Monday, January 12, 2015

Campbell Comes Back to Beat Hopkinton in OT Thriller

In what will go down as one of the games of the year in NHIAA boys basketball, Campbell came back from a 10 point deficit to force overtime where Zach Bergeon hit a pair of clutch 3-pointers to lead the Cougars to a thrilling 64-62 win on Monday night in Division III.

"I like our resiliency" said Campbell head coach John Langlois, who has taken 3 different teams to a title game in the past decade (Somersworth, Bedford, Campbell).

Hopkinton was on top 33-26 at halftime, as Jamison Crouch scored 14 of his 18 points in the 1st half to lead the way.

"We had a talk in the locker room at halftime, just us players before the coaches came in" said senior guard Andrew Smarse, one of Campbell's 3 captains along with Bergeon and Justin DiBenedtto.

"We said right then that there's no way we were going to lose this game" said Bergeon.

Hopkinton had one last shot to tie or win it. The Hawks had the ball with 10.1 seconds left in OT, trailing 64-62. Crouch (who already hit a pair of 3's and a pair of shots from just inside the 3-point line) was left open from beyond the arc. Crouch instead looked inside for Luke Luneau (who scored 18 of his game-high 22 points in the 2nd half and OT), but Bergeon was doing a good job of denying Luneau the basketball.

"I figured they'd try to get Luke the ball, since he was the one who was doing most everything for them" Bergeon explained. "He's a smart player. He's fun to go against."

With time running out, Crouch got the ball up top to teammate Henry Yianakopolos (who played 22 solid minutes off the bench, scoring 10 points), who was forced to throw up a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer but Smarse was right on him and blocked the shot. Game over, Campbell wins 64-62.

"I knew they only had 2 seconds left when he got the ball, so he had to do something with it" said Smarse, a 6-foot senior guard. "I just tried to contest the shot, but was able to get a hand on it."

"That's the kid who hit the winning shot vs. Kearsarge" said Hopkinton head coach Dave Chase, referring to Crouch. "We wanted him to shoot it, but there was some miscommunication and he was looking to get the ball to Luke inside instead."

Bergeon (14 points) hit a 3-pointer right off the bat in OT to put the Cougars on top 57-54. Hopkinton answered right back, getting the ball inside to Luneau who used a nice shot-fake to free himself for an and-1 finish. He missed the free throw, but Yianakopolos grabbed the offensive rebound and converted the put-back to put the Hawks back ahead 58-57. Just seconds later though Bergeon countered with another clutch 3 ball to put Campbell back on top 60-58, a lead they would not relinquish.

Hopkinton again gets the ball inside to Luneau, who scores and cuts the Campbell lead to 61-60 with 1:15 left in OT. The Hawks look to foul, and send DiBenedetto to the line. He misses both free throws (he was 0/5 from the line but made up for it with 6 steals), but Campbell gets the offensive rebound. They nearly turned it over but Kyle Shaw made a nice hustle play to save it from going out of bounds.

The Cougars call timeout, with the ball and still leading 61-60 with just 29 seconds left in OT. Smarse gets fouled and came through in the clutch, hitting both FTs. Hopkinton ball, and again they get it inside to Luneau (pulled down 10 rebounds in addition to his 22 points), who again scored inside. Now the Campbell lead was 63-62 with 15.2 seconds remaining. Shaw gets fouled, makes 1 of 2 at the line to make it 64-62 Cougars.

This was an exciting, hard fought game between 2 of the better teams in Division III. Pelham is still the hands down favorite, but I wouldn't be surprised if either Campbell and/or Hopkinton makes the Final Four.

Campbell came out with more intensity in the 2nd half. Shaw gave the Cougars an immediate lift, converting a put-back and then drilling a 3-pointer to cut the Hopkinton lead to 33-31. The Hawks responded with a layup by Crouch off a flex cut where Luneau made a good dish that led to the bucket. Bergeon answered with a strong take to the rim and and-1 finish (his first field goal of the game).

After a long possession where Hopkinton patiently moved the ball against the stingy Campbell defense, Hawks senior point guard Riley McNicholas drove hard to the rim for a finish in traffic. Campbell countered as sophomore forward Harrison Vedrani (18 points and 7 rebounds) scored 2 quick buckets in the paint and then hit a jumper from the elbow off a dish by Bergeon and we were all tied up 39-39.

Then Vedrani found Smarse with a nice pass off a flex cut for a layup and the Cougars had their first lead since it was 2-0, 41-40. Luneau answered with a tough inside bucket after rebounding his own miss and putting the Hawks back on top 42-41. Smarse converted an and-1 on the other end and Campbell went back ahead 44-42. A layup by Yianakopolos tied it up 44-44, and that was the score as we headed to the 4th quarter.

Bergeon scored a tough inside bucket to put Campbell ahead 46-44. Then Shaw made a nice steal, went hard to the rim, got fouled and hit both FTs to make it 48-44 Campbell (first time all game the Cougars had a 2 possession lead). Kyle Lapage zipped a page over to Crouch on a flex cut, and then Luneau blocked a shot attempt in the paint by Bergeon as Hopkinton was hanging tough. But then DiBendetto hustled to make a nice steal, and then Smarse flipped in a shot in close. After a 3 by Shaw (14 points) from the right wing Campbell took a 53-48.

Luneau kept battling inside though, finishing a couple more buckets inside to keep the Hawks in it, as it was now 53-50 Campbell with 3:40 left in the 4th quarter. Luneau blocked his third shot of the game and then scored 2 more inside to cut the Cougars' lead to 53-52 with 2:00 left in regulation. The 'Luneau Show' continued, as he made a strong drive baseline before finishing a reverse layup to tie it up 54-54 with 1:00 left.

Campbell had possession with it tied 54-54 and held for the last shot at the end of the 4th quarter. But Hopkinton deflected the ball out of bounds with just 1 second left and then Bergeon's 3-point attempt at the buzzer rimmed out to send the game into overtime.

"We made some adjustments on offensive at halftime. The kids also have confidence from experience playing in lots of close games. Three of them have been with me for three years now. I thought DiBenedetto did a good job defensively."

Hopkinton was the sharper team in the 1st half. Campbell had trouble early on finding shots against the Hopkinton zone. The Cougars' first possession lasted about a minute long. Finally Bergeon drove and made a good dish to Vedrani for a layup. Moments later Luneau ripped down a defensive board, pushed it hard up the floor himself, going coast-to-coast for the score.

Hopkinton threw the ball over the top of the Campbell press for a couple layups (by Crouch and Lapage), while Shaw hit a 3 and it was 6-5 Hawks. Hopkinton again broke the Cougars' press easily, and this time Crouch buried an 18-footer. On the next trip down no one on Campbell put a body on Crouch, and he was able to easily grab the offensive rebound and lay it in as Hopkinton went up 12-7 and Coach Langlois called timeout.

"They shot well in the 1st half, and we didn't rebound as well as we should have" said Coach Langlois. They packed in their zone and we were a little stagnant on offense against it."

Out of the timeout Vedrani converted an and-1, but then Couch hit a pair of 3's and it was 18-12 Hopkinton after 1 quarter.

Yianakopolos made a good baseline move for 2 early in the 2nd quarter, finishing a reverse layup in traffic. The Hawks continued to move the ball well, as Meserve zipped a pass over to Yianakopolos for a layup and then Cooper Cyr drove the lane and hit a finger roll. That gave Hopkinton a 27-17 lead with 4:15 left in the 1st half (the Hawks' largest lead) and forced Campbell to call timeout.

Michael Gray answered for the Cougars with a 3-pointer. Meserve quickly answered with a bucket inside, but just seconds later Smarse (15 points) hit a 3 of his own to cut the Hawks lead to 29-23. Campbell continued to build momentum, as DiBenedeto played tough on the ball defense, stealing the ball and going hard to the rim. He got fouled and missed both free throws, but Vedraini grabbed the offensive rebound and hit a turnaround jumper to cut the Hopkinton lead to 29-26. Bergeon made a nice block, but Crouch counterd with a long 2-pointer (had a foot on the line) and then Meserve had another strong finish inside.

Meserve gave the Hawks some solid minutes with Luneau on the bench for most of the 1st half with 2 fouls. It was 33-26 Hopkinton at halftime.

"They return everybody from a team that made the finals and we only return one kid" said Coach Chase. "I think most people probably thought we'd lose this game by 20. Role players like Nick Meserve and Yianakopolos who is only a sophomore stepped up. Riley McNicholas doesn't get the credit he deserves because he isn't a big scorer for us, but he had 7 assists and only 2 turnovers tonight."

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