A tough, physical, chippy battle between Division IV seacoast rivals went down on Monday night at Exeter High School. Newmarket High came back from a 10 point 2nd half deficit to beat previously undefeated Portsmouth Christian Academy 64-60.
The Mules end their regular season with a 12-6 record. Leading the way for them in the win was 6-foot-5 senior forward Ian Bentley (game-high 19 points and 2 rebounds), Anthony Senesembath (17 points) and Cam Jordan (14 points).
"It was mentality - we had to be physically and mentally tough" said Bentley. "They have some talented players, like Kylani Lafleur. So we had clog the paint and throw different defenses at them."
Lafleur, a transfer from Dover High, dropped a team-high 18 points to lead PCA. The Eagles are now 15-1 on the season. They finish up the regular season Tuesday night vs. Concord Christian and Thursday night vs. Epping.
This game could have gone either way. PCA was up 54-53 with 2:35 left in the 4th quarter. But then Jordan hit the biggest shot of the game, a 3-pointer off the catch from the left wing to put Newmarket ahead 56-54. It was the Mules' first lead since they led 6-4 early in the 1st quarter, and it sent their fans into a frenzy.
PCA had a chance to tie it up, but Lafleur missed a pair of free throws. The Eagles got the ball back, still trailing 56-54 but they missed a jumper and then lost the ball out of bounds while battling for the rebound. Then PCA got a steal, Lafleur led the 2-on-1 break, but they were again unable to score despite getting three close shots at the basket in transition. They were getting chances, but not cashing in on them.
PCA forward Devon Smart buried a 3-pointer from the right wing, but his team still trailed 59-57 with 30 seconds left. Bentley hit a pair of clutch foul shots to extend the Newmarket lead to 61-57 with 25 seconds remaining. Lafleur pulled up off the dribble and drained a 3 of his own from 3 feet behind the line, but PCA was still down 62-60 with just 10 seconds left in regulation. Jordan hit a pair of clutch free throws and the Mules hung on for the 64-60 win.
"It's nice anytime you can beat an undefeated team, and one that's your rival" said Newmarket head coach Jamie Hayes. "This will give us a nice confidence boost going into the tournament."
Newmarket jumped on top 6-2 in the 1st quarter. Matt Wilson converted a put-back, followed by a turanround bank shot leaner out of the low post by Bentley. But then Caleb Gendron connected on a pull-up jumper from 15-feet to get PCA on the board. Lafleur hustled back on defense to make a nice blocked shot and erase a fast-break layup. Bentley hit a fadeaway jumper along the baseline.
The Mules went on top 6-2, but PCA responded with a 10-0 run. Paul Staude (11 points) made a strong baseline drive and finish, as no help side 'D' came over for Newmarket. Then Staude made a steal which started a fast-break for the Eagles, and on the other end Drew McCormack (10 points) converted an and-1 put-back. Lafleur hit a 3-pointer from 5 feet behind the line, and then PCA got a quick steal with Lafleur finishing the put-back on the other end. That capped the 10-0 run, with PCA now on top 12-6 with 2:00 left in the 1st quarter and forcing Coach Hayes to call a timeout.
Jordan made a strong finish through contact, Staude answered on the other end with a put-back and it was 16-8 Eagles. But then Ben Leahy drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer off a drive and kick-out by Wilson. It was 16-11 PCA after 1 quarter.
Wilson hit a 15-footer early in the 2nd quarter off a dish by Bentley. Then PCA showed some good ball movement, getting it inside to Joe Yoon for the layup. Bentley continued to have success in the paint, hitting another turnaround shot out of the low post. On the other end Smart drained a 3-pointer off the catch from the right wing.
McCormack hit a turnaround bank shot, and-1 to extend the Eagles lead to 24-15 with 4:50 left in the 2nd quarter. Then teammate Joe Towle cut to the rim and caught a pass in the lane for the layup. PCA was up 26-15, their largest lead of the contest.
Newmarket closed the 1st half on an 11-4 run. Senesembath buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Shawn Bradley hit a tough running bank shot for PCA, but Bentley again finished strong inside, cutting the Eagles lead to 30-26 at halftime.
PCA got the 2nd half off to a strong start, running a set sideline out of bounds play and lobbing it up for Lafleur who caught the pass and while still in mid-air laid it in. Bentley made another strong move inside for 2. Lafleur made a steal, pushed it up the floor in transition and dished it to McCormack for the strong finish. On the other end though Bentley was keeping Newmarket in it, scoring 2 more inside. PCA was tough and physical inside, but they didn't have the size to match up with Bentley.
"I've been getting double-teamed all year" said Bentley. "But they weren't doubling me. So I got the ball a lot in the post, saw some openings and took advantage of it."
Staude converted an and-1 put-back, followed by a put-back by Lafleur. Then Lafleur scored 2 more inside, finishing over a smaller defender. Staude, Lafleur and McCormack are all very tough on the offensive boards to make it 40-32 PCA.
Senesembath hit another 3-pointer off the catch from the right wing. Bradley finished an and-1 leaner. Lafleur followed that up by driving coast-to-coast, all the way to the rim for a tough leaner over Bentley defending. Then after a put-back by McCormack it was 46-36 Eagles.
Newmarket can't possibly come back from down by 10 in the 2nd half against a team this good, right? Wrong. Just when the game was getting away from them Senesembath drained another 3-pointer, cutting the PCA lead to 46-41. Jordan's half court heave at the buzzer was good, but the officials ruled that he didn't get the shot off in time. Still, the Mules had started to build some momentum, now trailing 46-41 after 3 quarters.
Bentley made another good move and finish out of the post for 2 more early in the 4th quarter. Lafleur made another nice block on 'D', but then Senesembath buried his fourth 3-pointer of the game, again off the catch from the right wing. PCA needed to do a better job of closing out on him so he wasn't so open, but that is hard to do when you need to focus on Bentley so much inside. The PCA lead was now down to 48-46.
Lafleur converted another put-back, and then he scored 2 more on another alley-oop lob pass from up top. Then came some controversy as Staude and Newmarket forward Craig Hounam got tangled up while fighting for inside position. There was a lot of contact, and both players ended up on the floor. The foul was called on Hounam, though and this had the Mules fans livid.
Once play resumed, Newmarket guard Alex Souvannaseng came through with a big hoop, with a drive and finish to cut the PCA lead to 52-49 with 3:45 left in the 4th quarter. Lafleur re-entered the game after sitting for a few minutes, but he had four fouls.
Bentley came up with another big bucket, an and-1 leaner to cut the Eagles lead to 54-53 with 2:35 left. You know how the rest went by reading above.
"This is a huge momentum builder for us" said Bentley. "We've said all year - we'll go anywhere, we'll play anybody and beat anybody."