The Epping High boys basketball team nearly blew a 20 point 4th quarter lead, but instead held on to beat a feisty Derryfield School team 69-61 on Tuesday night in Epping.
Epping had a 66-46 lead with just a few minutes left in regulation. It was all over, right? Time to send in the subs, right? Wrong. Give credit to Derryfield for never giving up. But at the same time, Epping clearly let off the gas pedal which also helped the Cougars get back in it.
After going down by 20 in the 4th quarter, Derryfield stormed back with a 15-0 to cut the Blue Devils' lead to just 66-61. The Cougars were led by one of the top players in Division IV - junior forward Sam Anderson, who dropped a team-high 22 points to go with 16 rebounds.
That's as close as the Cougars would get though, as Epping made 3/4 free throws late and held on for the 69-61 victory. The Blue Devils remain undefeated in D-IV. They take on Portsmouth Christian Academy in a huge showdown between unbeaten D-IV teams on Friday night. PCA head coach Lewis Atkins and a couple of his players were in the gym on Tuesday night scouting Epping.
Leading the way for head coach Sean Young's Blue Devils were senior guard Dylan Derosier (game-high 24 points plus 3 steals) and junior forward Jackson Rivers (19 points to go with 11 rebounds). For most of this game Derosier and Rivers were the two best players on the floor. But then Anderson took over late to lead the Derryfield comeback.
The 6-foot-5 Anderson buried a 3-pointer from the corner, then finished strong on the fast-break to get the rally started and cut the Epping lead to 66-53. The 6-foot-2 Rivers battled Anderson all game. Anderson blocked Rivers, then tried dribbling the ball back the other way but then Rivers hustled to get back in the play and stole the ball right back from Anderson. Moments later Anderson took it hard to the rim, but Rivers stepped in to draw the charge on him.
Anderson kept working hard out there to get his squad back in it. He made a steal near mid-court and again took it hard to the rim, this time finishing strong inside. It was 66-55 Blue Devils with 3:30 left to play. Then Anderson connected on pull-up jumper from the elbow, making it an 11-0 Cougars' run. It was 66-57 Epping with 2:10 remaining. Then his teammate Burton Owen (12 points) hustled in to grab an offensive rebound and convert the put-back. It was now a 13-0 Derryfield run, and a 66-59 Epping lead with 1:00 left. Anderson again took it strong to the rim, finishing inside to cap the 15-0 run. It was 66-61 Blue Devils with just 35 seconds left in the 4th quarter.
The Cougars were now forced to foul, and finally Epping's scoreless drought ended on a free throw by senior wing Colby Wilson (9 points). Derryfield then had possession, but they missed a layup which would have cut the Epping lead to just 4. Instead they missed it, Wilson nailed two more foul shots and the Blue Devils hang on for the 69-61 win.
Epping had to be considered the favorite coming in to this game. They return four starters from a team that made it to the D-IV finals last year. Meanwhile, Anderson is the only returning starter for Derryfield.
The Blue Devils came out in a tough half court man defense and later in the 1st half they pressed full court. Wilson drilled a 3-pointer off the catch followed by a an and-1 finish by Rivers to get Epping out to the early 6-2 lead. Max Osgood made it 8-2 as he came off the bench, made a steal near mid-court and then raced to the bucket for 2.
Anderson countered for the Cougars by hitting a step-back jumper from 18-feet. Then teammate Andrew Dubreuil broke the press, then kicked it over to Owen who drained a 3. Derosier answered for Epping, cutting to the basket, catching the pass in the lane and finishing an and-1. Then Derosier finished inside again, this time off a nice pass from up top by Osgood. Then Derosier continued his explosive start, making a steal at 3/4 court and taking it all the way in for the layup to make it 17-11 Epping. Meanwhile Anderson had a pair of strong finishes inside to keep Derryfield close. It was 21-15 Blue Devils after 1 quarter.
Epping was better team in the 2nd quarter as well - they simply have more weapons. Parker Blaisdell hit a 3 for the Cougars to cut the Blue Devils lead to 21-18. But then Rivers and Derosier converted back-to-back transition layups . Then Rivers played tough defense on Anderson to force a missed shot, then when Jessey Bryan grabbed the offensive rebound Rivers blocked his shot.
Owen hit another 3, and Anderson made a tough drive and and-1 finish. The Cougars were hanging tough, only down 27-24. But then Epping responded with an 11-0 run. Junior guard Tommy Bullock got the run started with a slash to the rim and finish in traffic. Then Rivers finished strong inside, followed by a 3 by Derosier off the dribble. Just seconds later Epping got the ball back and Derosier tipped in a missed shot for 2 more (he already had 16 points). Meanwhile Anderson was whistled for his fourth traveling violation of the 1st half.
A put-back by Rivers made it 38-24 Blue Devils and capped the 11-0 run. Moments later Rivers tipped in a miss for another put-back, and it was 42-29 Epping at halftime. Derosier had 16 and Rivers had 15 at the half.
Wilson got back in the action in the 3rd quarter, connecting on his second 3-pointer. Rivers continued to be a menace on the offensive boards. Derosier drained another 3, and just seconds later he finished an easy layup on the break to make it 53-35 Blue Devils. Epping led 59-41 after 3 quarters.
Derosier drilled another 3, this one from the top of the key early in the 4th quarter. He showed a very quick release on that shot. Glen Hagan converted an and-1 finish in transition, and that made it 66-46 Epping. That was their largest lead of the game. That's when the Derryfield comeback began, and you know how the rest went down by reading above.