Great players hit big shots for their team when the game is on the line. That's exactly what happened on Saturday afternoon at Plymouth State in the Division IV boys basketball championship game. Jordan 'Mr. Clutch' Litts showed he is the best player in D-IV, leading Wilton-Lyndeborough to its first title in school history.
Litts hit what turned out to be the game-winning shot, a 3-pointer from the right corner with 29.3 seconds left to put his team back in the lead 48-46.
"I almost passed the ball, but I hit a couple 3's earlier and saw I was open so I took the shot" said Litts, who scored 19 of his game-high 22 points in the 2nd half. "When it went in it felt amazing. I knew there was still 30 seconds left so I couldn't celebrate too much.
Epping had one last chance, but they weren't able to get a shot off in their final possession. Wilton deflected a pass, then got a steal. Litts raced down the court, made a layup on the other end with 3 seconds left. Wilton wins 50-46 over defending champs Epping
"This is unbelievable" said Litts with a smile. "We just wanted it, a state championship. We wanted it more."
This was a great game. A packed house at PSU, with a loud crowd and 2 good teams who played hard in a hard fought, back-and-forth game. There was a dramatic ending, both teams hit a ton of big shots, and they left it all on the floor. It's a shame that one team had to lose. Both are very good teams. On this day, Wilton was just a little better. It was a great atmosphere for high school basketball.
"We never let go, we dug in on defense and hung in there" said Wilton-Lyndeborough head coach Ken Garnham. "It's a wonderful feeling. This is great for our community. That's a heck of a team that we played."
Wilton was on top for much of the game, thanks to a very strong 1st half by versatile sophomore Trey Carrier. The Warriors led by as many as 6, when it was 32-26 in the 3rd quarter following a 3-pointer by Litts (and-1) and a nice block by teammate Duncan Rae.
Epping stormed back though, ending the 3rd quarter on 15-3 run. Junior wing Colby Wilson drained back-to-back 3's, with the second one being from WAY downtown. Then teammate Jackson Rivers connected on a 3 to make it 37-33 Epping. Rivers then finished strong inside for 2. On the other end Ty Carrier (Trey's older brother) slashed to the rim for 2. The Blue Devils answered right back, as junior guard Dylan Derosier (12 points) drove to the rim for a layup of his own. Epping took a 41-35 lead heading to the 4th quarter.
The Blue Devils extended their lead to 42-35 early in the 4th quarter, and Wilton was really struggling to find offense. There was a 5 minute stretch between the end of the 3rd quarter and early in the 4th quarter where the Warriors scored just 1 field goal. Finally they turned it around, though as Litts hit a big shot by connecting on a 3-pointer from the left corner.
Epping answered right back on the other end, as senior forward Brett Couture made a strong move inside for 2 as the Blue Devils went back up by 6, 44-38 with just 4:30 left in regulation. From there Wilton ended the game on a 12-2 run. Trey Carrier took it strong to the bucket on the fast-break for a layup. Then 2 FTs by Litts cut the Epping lead to 44-43 with 2:45 remaining.
Derosier countered for the Blue Devils with a BIG tip-in, making it 46-43 Epping with 2:12 left. Again Wilton looked to push the ball in transition and again Epping was unable to get back in time, as Litts made the basket and the foul. He missed the free throw, which would have tied it but instead it was 46-45 Epping with 1:49 left in the 4th quarter.
Wilton got the ball back, still trailing by 1. Ty Carrier got a good look inside but his shot was no good. Epping ball, and Wilton now has to try and get a steal and if not they need to foul. They fouled Blue Devils sophomore guard Tommy Bullock, who missed the front end of the 1-and-1. That gave Wilton the ball back, still trailing 46-45. That's when Litts buried the shot of the year, a 3 that put the Warriors back on top 48-46.
"We ran four corners, it's one of our offenses" said Trey Carrier, describing the play they ran for the winning shot. "We looked for whatever shot was open. Then Jordan hit a big 3."
Defense dominated early on. Both teams defended well, taking away the paint and forcing the opponent to take outside shots. There was definitely some nerves as well, with lots of turnovers by both teams in the 1st quarter. 2 and a half minutes in we finally got our first points, as Derosier slashed to the rim for 2 in traffic.
Litts got Wilton on the board with a 3 from the left wing, making it 3-2 with 4:40 left in the 1st quarter. It was his only points of the 1st half. Litts made a nice dish to Trey Carrier for an and-1 finish, and then Rae hit a 3 off the catch. The warriors then went up 11-3, capping an 11-1 run.
Epping answered back, getting a steal, pushing it on the break and getting it ahead to Wilson (team-high 19 points) for a 3-pointer. Teammate Billy White then dished it to Couture for an inside bucket and the Blue Devils ended the 1st quarter on a 7-0 run. It was 11-10 Wilton after 1.
Trey converted a strong bucket inside early in the 2nd quarter, but on the other end Wilson made a nice dish to Derosier for 2. Trey Carrier (15 points) went inside for 2 more to make it 17-12 Warriors, but Epping again answered right back as Wilson made a strong move to the bucket for an and-1. Wilson then hit a tough 15-footer off the glass, cutting the Warriors lead to 19-18.
Epping head coach Sean Young was rotating kids in and out of the lineup at seemingly every whistle. Wilton meanwhile brought just one kid off the bench (Casey Lane) while Litts and the Carrier brothers played pretty much the entire game. You had to wonder if fatigue would eventually set in for Wilton and Epping's depth would be a factor.
Trey Carrier continued to carry Wilton, hitting a turnaround jumper from 15 feet out of the post. He had 11 of his team's 21 points so far. Wilton got 2 offensive boards on one possession (by Trey Carrier and Lane). They kept the possession alive, and then Litts dished it to Trey Carrier, who made a strong move to the rim for 2 more.
"Trey was absolutely spectacular" said Coach Garnham. "He had a great game."
"I've been working on my post moves this season" said Trey Carrier. "In the beginning I was nervous, but once we tipped off the nerves went away."
On the other end Derosier slashed to the rim for 2 more, but Ty Carrier countered a 15-footer to make it 25-20 Wilton. Wilson then sent the sold out crowd into a frenzy, hitting a buzzer-beater from 8 feet behind the 3-point line. It was 25-23 Warriors at halftime.
Ty Carrier made a tough drive and finish, extending the Wilton lead to 29-24 early in the 3rd quarter. Just seconds later though, Wilson banked in a runner to cut the lead back to 29-26. Litts made a great play, with a crossover dribble, freeing himself up for a look from the outside, Litts nailed the 3-pointer, plus got fouled. That made it 32-26 Wilton, and you know how the rest went by reading above.
A special day for the Lane family. Casey helps Wilton win a state title as a freshman, and his father Steve Lane coaches Nashua North (#15 seed in D-I) to the Final Four with a 57-56 win over Trinity.
And a special day for the Carrier family, as brothers Ty and Trey win a title together as teammates. This is the second time in the last 4 years this has happened in D-IV, as the Swedberg brothers Marcus, Drew and Riley (and head coach Matt Swedberg, their father) all won the title together in 2012.
"To have someone who is that close to you out there on the court" said Trey Carrier. "We've been playing together ever since we started playing."