By: Tuesday and Friday
Sophomore point guard Thomas Johnson scored 15 points to lead Kearsarge to their first title game since 1999. Zachary Mattos added 11 points along with 4 blocks to help lead the Cougars. Kearsarge will play Pelham in the title game this Saturday at 3:00 pm at SNHU.
You could say Kearsarge “blocked” Conant’s path to the D3 boys’ championship game. Kearsarge registered 9 blocks in the game. Conant had zero blocks. What doesn’t show up in the stat sheet is the number of altered shots by Conant that was created by the height and length of Kearsarge. The 9 blocks and altered shots frustrated the Conant offense all night long. The Conant offensive frustration culminated at the end of the 4th quarter and the OT period, when Conant had the ball with a chance to win and the chance to tie and in both cases could not get off a shot at the buzzer.
The Kearsarge front line of the Mattos Brothers at 6’8 Zach 6’7 Tayler along with 6’3 Trent Noordsij created match-up problems for Conant. The Orioles went to their outside game to start the game. They fired from 3 Land early and often. The sweet senior stroke of Josh Degrenier found the nets for three 3’s while teammate Simeon Hodgson connected on one 3 in the first quarter. Kearsarge countered with the inside-outside team of Zach Mattos with 6 points and Thomas Johnson with three 3’s of his own as the Cougars took a 15 to 14 lead at the end of one.
Then, a funny thing happened over the next 3 quarters: A combined 27 points was scored by the 2 teams. I could give you the paint drying details of most of these 3 quarters with Kearsarge scoring 5, 5 and 3 along with Conant scoring 5, 6 and 3, but instead…..
……. Pete Tarrier and Jon Kesty were flying around like NHSP chickens with their necks cut off. Jeremy was telling me details of HS players and coaches, that amazingly were more interesting, than the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters (insert smiley face). Updates were starting to come in on prelim games in D1 and D2 boys. How in God and Justin’s name does Spaulding lead for 32 minutes on the road against an Exeter team that some thought would win the D1 Ship? Memorial, Dead fish in the South waters down 20 plus mid-way through the 2nd half and THEY COME BACK and win by 3 !! Keene has Central on the ropes, but Little Green pulls it out. D2 boys….. Mostly a Yawn-O-Rama.
Sorry for digressing but a 27 combined points in 3 quarters of a playoff game will do that to your basketball mind. Where was I? Ah yes the Kearsarge – Conant game. So, the game is tied at 25 heading into the 4th quarter. Conant goes up 26 to 25 at 6:45 with a Niemela free throw. With 4:55 left a jumper by James Record made it 28 to 25 Conant. For the next 4 minutes there was no scoring. There were plenty of time outs, held balls with no shooting and overall not much happening. A Trent Noordsij FT cut the Cougar deficit to 28 to 26. With 34 seconds remaining in the game Zach Mattos banked in an awkward jumper to tie the game at 28. Conant with a chance to advance doesn’t get a shot off before the buzzer.
Thomas Johnson took control at the start of the OT by finishing 2 strong drives to give Kearsarge a 32 to 28 lead. A FT by Conant’s Bilodeau cuts the Cougar lead to 32 to 29 with 1:55 left. A series of costly turnovers plagued both teams over the next minute and a half. It seemed NOBODY wanted to play this Saturday at 3:00 pm in the Penmen Fieldhouse. Josh Degrenier hits the last shot of his career with 35 seconds left to pull the Orioles within 1 at 32 to 31. Each team then turns the ball over before Trent Noordsij is fouled by Niemela with 6 seconds left. The 6’3 senior cans both FTs. Conant call TO. They inbound pass to the frontcourt and call TO with 4 seconds left. The Orioles come out of the TO and fail to get off a shot before the buzzer….. Frustrating.
Thomas Johnson isn’t a sophomore any more. He handled the Conant defensive pressure with aplomb. He had 2 turnovers all night, which is amazing for a sophomore point guard. He is basically at the start of his junior year even though the program says he’s a sophomore. Even though the Kearsarge height frustrated Conant offensively all night, the calm and assured play of Johnson, was the key for the Cougars to advance to the title game to play Pelham. You have to have a good straw stirring your playoff drink if you want your team to be successful in the playoffs. Thomas Johnson is a fine straw stirring the Kearsarge drink right now.