By: Ross Laorenza
The Exeter Blue Hawks improved to 12-4 with a fantastic 83-72 win over powerhouse Pinkerton Academy. Exeter never trailed in the game but it was a tight contest for throughout. Pinkerton rattled off a 11-2 run at the end of the 3rd quarter to get within 7 points of the lead and closed to within 2 before the Blue Hawks sealed the victory in the fourth quarter.
Bryant Holmes had a monster game for Exeter with 34 points including 7 three-pointers. Defensively the Blue Hawks contained Pinkerton's big three of Rizzo, Morris and Olson. Each player scored in double-figures but were never able to completely take over the game.
Another key player in the win was #40 Colin Coute. He was often matched up with the much bigger Olson but held his own. Coute opened the scoring in the first quarter, finding a hole in the Astros D. The Blue Hawks jumped out to an 11-2 lead with additional baskets from Holmes, Coute and Tim Larkin.
The Astros' shooters started to find their rhythm midway through the first quarter. A 6-2 run with baskets from Ben Olson and Tommy Romick got them within 5 points, trailing 13-8.
Bryce Holmes opened the lead back up again with two more three pointers. Holmes was able to get open several times from beyond the arch; a product of Exeter's great ball movement. At the end of the first quarter, Exeter: 23, Pinkerton: 12.
Holmes continued his scoring onslaught, this time catching the ball on the wing and driving inside past Olson for the score. Ben Olson used his size to grab a weakside rebound, put the ball back up and picked up the and-1. He really is a special talent, the way he positions himself on both sides of the ball. You have to respect his size inside, but at the same time he has the touch to shoot it from 12-15 feet away.
With just over three minutes gone in the 2nd, Brennan Morris drilled a three to pull Pinkerton within 8 points of the lead. Exeter would balloon it back up to 12 with baskets from Larkin and Nick Sowers. The lead would continue to accordion throughout the contest as both teams put together impressive stretches. Pinkerton would close the second strong. Olson completed another three point play, grabbing the board, basket, and foul. At the half, Exeter: 37, Pinkerton: 30.
The second half is where things started to get really interesting. Stephen Natlo opened the scoring for the Blue Hakws, grabbing a pass underneath and going straight up for the score. Morris hit a bank shot at the other end of the floor for the Astros. Colin Coute rolled to the hoop scoring in traffic for Exeter as he continued to contribute offensively.
In a crazy minute of play Bryant Holmes hit his fourth three of the game, Tommy Romick countered with a three for Pinkerton, and then Holmes came back and sank his fifth three-ball. This was all on consecutive possessions. It was wild to see the shooters trade blows so efficiently. Holmes' shot put Exeter up 47-35. Time out: Pinkerton.
After the timeout two quick baskets from Natola saw the Blue Hawks' lead reach it's pinnacle at 16 points. The teams traded shots over the next several minutes before Pinkerton made their push. Trailing 58-42, the Astros ripped off a 11-2 with Morris chipping in 6 of the 11 to end the 3rd quarter trailing 60-53.
A foul on Matt Rizzo brought out the boo-birds from the Pinkerton fans early in the fourth. The refs called a tight game and you could see the frustration mounting in the stands. I personally didn't have a problem with the refs. They were consistent and that's the best approach to take in a game of this magnitude. I digress...
Natola made one of the two free throws resulting from the Rizzo foul. Coute followed with his 11th and 12th points of the night, pushing the lead back to 10. But, Pinkerton would close again. Matt Rizzo hopped through the paint picking up the basket and a foul. He made the and-1 opportunity. Ben Olson scored on a put back and then Seth Guilmette, who had a fairly quiet night, drilled a DEEP three. 63-61, Exeter's lead is down to two points with 5:48 remaining.
Bryant Holmes gave the Blue Hawks some breathing room using a sweet spin move in the lane. Brennan Morris came back with a strong move of his own getting the Astros back within 2. A Cody Morissette padded the lead back up to 67-63 and then things got really interesting.
Brennan Morris got called for a travel after making contact with a defender on the way to the hoop. On the ensuing Exeter possession a the ball went out of bounds in the area of Ben Olson and Bryant Holmes. The ball stayed with Exeter and Pinkerton coach Pete Rosinski had some extra words for the refs. He got a technical foul. Holmes missed both free throws but the tension remained. Less than a minute later Tommy Romick got called for a flagrant for elbowing Cody Morissette trying to get a loose ball. Morissette made both shots, 69-63 Exeter.
Riley Hogel used a spin move to get by a defender and scored for Pinkerton coming out of a timeout. With just under 2 minutes to play Bryant Holmes hit what some would consider a dagger three-pointer, but still the Astros clung to life. A putback by Olson got the Astros within 5 points with over a minute and a half to play. A foul a Morris (his third) put Holmes at the line. He made both free throws, 74-67. Morris came back and hit a huge three-pointer, 74-70 Exeter. Morris would get the ball again after a steal and drove through contact but the shot missed, no foul.
Now, the wheels are finally off the comeback train. With Morris driving to the hoop, he lowered his shoulder into the defender and was called for a charge (4th foul). Before the ball was even in-bounded he picked up his fifth for a push near mid-court. After some time for the scorers confirmed it was his fifth, Morris took a seat on the bench with a stunned looked on his face.
Holmes made both free throws. After making a basket to cut the deficit back to 4 with under a minute, Tommy Romick picked up his fifth and he too would have to watch the final seconds tick away from the bench. Pinkerton would not score again and Exeter made their free throws in the closing moments. Final score: Exeter 83, Pinkerton: 72.
This was a remarkable game with huge playoff implications. Bryant Holmes led all scorers with 34 points. Colin Coute finished with 12 points. Cody Morissette totaled 11 points. Nick Seaver scored 10 points in the win for Exeter.
Ben Olson scored 19 points in the loss for Pinkerton, with only 6 points in the second half. Brennan Morris still racked up 17 before fouling out. Matt Rizzo and Tommy Romick each finished with 11 points.
The Blue Hawks finish their regular season with games against Spaulding and Bedford. Pinkteron has one final game against Merrimack. With both teams poised for a deep playoff run one can only hope we see a rematch down the road at UNH.
From Exeter, New Hampshire; Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook