By: Ross Laorenza
The Alvirne Broncos had three players in double figures in their win Tuesday night 76-63 over the Exeter Blue Hawks. Evan Hunt (#33) scored a team high 16 points, including 9 points in a crucial fourth quarter.
“We’re a better team when we’re passing, cutting and getting open lay-ups,” said Hunt. “My guards did a great job tonight finding the open player.”
Hunt started for Alvirne along with George Notini (#5), Connor Hodsdon (#12), Andrew Wetmore (#24) and Sam Bonney-Liles (#31). Bonney-Liles got off to an excellent start scoring the game’s first 7 points. He opened the scoring with a 3-pointer, drilled a jumper and picked up a loose ball and took it to the hoop to give his team and early 7-0 edge.
Exeter would respond, trailing 9-2. Bryant Holmes (#20) and Cody Morissette (#22) hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the Alvirne lead to one point. George Notini hit two free throws to push the lead back to three, before James Peel (#25) connected for Exeter.
Alvirne closed the first quarter with an 11-5 run. Andrew Wetmore scored on a lay-up with contact. He sank the free throw, converting the three point play. Dan Tucci (#3) fed Tyler Janko (#22) down low for another easy score. At the end of the first quarter Alvirne leads 22-15.
The second quarter got a little chippy. Janko took and elbow to the face and went down in a heap. With only four defenders Alvirne was able to draw a charge and regain possession. Play was stopped momentarily to clean the floor following the Janko hit. He would return later in the game. Several players could be seen giving a few extra shoves as they passed each other in transition. I asked Hunt how his team kept their composure on the floor.
“That was coach. He sat us down and calmed us all down,” Hunt said.
Exeter was able to create some offense in the second quarter. Jacob Randolph (#34) found himself open on two consecutive possessions. He cut backdoor, to the basket for two easy lay-ins.
Sam Bonney-Liles connected for Alvirne to push the lead back to five points, but Michael Bronson (#32) countered for Exeter. After a block by Notini, Exeter regained possession leading to another basket from big man Randolph. The lead would change hands four times over the next few minutes.
Stephen Natola (#12) gave Exeter their first lead of the game, 25-24. Bonney-Liles put Alvirne back ahead with his second 3-pointer of the game. Bryant Holmes nailed three as he began to heat up. He hit a second three is as many possessions to give Exeter a 31-27 lead. Connor Hodsdon connected from down town for Alvirne, before Holmes sank his third three in a row. Holmes was absolutely on fire in the second quarter! Time out Alvirne.
Out of the time out Alvirne had four starters with Justin Glenzer-Thomas in for Bonney-Liles. Hunt hit a nice jump hook in the lane to cut the deficit to 2 point. Notini tried finding an open man in the corner with a sweet behind the back no look pass, but it bounced out of bounds. On the ensuing inbound Glenzer-Thomas drained a three to put Alvirne in front 35-34.
The Bronco’s defense held tough in the final thirty second of the half. As Exeter passed the ball around the perimeter, trying to find and open lane Notini and Hodsdon swarmed to the ball handlers. With the ball fed along the far sideline Hunt closed and Exeter couldn’t get a shot away. At the half, Alvirne: 35, Exeter: 34.
“Defensively we needed a better team effort. When you score 34 points at halftime you shouldn’t be down,” said Exeter Coach Jeffrey Holmes. “Defensively we’ve got to get better.”
Exeter would regain the lead briefly at the start of the third. Stephen Natola grabbed and offesnse rebound for the put back. Andrew Wetmore scored two consecutive baskets to put Alvirne back ahead 39-36. A free throw from Hunt gave Alvirne a three point lead, but then Zach Pafford (#24) scored for Exeter cutting it back to one.
Alvirne would score the next 6 points with baskets from Hodsdon, Hunt and Notini. Randolf returned for Exeter replacing Pafford. After the sub, Cody Morisette got a fancy feed from Holmes for an open look at three. He nailed it to cut the lead to 5 points. A free throw by Peel and another basket from Morissette got Exeter within two, but Alvirne closed the quarter with a 6-0 run. At the end of the 3rd quarter, Alvirne: 52, Exeter: 46.
Alvirne put the game away in the fourth. Natola start the scoring after he received a stellar pass inside from Brett Richardson (#11). Hunt pushed the lead to 10 points, before Morissette went coast-to-coast for a lay-in.
Fighting for a rebound on the other end George Notini grabbed it, scored and got the foul. He would hit the free throw to give Alvirne an 11 point edge. Notini’s defense was huge in the game.
“In the second half we played all straight man (defense),” said Coach Brian Lynch. “George Notini: he’s our lock down defender. He really loves the challenge of shutting down their best player.”
Notini was tasked with shutting down Bryant Holmes and was successful. After a ferocious first half hitting four 3-pointers, Holmes was held to five points the rest of the game.
Alvirne continued to assert themselves inside with baskets from Wetmore and Hunt. With under two minutes to play they were in the bonus. As a team the Broncos were 10 for 13 from the charity stripe in the fourth to seal their victory. Wetmore scored the team’s final basket after a beautiful full court pass from Bonney-Liles. Final Score, Alvirne: 76, Exeter: 63
Cody Morissette led all scorers with 21 points for Exeter. Bryant Holmes finished with 17.
Hunt, Wetmore and Bonney-Liles combined for 45 points in the win for Alvrine. Bonney-Liles scored 14 points, Wetmore scored 15 and Hunt had the team high 16 points. George Notini and Connor Hodsdon both finished with 7 points and both showed great defense skills in the victory.
“It was a real battle,” said Coach Lynch. “It’s a different guy that steps up for us every night. Tonight it was those three guys, next game it could be someone else. I’m proud of how they played and I though they did a really good job.”
Alvirne’s roster is filled with experience. They have 11 seniors.
“Everybody gets along really well and it’s a great team atmosphere. We talk all the time about doing whatever it takes to win,” added Lynch. “Guys aren’t worried about their shots, their points, their minutes…They just want to do whatever it takes to win."
The Broncos are now 8-2 in NHIAA D-I play with tonight’s victory. They’ll look to continue their winning ways next Tuesday at Bishop Guertin.
From Alvirne High School in Hudson; Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook