Saturday, January 30, 2016

Hollis-Brookline Escapes With Win Over Timberlane

By: Jeremy Leveille
Two heartbreaking losses in less than a week for the Timberlane Owls. They pushed the heavily favored Manchester West Blue Knights to the brink before falling on Tuesday night, and on Friday night they suffered another close loss in the closing seconds – this time to a scrappy Hollis-Brookline team.

Hollis and Timberlane was an even match-up. It was a hard fought battle throughout, with both teams playing physical, tenacious defense and leaving it all on the floor. It could have gone either way. What was the difference? 3 key plays in the last minute – a huge 3-pointer by Cavaliers junior guard Nick Fothergill with the game tied, a missed front end of a 1-and-1 by the Owls which would have put them ahead, and a 5 second inbound violation on Timberlane when they were down by 3. The result was a nail-biting 45-40 win for Hollis-Brookline in Division II play.

Hollis was 0/10 from 3-point range, but they made the one that counted the most with the game on the line. It was all tied up 38-38. The Cavs had possession with just 1:15 remaining. Fothergill had the ball on the left wing and got some daylight thanks to a screen. He drained the 3, nothing but net as Hollis re-takes the lead 41-38 with just 52.8 seconds left.

“Nick is a rock for us” said Hollis-Brookline head coach Mike Soucy. “It’s hard to take him off the floor. He’s playing with a lot of confidence.”

Fothergill, a 5-foot-9 point guard, dropped a game-high 15 points in the win. He missed a number of 3’s earlier in the game, but he made the big one.

“My teammates have a lot of confidence in me as a shooter” explained Fothergill. “Even if I miss my first five 3’s they have the confidence in me that I’ll make the next one. Matt Simco set a great screen for me.”

Still, the game was far from over at that point. Timberlane had the ball, trailing by 3 and with plenty of time left. They were trying to get the ball to senior guard Jason Hughes, who poured in a team-high 13 points and had already hit two shots from downtown earlier in the game. However the Cavs were doing a great job defensively of denying Hughes the basketball. In fact, they were extending their defense all around the perimeter, not allowing any Owls players to get a look from beyond the arc. With no other option, Timberlane senior guard Chad Ripley slashed to the rim for a layup, cutting the Hollis lead to 41-40 with 19.6 seconds left in regulation.

Needing desperately to regain possession, Timberlane put on a full court press. The Cavs broke the press, got the ball inside and nearly scored. But the ball was knocked away and stolen by the Owls, who then raced back the other way. Hughes pushed it hard up the floor, with under 10 seconds left. Hollis got whistled for a reach in foul on the drive, sending Hughes to the line for a 1-and-1 with the Owls still trailing 41-40. These were key free throws. If Hughes makes both shots, then the Owls would take the lead, with very little time left for Hollis to score. Instead, Hughes missed the front end of the 1-and-1.

“He’s not the best free throw shooter, but he’s the one I want at the line there” said Timberlane head coach Jeffrey Baumann.

Hollis pulled down the rebound and Timberlane is forced to foul. Cavs senior wing Matt Bonnette goes to the line for a 1-and-1. He makes both foul shots, and it’s 43-40 Hollis with 4.7 seconds remaining. The Owls still have a chance if they can quickly get the ball up the floor and hit a 3. But they were unable to get the basketball inbounds and are called for a 5-second violation. The ball is turned back over to Hollis, who gets the ball in, Fothergill puts the nail in the coffin with 2 more FTs and the Cavs win it 45-40.

“I wasn’t disappointed with the effort” lamented coach Baumann. “We broke down with our execution. We came out of timeouts with guys not in the right spots. We shot 2/11 on free throws.”

“We got some clutch free throws by Matt Bonnette and good play off the bench from Matt Dowling and Scott Van Coughnett” said Fothergill.

Right from the opening tip both squads were going at each other hard. Both teams were playing tough, hard nosed defense. You had to really work hard for every bucket out there. Both teams are better defensively than they are on offense, and as a result it was a low scoring contest throughout. Hollis got on the board first, as junior guard Stephen Giaconia made a nice steal and then dished it over to Fothergill on the break for the layup.

The Owls countered, as senior forward Jonathan Dolan powered his way inside for 2. Sophomore forward Matt Simco made a nice block for the Cavs, and then Van Coughnett hit a foul line jumper. Hughes responded, driving baseline for an and-1 floater. Owls junior wing Ryan Doherty hit a baseline jmper, and it was 7-4 Timberlane with 3:00 left in the 1st quarter. Fothergill answered back, showing good quickness off the dribble by driving baseline and banking in a teardrop. It was 8-7 Hollis after 1 quarter.

The Cavs converted a pair of quick buckets to open the 2nd quarter, with the second one coming on a smooth pull-up jumper in transition by Giaconia. That made it 12-7 Hollis and forced the Owls to call timeout. Timberlane junior wing Drew Siemering took a charge. Fothergill and Hughes were going at each other on both ends of the court – it was a fun match-p to watch between two of the better guards in D-II. Fothergill hit a short jumper to extend the Hollis lead to 14-7 (their largest lead of the game), but on the other end Hughes answered right back by draining a 3-pointer from the left wing.

Hollis switched from a man-to-man to a zone defense, packing it in and their bigs were being aggressive and denying the post. They were really making it difficult for the Owls to get the basketball inside. That freed up Hughes for another 3 and he buried it, this time from the right wing, cutting the Cavs lead to 16-13. Then teammate Connor Schott came off the bench and he hit a 3, tying it up 16-16 with 1:31 left in the 1st half.

Meanwhile, Timberlane was playing tough, pressure man-to-man defense. They forced a 5-second closely guarded violation, and there actually should have been another one called earlier on that same possession. Hollis led 21-16 at halftime.
Fothergill and Giaconia play off each other well and form a very capable backcourt duo. They are both quick guards who can handle the basketball and shoot it.

“This was Stephen’s first game back after being out for three weeks with a concussion” pointed out Coach Soucy. “He stabilizes things for us, and it’s nice to have him back.”

Ripley was quiet in the 1st half, but he came alive in the 2nd, scoring all 11 of his points and hustling for rebounds. He made a strong move to the rim, driving baseline for 2 early in the 3rd quarter. Just seconds later though, Fothergill drove and banked in another teardrop. The Cavs once again had their largest lead of 7, as it was 25-18.

That’s when the Owls really came alive. The stormed back, going on a 12-2 run. Nolan and Doherty both crashed the offensive boards, converting back-to-back put-backs. Then Timberlane got a quick steal, got out in transition and Hughes dished it to Ripley for the layup. Hollis’ lead was down to 1, 25-24.

“We’re definitely a team that likes to run” said Coach Baumann.

Meanwhile, Timberlane had also switched to a zone defense. It was forcing the Cavs to take a lot of 3’s and none of them were falling. Many of them were rimming in and out, though so they can blame it on the rims.

Ripley finished strong off a baseline out of bounds play, as the Owls went up 26-25, their first lead since the 1st quarter. Doherty missed a shot inside, but put-back his own miss for 2 more. Timberlane kept pushing the pace, as Hughes pushed it hard to the rim on the break for a strong and-1 finish. He pumped his fist, as the Owls now led 30-27, capping a 12-2 run.

Hollis answered back on the other end, as Simco used a nice up-and-under move to get to the rim for 2. Timberlane sophomore forward Robert Horgan finished an inside lay-in off a nice dish by Ripley. Yet another 3 rimmed in and out for the Cavs, as Timberlane led 32-29 after 3 quarters.

The intensity continued into the 4th quarter. Giaconia hit two quick shots – one was a put-back and the other was a 15-footer. That put Hollis back on top 33-32 with 4:45 remaining. Ripley took a charge, although it appeared to be a tough call on the Cavs. Ripley was set, but it wasn’t a straight on hit because the Hollis player wasn’t even driving at the rim – they were driving east-west. Not only that, but this came right after Simco went up for a shot inside and clearly got slapped on the arm but there was no call. Give the Cavs credit for not letting those tough calls get them rattled.

Bonnette connected on an 18-footer off a baseline out of bounds play, as Hollis now led 35-32 with 3:15 left in the 4th quarter. On the other end Ripley drained a 3-pointer off the catch from the corner off a baseline out of bounds play, tying it up 35-35 – what a big shot!

Giaconia converted an and-1, but just seconds later Hughes answered back with a layup to cut the Hollis lead to 38-37. Soon it was tied up 38-38, that’s when Fothergill hit the shot of the game and you know how the rest went by reading above.

Hollis went on the road to a rowdy and raucous Timberlane gym and got a good win. The Owls stormed back in the 3rd quarter with that 12-2 run and had all the momentum on their side. Yet the Cavs were still able to keep it together and grind out a win.

“That shows how much we have grown as a team” said Coach Soucy. “Earlier in the season we would have fell apart in that situation.”

Everybody is only talking about Portsmouth, Lebanon and Manchester West in D-II. But watch out for Hollis-Brookline and Timberlane. They are both more than capable of making some noise come tournament time.

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