Saturday, March 15, 2014

D-III Semi Finals...Campbell and Conant Advance

By: Ross Laorenza
Friday night featured two great games in Division-III, Conant vs. Berlin and Campbell vs. Hopkinton. In game one it was the tough Berlin defense against an excellent offense led by Robert O’Brien.

Conant 39 Berlin 38
The Mountaineers struck first in this one with a three pointer from junior Tommy Gallagher. O’Brien was fouled hard at the other end and made both his free throws. After a good defensive possession by Conant it was O’Brien shooting his team into the lead, 4-3. Senior Cameron Patry answered for Berlin, followed by shots from Trey Labbe and Ryan Richard to end the quarter with a 6-0 run.

The Berlin lead grew to 13-4 with two minutes already gone by in the second quarter. O’Brien hit a jumper and one at the other end to stop the bleeding for Conant. He was the only member of the team to score until Kyle Carland put one through with just over three minutes to play in the half. Nick Pangiotes got into the action following Carland’s lead to cut the lead to 5 point, 20-15. Ryan Richard would hit two free throws at the other end and Eli Hodgson would end the half with a solid shot for Conant. Half way through Berlin leads 22-17.

Conant came out with a purpose to open the third quarter. The ball was fed inside to Eli Hodgson three straight possessions resulting in free throws. Hodgson made 5 of 6. Berlin went cold down the other end giving Conant the chance to get back into the game. A three pointer from Robert O’Brien gave Conant their first lead since the early minutes of the game, 25-24. The scoring continued with shots by Panagiotes and O’Brien capping the 10-0 run for the Orioles. Berlin collected themselves after their second timeout of the quarter and began to chip away at the lead and the end of the third quarter the game was tied 29-29.

Fans were on their feet most of the forth as the game and a trip to the championship game hung in the balance. Conant score first with baskets from Nathan Wheeler and Hodgson giving them a four point cushion. Berlin quickly tied it on shots by Quinn Morrissette and Brad Frenette. Hodgson made another shot before picking up with fourth foul. Robert O’Brien had an amazing steal, but blew the lay-up at the other end. With 2:24 remaining Hodgson picked up his fifth foul on a charge that would have put Conant up three. Josh Dergrenier would hit two free throws giving Conant a 37-34 lead with just over a minute to play.

Morrissette would put his team within one at the other end of the floor. In a scary play Robert O’Brien went down after colliding with Ryan Richard. Play was momentarily stopped as he was evaluated. With O’Brien now out C.J. Bilodeau took two very important free throws and made them both. Tommy Gallagher hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead back to one 39-38. O’Brien returned to a massive ovation from the Conant fans. Berlin had two chances to win this game.

With less than 30 second left Gallagher drove to the rim and put up a shot that rolled all the way around the rim before lipping out. There was a mad scramble for possession and Berlin would get it with a chance to inbound on a half a second remaining. From under the basket the ball was tossed to Nick Fodor to the tip in…….NO GOOD. The shot bounced off glass and the buzzer sound. Conant wins 39-38.

Robert O’Brien finished with game high 16 points followed by teammate Eli Hodgson with 11 points. Tommy Gallagher who nearly won the game for Berlin scored 10 points. Ryan Richard had 6 points, all from the free throw line.

Hopkinton vs. Campbell
In the second game of the night top seeded Hopkinton took on fifth ranked Campbell. The Hawks were first on the board as Sam Winslow fought through contact for the bucket. Freshman Harrison Vedrani was active early on for the Cougars scoring three points in the opening quarter. After two shots from Gabe Nichols and Wes Rose Hopkinton led 8-3, but a long range three from Michael Gray put Campbell within 2 as the busser sounded.

The second quarter belonged to Campbell. Gray launched another three from the corner giving his team a 9-8 lead. Sam Winslow would answer with a three of his own putting Hopkinton briefly up 11-9, before Zachary Bergeon nailed a three for Campbell, 12-11. Bergeon got fouled on his next trip down the floor making one of two. Jake Nelson tied the game at 13 apiece with a nice shot for the Hawks. Campbell end the half on a 12-5 run with shots from Kyle Manning, Kyle Shaw and two more three pointers from Zachary Bergeon. At the half we have an upset in the making, Campbell: 25, Hopkinton: 18.

Campbell opened the half shooting on fire. Bergeon hit another three. Shot came from all over as Shaw, Justin DiBenedetto, Vedrani and Andrew Smarse got into the action. With half the third gone the lead had swelled to 20 points, 40-20. After last game I was surprised to see the #1 seed have it taken to them, but then the Hawks started their lengthy road to a comeback.

Gabe Nichols sank two shots followed by Wes Rose. The Hawks defense tightened in the final possessions of the third allowing only three additional points. Sam Winslow finished the quarter with a beautiful three pointer that sent Hawk’s fans into a frenzy. After a 9-3 run, the lead was cut to 43-29 heading into the fourth.

Slowly but surely Hopkinton kept chipping away. Another three from Winslow, a shot by Nichols, and a three from Liam McNicholas gave the Hawks some hope. Campbell called a time out after Winslow cut the lead to 6 points, 45-39.

Harrsion Vedrani and Zachary Bergeon were great down the stretch for the Cougars. With Hopkinton over the limit the freshman and junior guard combined for 6 shots from the stripe. Along with some great shots and a dwindling clock Campbell was able to close out the victory upsetting top seeded Hopkinton with a final score of 56-51. Heartbreak for the Hawks, only one win away from the championship game.

Zachary Bergeon finished with a game high 25 points. Harrison Vedrani followed with 9 points. Gabe Nichols finished with 20 points for the Hawks. Sam Winslow, who started the game scoring, also finished the game with two free throws. He totaled 13 points in the loss.

Campbell will now face Conant in the Division-III finals. I’m looking forward to another excellent game.

From Southern New Hampshire University. Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook

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