On Monday night at Windham High it was a great atmosphere for high school basketball. A big time rivalry, a packed house with nearly 2,000 fans in attendance and both student sections rocking. It was a tight back and forth battle with Windham leading most of the way.
The Jaguars led early in the 4th quarter. But then Pelham grabbed control of the game and exploded for a whopping 36 points in the 4th quarter and ended up running Windham out of their own gym - on Windham's senior night. Senior guard Jake Vaiknoras and sophomore sensation Keith Brown both dropped 27 points, and Pelham beat Windham 87-69. The Pythons are a red hot basketball team right now. They've won 13 games in a row and are now 15-2 on the season.
"We're very explosive, we can score points quick, we hit three 3's in a row" said Vaiknoras, who was also a state champion in golf this year. "Once we started to play pressure defense is when we went on a run."
Windham led 59-54 early in the 4th quarter. From there Pelham ended the game on a 33-15 run. Brown, Vaiknoras, Zach Conway, Ryan Frank and Joe Slattery all played key roles during the Python's 4th quarter explosion. 3-pointers and layups were coming at a rapid rate, and Windham struggling to keep up with the game's increased pace late.
"We're in better condition than them" said Brown, who scored 16 of his team's 31 1st half points. "We have a group of guys that all go 110% all game long. Jake and myself are a 1-2 punch. You can't stop both of us, and plus we have other guys who can score too."
Windham led 55-51 after 3 quarters, but then Vaiknoras got things started in the 4th with a 3 right away. Vaiknoras and Brown both hit three 3's each. Tyler Masone (one of the 3 seniors being honored for Windham along with Andrew Lowman and Tucker Lippold) made a nice dish to Joliceur for a layup. Then Joliceur made another bucket to make it 59-54 which is of course when Pelham really took over the game.
Vaiknoras hit another 3, then Brown made a strong drive to the rim and finish to put Pelham ahead 61-59. Then 6-foot-3 sophomore Cole Gill buried a big shot, his fourth 3 of the game as Windham re-takes the lead 62-61. Then Pelham went on a quick 7-0 run. Slattery got a quick bucket, then after a steal Vaiknoras finished for an and-1. Brown made a nice block to prevent a basket, and on the other end Conway grabbed an offensive rebound and threw it up over his head and in for the and-1 put-back. Just like that it was 68-62 Pelham.
"In the 4th quarter we decided to play team defense, the guys really dug in" said Pelham head coach Matt Regan. "Our kids are in really good shape. We turned the tempo up, started to get turnovers and run."
Windham kept battling though, as Lippold (team-high 16 points) banked in a leaner to cut the Pelham lead to 68-64. Then the Pythons kept on rolling, this time going on a 9-0 run in the blink of an eye. Brown hit a 3 and Frank hit back-to-back 3's then Slattery got a quick steal and Vaiknoras made another and-1 finish. Pelham was hitting on all cylinders and now had a 77-65 lead with just 2:39 left in regulation. Windham called timeout, and the PHS student section was going nuts!
The Pythons kept pouring it on, as Brown made a layup off a nice dish by Conway, then Frank connected on a pull-up jumper. It was now 81-66 Pelham, as the Pythons were on a 27-7 run in the 4th. They won it 87-69, making a statement that they are playing as well as any team in Division II.
Windham was actually the sharper team out of the gate, as they led 12-6 early and 18-13 after 1 quarter. Joe Frake made a nice steal and went hard to the rim on the break, but Slattery did a great job of hustling back on defense and leaped up to block Frake's layup attempt - a great play by Slattery. David Carbonello hit a layup and then Masone drilled a 3 to give the Jaguars and early 5-0 lead. Brown made a nice move with a crossover dribble and step-back 3, but then Masone slashed to the rim and hit a floater as Windham went up 7-3. Pelham answered back, as Brown hit a floater plus the foul. Lippold stole the ball and zipped a pass ahead to Lowman for a layup and it was 12-6 Jaguars as Coach Regan called timeout with 3:13 to play in the 1st.
Lowman made a pair of nice blocks on Brown, then on the other end Lowman (12 points) hit a leaner. Pelham was struggling to score on the Windham zone defense early. Frake drilled a jumper from the elbow as the Jaguars took their largest lead of the game, 16-8.
The 2nd quarter began with an offensive flurry, as the pace picked up considerably from a half court game in the 1st. Lowman, Lippold, Brown and Frake all scored early in the 2nd. It was up and down action with high intensity. Carbonello had an explosive drive to the rim for 2 but then PHS answered with quick buckets by Slattery and Conway as Vaiknoras made a nice dish to assist on Conway's basket. Pelham had cut the Windham lead to 26-25, but then Gill hit a 3 to increase the lead to 33-27.
Then the momentum started to swing in Pelham's favor, as Lowman was called for a loose ball foul - it was a tough call, could have easily bee a foul on Pelham. On the next play Carbonello got whistled for an offensive foul, which was another tough one on the Jaguars. Out of frustration Carbonello spiked the basketball, and then received a technical foul. Carbonello was taken out by Coach Stefanides and did not return to action.
Brown freed himself up for a shot with a nice up-fake and then hit the pull-up jumper. Gill answered with his third 3-pointer of the 1st half, and it was 36-31 Windham at halftime.
The teams kept battling each other tooth and nail in the 3rd. Brown and Frank hit back-to-back 3's and we were all tied up 37-37. Brown made a steal and passed ahead to Vaiknoras for an and-1 finish. On the next play it was Brown again making a big defensive play - this time he blocked a shot and again pushed it ahead to Vaiknoras who then drilled a pull-up jumper from 15 feet as Pelham took the lead 41-39 with 5:25 left in the 3rd.
Windham answered right back, as Lippold made a nice strong move to the rim for 2 and then Masone hit a floater on the next trip down the floor. Windham now re-takes the lead 43-41. Pelham took the lead right back though, as Vaiknoras buried another 3 to make it 44-43 Pelham. Then again it was Lippold making a big play, as he split 2 defenders with a nice behind-the-back dribble drive move before finishing inside for 2. The Jaguars went back on top 45-44.
Frake made a put-back to put Windham ahead 47-45, then Cloutier connected on a clutch 3 to tie it up 48-48. The 3rd quarter was definitely the most competitive one of the game, with both teams really stepping up. making big plays and exchanging the lead.
Right after Cloutier hit his 3 to tie it up, Lippold answered right back on the other end with a 3 of his own. Masone slashed to the rim for 2. Then it was Brown's turn to hit a big shot, as he drilled another 3 ball to cut Windham's lead to 53-51. Gill drew a charge on Brown, it was 55-51 Windham after 3 and you know how the rest turned out.