In a battle of Nashua schools, South held off a late comeback bid by North to win their fourth consecutive Chick-fil-A Holiday Tournament championship 64-56. Nashua South led by as many as 13 (22-9 in 2nd quarter) and they led by as many as 11 in the 2nd half (43-32 in 3rd quarter). But Nashua North made a resilient 2nd half comeback led by junior wing Brandon Rodriguez (scored 15 of his 22 in 2nd half) and Brennan Kastens scored all 17 of his points in 2nd half) to take the lead 51-50 in the 4th quarter.
But thanks to a late jumper by DJ Frechette (game-high 24 points), a technical foul call on the Titans and some clutch free throws by Ryan Penkala and Mike Osgood (15 points and 14 rebounds), the Purple Panthers pulled out the win in and exciting, hard fought game.
"Once they got it close we called a couple timeouts" said Osgood, who was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. "We were then able to settle down, get our heads in it and play smarter."
Osgood and Frechette were named to the all-tournament team for South, while Rodriguez and Kastens were all-tourney selections for North.
Frechette drove to the rim, banking in a leaner on 2 defenders and then hit a 3-pointer off the dribble. That gave South a 43-32 lead in the 3rd quarter. That's when North began their comeback. Kastens made a good hustle play, diving on the floor for a loose ball, saving it and calling timeout right before going out of bounds. Kastens then converted an and-1, and then Ronnie Silva stole the ball in the back court, hit both free throws as the Titans ended the 3rd quarter with a flurry, closing to within 45-39 after 3.
Kastens continued his strong play in the 4th quarter, scoring 2 more inside and ten on the next trip down finishing a reverse layup in traffic. South head coach Nate Mazzerole called timeout, as his team's lead was now down to 46-43 with 5:41 left in regulation.
Out of the timeout, the 6-foot-6 Osgood cut baseline, caught the ball in stride and threw down a 2-handed dunk. Rodriguez answered with 2 quick buckets - one was a 15-footer and the other was a fast-break layup, cutting the South lead to 48-47 with 4:00 left. Kastens scored inside cut the South lead to 50-49 and then Rodriguez hit a pair of free throws to put the Titans ahead 51-50 (their first lead since 2-0). Frechette raced towards the rim, his shot inside was no good but Osgood tipped it in to put South back on top 52-51. Then it was Rodriguez again taking it strong to the rim, driving past the entire Purple Panthers defense for 2, as the Titans went back ahead 53-52. What a game!
Frechette drained a pair of foul shots and South re-takes the lead 54-53 with 1:00 left to play. Rodriguez came a=up big again, driving hard to the rim for an and-1 finish, putting North back on top 56-54 with 50.2 seconds remaining. Frechette answered with a step-back jumper for 2 (had a foot on the line) to tie it up 56-56 with 40 seconds left in the 4th quarter.
North was unable to score, and then they fouled Penkala, who went to the line for a big 1-and-1. Penkala hit both FTs, putting South back ahead 58-56. North ball, down 58-56 - Kastens gets a good look inside but it rims out. Osgood rips down the rebound and gets fouled hard by Rodriguez. Rodriguez and Osgood jawed at each other and Rodriguez was called for a technical foul.
"He pushed me pretty hard" said Osgood.
So Osgood was going to the line for 2 after getting fouled anyways, then because of the technical he got 2 more FTs. Osgood sunk all 4 foul shots in a row, as the Purple Panthers went up 62-56. Frechette finishes a layup right in the final seconds and South wins 64-56.
"We are young and inexperienced, and we made some young / inexperienced mistakes" said Nashua South head coach Nate Mazzerole. "Brennan Kastens is a tough, good basketball player. He hurt us in the 4th quarter. They have some good weapons, it's pick your poison with them."
North showed grit and determination in their 2nd half comeback, but the 1st half was all South. Rodriguez took a dribble hand-off and slashed to the rim for an and-1 finish. But then South went on an 11-0 run which turned out to be the difference. Sophomore point guard Kevin Genao put the ball through his legs and hit a step-back 3 to get the run started. Then Genao hit a pull-up jumper from the elbow followed quickly by Osgood who hit an 18-footer using a high release. With a release that high at 6-foot-6 he's gonna get his shot off over anybody. South pushed the ball quickly in transition with Zavier Williams scoring on the break to make it 9-2 Purple Panthers with 4:05 left in the 1st quarter and force Nashua North head coach Steve Lane to call a timeout.
"We wanted to start out strong and get up on them from the beginning" said Osgood.
The South run continued out of the timeout, as they got a defensive rebound and again looked to push the ball quickly up the floor. Williams went hard to the rim, got fouled and hit both free throws. That capped the 11-0 run and made it 11-2 South. Genao banked in a runner and it was 15-7 Purple Panthers after 1 quarter of play.
Junior wing Nate Hale had a strong 1st half for North with 10 points. He made a good move early in the 2nd quarter, putting the ball behind his back and hitting a step-back jumper. But after a 3-pointer by Frechette the South lead grew to 22-9 (their largest lead of the game).
Rodriguez was helping to keep the Titans in it though, slashing to the rim for 2 and then connecting on a 3 to cut the South lead to 22-14. Frechette countered for the Purple Panthers, using a screen by Osgood to drive into the lane and bank in a runner. Penkala followed with a leaner and the lead was back up to 26-14.
Hale hit an 18-footer to cut the South lead to 26-18 but Frechette again asnwered right back, hitting another 3 off the catch. Frechette has perfect form on his outside shot - if he squares up to the rim it's going in.
Osgood made a good move on the break, taking it right at a defender, putting the ball behind his back before going in for a reverse layup attempt. He got fouled and South went up 30-18. Not many 6-foot-6 kids have the skill and agility to make a move like that.
A 3 by Williams made it 33-20 Purple Panthers, who took a 33-22 lead into the halftime break.
North came out with more intensity and energy in the 3rd quarter. Silva drew a charge on Osgood to get his team fired up. Then Rodriguez made a steal and took it hard to the rim for a layup. Frechette answered with yet another 3 ball but then Rodriguez made yet another steal and layup on the other end. You know how the rest went by reading above.
This was a hard fought game between 2 teams who will both give D-I opponents a lot of trouble over the rest of the season.
South continues to play without senior Malik Langa, a key player for them last year who has an injured ankle.