Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Resilient Litts Leads Wilton Past Derryfield in D-IV Showdown

In a back-and-forth battle between 2 of the favorites in Division IV boys basketball, Wilton-Lyndeborough made the key plays down the stretch and they protected their home court by defeating Derryfield 59-52 on Wednesday night. Wilton senior guard Jordan was the guy who made most of those key plays, including 2 clutch outside jumpers and a pair of great passes and a steal. Litts finished with a team-high 19 points plus 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals.

"My mindset is to do whatever I can to help the team, whether it be passing or scoring" said Litts, a 6-foot point guard. "We know Derryfield is always one of the teams to beat. Coach told us to play like it's a championship game."

When Litts was out there he made key plays, but staying on the court wasn't easy. He's the kind of player who gives 110% every second he's out there, who goes hard after loose balls and would run through walls if it meant helping his team. It's the right way to play the game, but unfortunately he suffered 3 injuries, 2 of which resulted in him having to leave the game due to blood on his jersey. Each time he got blood on his jersey he needed to change into a different one, so he accomplished the rare feat of wearing 3 different jerseys (#4, #43 and finally #31) all in the same game.

"He had 3 different injuries" said Wilton-Lyndeborough head coach Ken Garnham. "Head, eye and nose."

"I hit my nose when I was going for a loose ball and bumped heads with one of their players" said Litts, calmly answering questions with an open gash over his left eye. "I just wanted to get bandaged up as soon as possible. I didn't want to sit out and not help out my team."

Litts' teammate Trey Carrier, a 6-foot-4 sophomore wing, also played well. He made a good take, finishing through contact. Then Carrier (14 points and 8 rebounds) hit a 3-pointer off a drive-and-kick by Litts. That gave Wilton their largest lead of the game, 44-35. The Warriors led 44-37 after 3 quarters, and looked to be in control of the game.

But Derryfield came out firing in the 4th quarter, as Rob Rizos (7 points) and Pat McGinley (team-high 19 points) hit back-to-back 3's. Just like that we had a 1 point game, 44-43 with 7:00 left.

Then Litts had to leave the game with blood on his jersey for the second time. There was a 5 minute stoppage in play, between the injury and also there was some confusion regarding whether Litts had 3 or 4 fouls.

Play finally resumed, but Litts was in trainer's room getting bandaged up. Derryfield took advantage, as McGinley drove and made a nice dish to Anderson for a layup to put the Cougars on top 45-44, their first lead since early in the 2nd quarter. Just seconds later Derryfield got a steal and McGinley finished the easy layup to extend the Cougars' lead to 47-44, capping a 12-0 run.

"I was pleased with how we competed and kept battling back" said Derryfield School head coach Rob Bradley. "They're really good. They've got some shooters. They're the preseason favorite, yet with 4:00 left we were tied with them."\

With Litts now back in the game, Wilton regained control. First he pulled up just inside the 3-point line and buried a jumper with a hand right in his face. Then Litts drove, again stopping just inside the 3-point line. This time instead of shooting it he zipped an outstanding no-look pass to teammate Connor Melrose for a layup. Carrier kept the momentum rolling for Wilton, slashing to the rim from the wing and getting to the rim for an athletic finish. That made it 52-48 Wilton with 2:20 left in the 4th quarter.

Derryfield had no quit in them, as 6-foot-5 sophomore forward Sam Anderson grabbed a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast for a strong finish at the rim, scoring on 2 defenders. That cut the Warriors' lead to 52-51 with 1:40 left in regulation. Lits answered back, drilling a clutch 3-pointer to extend the Wilton lead to 55-51 with 1:20 remaining.

On the ensuing possession, Litts grabbed a big steal on 'D' and was then fouled as he tried racing up the court with it. Litts takes the inbounds pass, dodges his defender with a deadly crossover dribble and then zipped a pass over to Ty Carrier, hitting him right in stride for a layup. That put Wilton up 57-51 with just :30 left to play, and the Warriors held on for the 59-52 win.

"It was ugly, but we did enough to get the win" said Coach Garnham. Jordan hit a big 3 for us. We haven't played any close games yet so I wasn't sure how we'd respond. But they hung in there and showed some character."

Derrfyfield took the lead early in the 1st quarter as Sam Anderson (15 points and 12 rebounds)hit a turnaround bank shot inside followed by an inside bucket by Jessey Bryan. Then McGinley hit a his first 3 of the game to to cap a 7-0 run as Derryfield led 9-3.

Trey Carrier made a good block, and then Melrose scored inside off a good feed by Litts. Carrier hit a 3-pointer to tie it up 9-9, but then McGinley connected on another 3 of his own and Derryfield went up 12-9. The 3's were opening up as both teams were playing zone defense.

Litts made another terrific pass from the perimeter, this time hitting Carrier who converted the layup. The 1st quarter had a good pace, with both teams playing up-tempo and with a lot of intensity. There was also a good crowd on hand which made for a fun atmosphere. Joe Holden got the ball up ahead to McGinley, who was sprinting up the floor for a layup and it was 14-11 Derryfield after 1 quarter.

Litts had zero points in the 1st quarter but exploded for 10 in the 2nd. Derryfield won the 1st quarter 14-11, but Wilton won the 2nd quarter 17-7. Litts got things started with a strong baseline drive, getting by his man and then finishes strong over the help-side defender. Then Wilton got a quick steal, getting the ball ahead to Litts who exploded to the rim for a strong and-1 finish. Wilton re-takes the lead 18-16.

Derryfield countered, as Rizos made a good pass to Anderson for a layup. That tied it up 18-18, but then Litts buried a 3-pointer from the wing to put Wilton back on top 21-18. With Litts on the bench at the end of the 1st half, junior guard Matt Ducharme stepped up, finishing strong in the lane for a pair of buckets. The Warriors go into halftime leading 28-21.

Anderson got things started in the 2nd half for Derryfield, using a power dribble to get inside and goes up strong for an and-1 finish. Litts answered with a smooth turnaround jumper from 15-feet, and then hit another 3 to make it 35-28 Wilton. Derryfield kept battling and hanging tough though, as Bryan finished a pair of buckets inside followed by a strong take and finish by McGinley. The Cougars now only trailed 37-35 with 3:10 left in the 3rd quarter. That's when Wilton went on a 7-0 run to go up 44-35 late in the 3rd quarter and you know how the rest went by reading above.

A solid win for Wilton, who lives up to their preseason hype. Derryfield though isn't far behind them, obviously. Both teams could definitely be Final Four contenders. Both teams play tough defense and have at least 3 guys who can really hurt you on offense.

Wilton's Casey Lane is a physically strong player, plays with a lot of poise and made some key plays - you'd never think he's only a freshman. Meanwhile, the Class of 2017 is a very deep and talented class for NH, yet Anderson and Trey Carrier are two of the better prospects in the class. And this was our first look at Litts and we came away very impressed. He plays the game full throttle all the game full throttle all the time. Litts is 6-foot but has tremendous leaping ability (won the D-III state championship in the high jump during track season) so he plays more like 6-foot-2. Litts is also a very physically strong player, has a killer crossover dribble, smooth jumper with high release, ability to finish through contact and is just as good of a passer as he is at scoring.

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