Thursday, February 18, 2016

Linton Lights it Up to Lead North Past South

Nashua North vs. Nashua South. Ever since Nashua High split into two schools it has been one of the biggest rivalries in the state. On Thursday night they played a highly entertaining game, with North (now 11-3 in D-I play) coming out on top 78-63 over South (now 8-6 on the season).

North 6-foot-4 wing Alonzo Linton continues to have a breakout sophomore season, as he dropped a game-high 30 points. He was hitting 3-pointers, finishing inside through contact, taking his man off the dribble in the half court as well as getting out and finishing in transition.

"I've just been working hard in practice" said Linton. "We're coming together well as a team, and were really playing hard against our rival."

Linton stepped his game up with standout senior wing Nathan Hale limited to 0 points in the 2nd half and just 8 for the game. Meanwhile, Ronnie Silva chipped in with 15 and Sky Boykin had 9.

"He's been playing at this high of a level for four games now" said Nashua North head coach Steve Lane about Linton. "He's a 6-foot-4 tweener, so he's tough to guard in the post."

This game was close for the first quarter and a half, but then North went on a 10-0 run in the 2nd quarter to take a commanding 34-20 lead. The Titans led 39-30 at halftime, 54-42 after 3 quarters and their largest lead was 77-60 late in the 4th quarter.

"It happened once we decided to guard and clamp down on defense, and that allowed us to get out in transition" said Coach Lane.

The Nashua High North gym was rockin' right from the get-go. It was already a packed house because the girls game was played beforehand (North won that one too). It was an electric atmosphere with both student sections out in full force and making nice. It was standing room only.

Once the boys game got started it was fast paced action up and down the floor with baskets coming at an alarming rate. Sam McCarthy (7 points) scored a quick bucket inside for North, and South pushed it back the other way with Max Osgood finishing inside. The Purple Panthers got the ball right back, and quickly ahead to Ryan Penkala (7 points) for a strong finish inside.

Hale made a good block from the weak side, but South kept attacking the basket and their point guard Kevin Genao (16 points) drove by his man for a finish at the rim. The Purple Panthers were out in front 8-4 with 5:35 left in the 1st quarter, forcing Coach Lane to call a timeout.

Out of the timeout South kept the momentum, as Genao made a steal and threw a pass ahead to junior guard DJ Frechette, who slammed down a two handed jam. That put South up 10-4, and sent their fans into a frenzy.

Basketball is a game of runs though, and North responded with a 15-2 run. Silva hit a 3-pointer from the corner off the catch. Teammate Jordan Buckmire came off the bench and immediately connected on a 15-footer. Then the Titans got a steal, and Silva raced to the rim for a lefty finish. North quickly got the ball back, and Hale hit a pull-up 3-pointer from the top of the key. That was followed by another Titans steal, and this time it was Linton finishing the layup on the break. Silva capped the 15-2 run by draining another 3, this one from the left wing - nothin' but net! North now led 19-12, causing South head coach Nate Mazzerole to call a timeout to try and stop the bleeding.

Out of the timeout Osgood made a good move inside, using a drop step to get to the rim for the bucket. South was called for a technical foul, Hale made both foul shots and North led 22-18 after 1 quarter. Frechette made a nice blocked shot early in the 2nd quarter. Then Frechette used a crossover dribble to free himself up for an 18-footer. On the other end Boykin used a killer crossover of his own, getting to the rim for a nifty finish in traffic.

Linton drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing. Then moments later Linton used a screen to get by his defender (Frechette) before hitting a pull-up 15-footer using a smooth, high release on his shot. Linton already had 10 points on the game. The Titans kept up the fast pace, getting the ball ahead to Hale who pushed it hard in transition for an and-1. Soon it was 34-20 North.

Then the pace of the game slowed to a crawl - where's the shot clock? There was a foul being called seemingly every trip down the floor - officials, let em' play! Both teams went cold shooting the basketball, both from the outside and from the foul line - work on your shooting!

Silva was quick off the dribble, getting to the rim for a finish in traffic. Genao hit a 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer, and it was 39-30 Titans at halftime. It was fun to watch Silva and Genao go at it. Both are juniors. Both are small (Silva is 5-foot-9, Genao is 5-foot-10) but very quick, explosive guards who can create off the dribble and also shoot it.

"At the end of the day that's my bro" said Silva talking about Genao. "Playing against him rings out the best in me. We've been at this since 6th grade - sometimes we play against each other, and sometimes we're on the same team. It's always a lot of fun."

North came out of the locker room for the 2nd half still pushing the basketball and firing away. Boykin hit an 18-footer, and then Silva hit a 15-footer. Then Silva showed another great crossover, using a shake-and-bake move to get by his defender (Frechette) for the layup. North led 45-32. Linton buried a 15-footer, but Genao answered right back on the other end by slashing to the rim for a quick bucket.

McCarthy finished strong inside, but Frechette countered on the other end by hitting a quick jumper. Then Levi Gosselin, a rugged forward for North, started to make his presence felt in the paint. He converted a big and-1 put-back, and on the next trip down he again pulled down an offensive board, went up strong with it, got fouled and made 1 of 2 free throws. The Titans led 54-42 after 3 quarters.

Through 3 quarters Frechette was just 3/14 shooting, including 0/7 from 3-point range.

"We tried to not let him get the ball, and when he did we tried to help on him" said Silva about Frechette. "The first thing with our team is defense."

Frechette heated up a little bit in the 4th quarter, but it may have been too late, with his team trailing by 12. He sunk a 3-pointer from the right wing early in the 4th quarter.

"We started off slow on the boards, but got better" pointed out Silva.

Linton then made a good move to the rim for 2 more. Linton kept pouring it on, making a strong move to the rim for an and-1 finish, scoring on 3 defenders. At the end of the game when most players were tired Linton was still going strong. North kept on running, pushing the break and getting it to Silva for a layup. Then on the fast-break Linton drilled a 3-pointer off the catch from the right wing. That was the dagger, and essentially put the game out of reach for South as it was now 65-49 Titans with less than 4 minutes remaining.

"Alonzo is tough for smaller guards to defend" said Silva.

South kept fighting, as Frechette (team-high 20 points) connected on another 3 ball, again from the right wing. Even with the double digit lead late in the game, North kept pushing the tempo. Linton converted a layup, and meanwhile Gosselin continued to crash the offensive boards. Then Gosselin made a layup off a nice dish by Linton, making it 77-60 Titans. North cruised to the 78-63 win. Then their student section stomed the court and celebrated with the team, as if they had just won the state championship.

"It was a great game, against kids they all grew up playing against" said Coach Lane. "We just made a few more shots."

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