Souhegan honored the memory of former student and athlete Tony Barksdale by having the 'Tony Barksdale Memorial Game' on Saturday afternoon. Donations were taken for the Tony Barksdale Scholarship Foundation, fans all over the gym were wearing t-shirts that read 'Tony' and former Souhegan head football coach Mike Beliveau gave a heartfelt speech in Barksdale's honor.
As for the game, Hanover got 22 points from John Flory and 14 points from Rocco Linehan. They led 28-15 at halftime. Souhegan came back in the 2nd half, cutting the lead to 38-36 with 2:20 left in the 4th quarter. But the Marauders were able to hang on for the 46-40 win.
"This is the most inexperienced team I have been around in terms of varsity game minutes played" explained Souhegan first-year head coach Pete Pierce, who took over for Mike Heaney (now coaching the school's girls team). "The more they play, the better they get. The team has acquired a much more comprehensive understanding of what it takes to compete successfully at a div. 2 varsity level. The learning curve for this team was steep and they have done a pretty good job figuring it out in a short period of time."
Hanover jumped out to an early 11-2 lead, with all 11 points coming from Flory. Flory hit 3 3's right off the bat. Souhegan answered with 3-pointers from Brian Dworkin and Matt Segul. It was now 13-8 Hanover. Dworkin and Isaac Nevrla both had nice blocked shots, and AJ Hayes went coast-to-coast for a tough finish. It was 15-10 Hanover after 1.
Hayes hit a 3-pointer on a second opportunity as Souhegan hustled to get an offensive rebound. The Sabers were on an 11-4 run and now only trailed 15-13. Hanover junior forward Jack Cavallaro was crashing the offensive boards. Souhegan went zone, and Linehan drilled a 15-footer to give the Marauders a 21-13 lead. Flory drove into the lane and hit a tough shot, then buried another 3-pointer.
Souhegan trailed 28-15 at halftime, but began their comeback in the 3rd quarter. Hayes got the run started with a 3 followed by a nice floater in the lane, then made a good look to Dworkin for a layup. Souhegan got to within 30-26, but then Hanover big man Ben Lynch converted a put-back and it was 32-26 Hanover after 3. The Marauders led despite being held to just 4 points in the 3rd quarter.
Hayes (14 points) again was out there pushing the tempo and making plays in the 4th. He went coast-to-coast for another strong finish, this time it was an and-1.
"AJ Hayes has great natural abilities and skill sets that impact the game in a positive manner, more so when the game is opened up and played with speed" said Coach Pierce. "Our team has struggled at times in the half court scoring so getting AJ in the open court gives us a better chance to compete."
Cavallaro stepped in to draw a charge, but then Brock Lefebvre hit a clutch 3 to cut the Hanover lead to 38-36 with 2:20 left in the 4th quarter.
"The keys to the run were multiple" Pierce explained. "Getting stops - we allowed only 3 field goals in the second half, Hanover was 12/20 from the foul line. Second, getting into transition offense helped us get better quality shots."
Hanover was able to hang on from there. They ran the clock down, then Flory made a good pass to Cavallaro for a layup. Souhegan continued to fight, as sophomore wing Jerrell Duguay-Webster got inside for 2, Cavallaro made 1 of 2 FTs and then Duguay-Webster again got to the rim for a score. It was now 42-40. Linehan hit 2 big free throws to make it a 2 possession game, 44-40 with just 22 seconds remaining. The Marauders held on from there for the 46-40 win.
"Coach Winslow generates fundamentally sound squads year in and year out that understand the game, know their roles , and play hard" said Coach Pierce, who coached at Con-Val before taking over at Souhegan this year. "They make you execute."