Thursday, March 6, 2014

Farmington Upsets Winnisquam in D-III Prelims

In a 10 vs. 7 match up in the Division III preliminary round, 2 good basketball teams gave it everything they had for 32 minutes. #10 seed Farmington and #7 seed Winnisquam were 2 evenly matched teams and when it was all said and done only 1 point separated them, as Farmington ended up winning in a wild one, 58-57.

This game was played in front of a packed gym with a loud crowd which was hanging on their edge of their seat the whole way. On the court the intensity was high all game. Despite falling behind 8-0 to start the game Farmington got the huge win to advance to the D-III quarterfinals where they will take on #2 seed Conant. When the pressure is on, the crowd is lid and the intensity is high, being able to stay poised and keep emotions in check is key.

"This was the best we played all year" said Farmington junior guard Tanner Gibbs, who poured in a game-high 22 points, including the go-ahead basket with 1:46 left in the 4th quarter. "We all got focused."

"We talked as a team about getting everyone's heads in the game and to take our time with the ball" added junior forward Anthony Bennett.

Being able to stay poised late in the game was easier said than done. With 2 minutes left it was all tied up 54-54 and the crowd was going crazy. Then Gibbs hit a runner to put his team up 56-54. Farmington got the ball back, still up 56-54 with just 1:10 left to play but they turned it over. Winnisquam now had possession with 55 seconds left trailing 56-54 but then they turned it over.

Another factor late in the game was free throws. Farmington again got the ball back, still up 56-54. They were trying to run the clock out, while all 5 Winnisquam defenders got up on their man, turning up the pressure 'D'. Winnisquam star sophomore guard Christian Serrano stole the ball and pushed it up the floor on the break. He got fouled on the way up with it and went to the line for 2 shots. Serrano missed both shots, and Farmington got the ball back, still leading 56-54 but now with only 22 seconds remaining.

Winnisquam was now forced to foul, and they sent junior guard Jase Gregoire to the line for a 1-and-1. Gregoire (8 points) hit both shots, and it was 58-54 Tigers with just 18.5 seconds left. Torrey Martinez hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 58-57, but it was too late as their was only 1 second left. Farmington holds on for the 58-57 win.

"he difference was execution" lamented Winnisquam head coach Kevin Dame. "The kids worked their tails off, we just didn't execute. They made 1 more shot than us. They got all of the breaks, all of the bounces. This is a great group, they all love hoop. We all really wanted to go to Conant on Saturday."

The Tigers led 43-40 after 3 quarters. Gregoire got the scoring started in the 4th quarter with a 3-pointer from the top of the key. It was a line drive but went in nonetheless. And it put Farmington up 48-42, which was their largest lead of the game.

Winnisquam stormed right back though, going on a 6-0 run to tie the game back up 48-48. 6-foot-5 senior forward Sean Buxton (team-high 16 points and 9 rebounds) made a put-back, Tim Harmon drilled a jumper from 18 feet and then after a quick steal Harmon finished a layup on the break to cap the run and force Farmington to call timeout.

Senior Shane Hill, a versatile big man scored inside to put Farmington back in the lead 50-48. Winnisquam answered right back though, as senior wing Spencer Pevine buried a 3-pointer from the left wing, and the Bears re-take the lead 51-50. The continues continued trading baskets and trading the lead at a frantic pace, as Gibbs and Shaine Bodio scored for Farmington and Tucker Normand hit a 3 for Winnisquam. The result was a 54-54 tie score with 2:44 left in regulation, and you know how the rest turned out.

"Our defense won the game" said Farmington head coach John Simmers with a smile. "Our focus was on keeping Serrano in front of us. Gregoire and Bodio did a good job on him. Our other focus was on limiting them to 1 shot, and both Bennett and Hill were strong on the boards for us."

Winnisquam was the sharper team early on, going on an 8-0 run to start the contest. Normand made a nice steal in the front court, raced towards the basket with the ball but missed the layup. Martinez was there for the follow and the 2-0 Bears lead. Buxton then stepped outside and connected on a long jumper with a foot on the 3-point line. Serrano drove and made a nice dish to Buxton for a layup. Bennett made a nice block on Buxton, but then Farmington wasn't able to capitalize as they missed a couple shots in close on the other end. Winnisquam made a nice high-low feed, getting it to Harmon for a layup and an 8-0 Bears lead.

Farmington finally got on the board on back-to-back leaning scoop shots inside by Gibbs. That seems to be Gibbs' go-to move. Gibbs is only 5-foot-8, maybe 5-foot-9. Still he dropped 22 points on the night and the majority of the came inside. He has that nifty scoop shot down pat!

"I've practiced that a lot" explained Gibbs. "You've got to do that, and you have to execute when you're a smaller player."

Buxton hit a 15-footer, but then Bennett answered with an and-1 finish on the other end. Serrano again made a great pass to find an open teammate with Farmington's defense geared towards stopping him. This time he drove and made a nice dish to Will Singleton for a layup. Gregoire then connected on a 3-pointer from the left wing and it was 12-9 Winnisquam after 1.

Scoring picked up in the 2nd, as the points were coming fast and furiously. Hill scored inside for Farmingotn, Michael Buxton answered with a 15-footer, Gibbs had another nifty scoop shot and then Serrano stroked a 3-pointer. Gibbs then made yet another scoop shot inside, Kevin Poulin (11 points) converted a put-back to tie it 17-17. Farmington got a quick steal, and Gibbs again scored inside, giving the Tigers their first lead of the game, 19-17. Then Hill hit a big 3-pointer off a kick out pass to increase Farmington's lead to 22-18.

Winnisquam set up their full court press, but Farmington broke the press, Bodio pushed it hard up the floor and dished it to Bennett for a layup and a 24-18 Tigers' lead. That completed an 18-6 run by Farmington.

However Winnisquam closed the 1st half on a 10-2 run. Pevine hit a 3 off the catch, followed by a put-back by Buxton to put the Bears back in the lead 25-24. Farmington answered as Bennett hit a jumper from the foul line, as farmington re-takes the lead 26-25. Sean Buxton answered right back with a 3-pointer, and it was 28-26 Winnisquam at halftime.

The teams kept battling out there and trading the lead in the 3rd quarter. Poulin scored inside to knot the game back up 28-28. Farmington re-takes the lead 30-28 on an inside bucket by senior Kevin Radcliffe. Winnisquam goes back ahead as Serrano made an explosive drive to the rim, using a nice hesitation dribble, driving left and finishing for an and-1. It was now 32-30 Winnisquam. Sean Buxton made a put-back, but then Poulin countered for Farmington with an and-1 of his own off a dish by Gibbs.

Then came a crucial call, as Serrano was called for an offensive foul and it was his 3rd foul so he went to the bench for the next couple minutes. It was a tough call, as it appeared to be very questionable as to whether or not he actually extended his arm out at the defender to gain an advantage.

With Serrano on the bench the Tigers went on a 6-0 run, as Gibbs buried back-to-back 3-pointers, and Farmington went back in the lead 41-36 with 2:24 left in the 3rd.

Singleton answered back for Winnisquam. He faced up from the perimeter, put the ball on the floor and drove past his man for a finish in traffic. That cut the Farmington lead to 41-40, but then Poulin picked up a loose ball near the basket and put it back in for 2 more and it was 43-40 Tigers. Bennett stepped in a drew a crucial charge on Pevine. This was a huge play, because if the call went the other way it would have been an and-1 for Pevine and the Bears would have had a chance to tie the game up.

"I saw him coming, so I set myself and took the charge" explained Bennett. "We've got to play hard on defense."

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