By: Ross Laorenza
The Milford Spartans are now 5-0 after a hard fought win, on the road against Pelham. It was an emotional night inside the Snake Pit as Pelham High School honored long time fan Ronald Walsh with a remembrance before tip-off. Walsh cheered on the Pelham basketball program for the past 42 years. He was memorialized with a plaque on his favorite seat inside the gymnasium.
The Pythons got off to a fast start scoring on two of their first three possession and taking a 5-0 lead. Senior Captain Kyle Frank connected from beyond the arch for three, then made a steal at half court and scored off the window. Milford would charge right back. Ryan Banuskevich hit back-to-back three pointers to but the Spartans in front 6-5.
The lead would grow 5 more points. After a pair of free throws from Shane Winnett, Nick Gutterson was left alone in the corner for three and he made it count. 11-5 Milford. Timeout, Pelham.
Frank would inch his team closer with a pull-up three pointer and start a rally. The Pythons closed the first quarter on a 9-3 run. At the end of the first we're all tied 14-14.
Milford surged ahead again to start the second quarter. Banuskevich hit another 3-pointer and Winnett followed with a basket down-low, fighting through traffic for the score. A steal by Banuskevich led to an easy lay-up. Next time down the floor he used an up fake to get his defender off balance and then launched a three. It was a 10-0 run to start the second. 24-14, Milford.
Pelham would battle back with three straight baskets. Joe Pantaleo scored inside, Blake Woekel floated a teardrop shot over his defender and drew contact. He missed the free throw. Later after two offensive rebounds Dylan Andrews scored off glass to cut the deficit to 4 points.
Milford would increase their lead with a free throw from Gutterson and a powerful move in the lane by Evan Ryan. A nice pass from Frank gave Pantaleo a nice shot inside. Jamie Pare scored for Milford after picking up a loose ball. Pantaleo closed the half with his 4th basket of the contest. At halftime Milford: 29, Pelham: 24.
The game tighten immediately im the 3rd quarter when Drew Brown sank a three-pointer to close Pelham to within 2 points. Pare responded with a basket of his own. After a kickball stopped play, Frank found Pantaleo open again inside for a quick 2. Pare again responded, this time from long range. Frank came back with a long 2 pointer 34-31 Milford.
The Spartans started to open their lead up in the latter stages of the 3rd quarter. Milford's three co-captains Banuskevich, Winnett and Gutterson combined for 15 points while their defense allowed only 6. Banuskevich's fast pace seemed to give Pelham trouble. He was able, at times, to navigate their defense easily on the way to a score. At the end of the 3rd Milford: 50, Pelham: 37.
A 21 point 4th quarter for the Pythons made things interesting as they were able to close within 6 points, but they got no closer. Milford made their free throws down the stretch and came out victorious 66-58.
"That's a very good basketball team," Milford head coach Daniel Murray said of Pelham. When the game got tight in the 4th quarter both coach and players urged for calm and to slow the pace of the game. "They said it themselves coming off (the floor). We've got to slow down."
Ryan Banuskevich led Milford with 22 points of the night. Shane Winnett finished with 15 points, going 7/10 at the line. Kyle Frank led all scorers with 25 points in the loss. Joe Pantaleo finished with 16 points.
From Pelham, New Hampshire; Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook