By: Ross Laorenza
After trailing by thirteen points at the half, the Epping Blue Devils came back to win the D-IV championship 74-70. It took incredible skill and inspiration to not give up facing such a big deficit.
“We never gave up all year long,” said Head Coach Sean Young. “All year we believed in ourselves.”
It was that belief that led the Blue Devils to victory. Sunapee opened the game very strong on offense. The Lakers started with a 10-5 run including three pointers from James Fitzgerald and Matt Tenney. Brett Couture played well in the opening quarter for Epping down low. He picked up six points and some key rebounds.
Issaiah Chappell hit a sweet reverse lay-up to put Sunapee in front 16-9. Tenney countered with a shot for Epping before Alex Giodassis launched a three for the Lakers. Jimmy Stanley picked up 6 points in the opening quarter, but also picked up three personal fouls. Epping best player would be sitting the entire second quarter. After one quarter Sunapee led 24-17.
Epping opened with two quick shots by Jacob West and Brett Couture to cut the lead to three points. Giodassis hit from long range again to put the Laker up 6 again. After West connected for Epping, Chappell hit a three for Sunapee. The Lakers were 6-14 from beyond the arch in the first half. Issiah Chappell lead all players in the first half with 16 points. At the half Sunapee led 44-31.
Then Jimmy Stanley was unleashed for the Epping bench. “This is something I’ll never forget,” said Stanley post game. “I just try and light a fire under them,” he said about leading the comeback in the second half.
Stanley scored 8 of Epping’s first 10 points in the second half, part of a 10-4 run that cut the Sunapee lead down to 7 points. The Lakers only managed 8 points in the third quarter and saw the momentum slowly swinging out of their favor. With three quarters in the books Sunapee led 52-47.
Brett Couture opened the fourth quarter with another basket underneath. Aziz Zerguine hit one of two free throws cut the lead down to two points. Nick Skarin and Matt Tenney got the Laker lead back up to five points, before Stanley cut it back to three in a very busy minute. With the veteran leadership of Stanley, the Blue Devils kept things close and trailed 66-58 with just over three to play.
Colby Wilson hit a monster three from way out beyond the arch cutting the gap to five. James Fitzgerald hit one of two free throws before a flurry by Epping. Stanley threw up a jumper, Nick Padgeet knocked down two free throws and then Aziz Zerguine drove hard to the basket getting the hoop and one to put Epping in the lead 68-67. It was their first lead since they were ahead 5-4 in the first quarter. Matt Tenney got to the line for the Lakers with a chance to go ahead, but he missed his second free throw and the game was tied 68-68.
With the game and the championship hanging in the balance it was Jimmy Stanley coming through again. He drove around the right side of the defense and got right to the basket for an easy score. With less than a minute to play Matt Tenney tied it for Sunapee and then Chandler Brissette, with his only field goal of the game, put Epping ahead for good. With 10.9 second left the Lakers had a chance to tie, but Nick Skarin air mailed it too strong over the hoop. As one fan put it, “He’s gonna see that shot in his head tonight.” A scramble for the loose ball resulted with Stanley shooing two free throws to cap the victory for the Blue Devils. He hit them both and the buzzer sounded as James Fitzgerald launched a three-quarter court three point attempt. Final Score, Epping: 74, Sunapee: 70.
Jimmy Stanley led all scorers with 26 points. Issiah Chappell followed with 18 points for the Lakers. James Fitzgerald scored 15 points. Brett Couture finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
“We never panicked,” said Coach Young after the victory. And that composure led he and his Blue Devils to the D-IV title. Congratulations.
From Plymouth State University. Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook