Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Windham Comeback Falls Short vs. Rival Pelham

By: Jeremy Leveille
You never quite know what's gonna go down in a rivalry game. That was the case on Tuesday night at the Snake Pit in Windham.

Windham came back from down 42-29 with just 4:28 left in the 4th quarter. Then Marco Allanach (10 points) hit a pair of 3's, Cole Gill (team-high 14 points) hit a 3 of his own. The Jaguars stormed back with a late 11-0 run and just like that the Pelham lead was just 2. With 21.7 seconds remaining it's Jaguars' ball, down 42-40. They got six shots up on that final possession but none of them fell. The last shot was a fall-away put-back attempt at the buzzer by Bobby Dickey (9 points). Dickey was fouled and with no time on the clock he went to the line with a chance to tie the game and sent it to overtime if he made both free throws. But he missed the first shot and that ended the game. Pelham hangs on for the thrilling 42-40 win.

"I'm proud of my guys" said Windham head coach Todd Steffanides. "We had a nice run in those last few minutes, to be able to come back and have a chance to force overtime. I'm proud of the effort."

"It's Pelham and Windham, cross-town rivals - no one is ever out of the game" said Pelham head coach Matt Regan."

Pelham was up by double digits in 4th quarter thanks to 6-foot-2 senior guard Keith Brown, who showed why he is the best player in the NHIAA. Despite missing his first eight shots of the contest and being held scoreless until midway through the 2nd quarter, Brown kept his head up and hit 8 of his next 9 shots en route to a game-high 25 points. He then drilled four 3-pointers in the 4th quarter, one of which came right after he got elbowed in the face by a Windham player.

"He elbowed me right in the face, but I'm better than that" said Brown, who has already scored 1,000 career points and recently picked up a scholarship offer from Philadelphia University. "I'm gonna just keep doing me."

That's exactly what he did. Brown used a crossover dribble to create space for his first 3 of the 4th quarter. Kyle Adamson made a strong baseline drive and finish for the Jaguars, Brown answered right back with another 3-pointer off the dribble. On the next trip down Brown brought the ball up, and with a defender all over him he connected on another 3 off the bounce. On the other end Gill made a strong finish inside for 2. Then it's Pelham ball on a baseline out of bounds play, and that's when Brown gets knocked to the floor. He was down but then finally got back up. No foul was called and Coach Regan was livid.

"I always fight for my players, but if I had gone onto the court I would have had to sub him out" said Coach Regan.

Instead Brown stayed in the game, and when play resumed he sunk yet another 3 - off the glass and in. That extended the Pythons' lead to 42-29 with just 4:28 left in the 4th quarter.

"Keith Brown" said Coach Steffanides to explained what he felt was the difference in the game. "He caught fire. We added fuel to the fire with that foul."

Windham was not giving up yet, though. A 3 by Allanach cut the Pelham lead to 42-34 with 1:20 remaining. On the next trip down Gill drained a 3 to make it 42-37 Pythons with 1:05 left. Then it was Allanach again, connecting on another 3-pointer. Now it was 42-40 Pelham with 40 seconds left to play.

Brown missed the front end of a 1-and-1, which gave the Jaguars possession with 21.7 seconds left, still down 42-40.

"Yeah we have a really good player, but we can't be a one man team and win a state championship" said Coach Regan.

The two squads battled hard in the 1st quarter, scratching and clawing for every bucket. Both teams were playing tenacious defense, and with 1:00 left in the opening quarter the score was just 4-2, in favor of Windham. Trevor Gagnon got Pelham on the board first with a quick transition layup. The Jaguars countered, as Adamson dished it to Ben Emrick on a nice back door cut for 2.

John Granfield came off the Pythons' bench to make a nice weak side block, but then Windham recovered possession and Gill banked in a runner, and then Gagnon hit drained an 18-footer at the buzzer off a dish by Brown, and it was 6-6 after 1 quarter. Gagnon had all six points for Pelham, while Brown was scoreless so far and 0/5 shooting.

"We thought we'd see a box-and-one from them" said Coach Regan. "We practiced against it, but we still didn't execute."

Both teams were getting some good looks early in the 2nd quarter, but they just weren't falling. Then Gill connected on a hook shot inside over Brown. Dickey converted a layup off a baseline out of bounds play to give the Jaguars a 10-6 lead (their largest lead of the game).

Pelham then went on a 9-3 run to end the 2nd quarter. The run was led by Brown, who finally got on the board with a free throw and after a nice block by Gill, Brown drove it inside for his first field goal. Windham was still on top 10-9, and on the next Pelham possession they did a great job of pressuring the heck out of Brown out on the perimeter with two defenders, forcing him to turn it over (may have been a Windham foul on that play, though).

Brown responded, powering his way to the rim before banking in a leaner, and-1. The Jaguars answered back, as Emrick zipped a nice pass to Dickey for a layup, and-1 as Windham re-takes the lead 13-12. Pelham junior guard Kyle Frank counters with a 3-pointer from the right wing off the catch, and it was 15-13 Pythons at halftime.

"Regan talked to me at the end of the 1st quarter and said I was trying too hard" said Brown, the reigning Division III Player of the Year. "I had to slow down and play my game."

Brown kept playing his game in the 3rd quarter, burying a pull-up bank shot from 15-feet just seven seconds into the 2nd half. Gill answered back for Windham on the other end with a 3, cutting the Pelham lead to just 17-16. Frank made another nice play, pushing it hard up the floor in transition before dishing it down to Ryan Nystrom for the layup. On the other end Gill made a good look inside to Adamson for the layup.

Brown made a tough drive and strong finish, extending the Pythons' lead to 21-18 with 4:25 left in the 3rd quarter. Gill made another nice block on defense, his third of the game. Then Brown made a great pass, zipping it from the back court all the way to Colin Loring underneath the bucket for the layup. Then Brown connected on a 3, his first of the game from downtown. Windham meanwhile was having trouble avoiding turnovers on offense. Pelham took advantage with another 3, this one by Nystrom from the right wing against the Jaguars' zone. That made it 29-19 Pythons with 1:18 left in the 3rd quarter and capped a 10-1 run by Pelham.

Allamach was fouled on a 3-pointer attempt at the buzzer. He hit two of three foul shots, and it was 29-21 Pythons after 3.

"It was ugly an ugly game, it was sloppy" said Coach Regan. "We have a lot to work on."

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