear friend.

It was honor for me, getting to watch these boys play tonight the game of basketball tonight. Thank you to everyone I spoke with at the game. I wish you all continued success in all that you do in life. Stay safe.
From Amherst, New Hampshire; Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook.

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