D-II boys’ basketball: MV knocks off Kearsarge with 3 at buzzer

Monitor staff
Saturday, March 10, 2018

Never mind the seeds or the nearly identical records, the No. 5 Merrimack Valley Pride, having already lost twice to the No. 4 Kearsarge Cougars, a squad with two of the best players in the state in Tayler Mattos and Tommy Johnson, faced an uphill battle in Friday night’s Division II boys’ basketball quarterfinal at Kearsarge’s home court.

But senior guard Jake Hebert nailed a buzzer-beating 3 to wrap up a wild 46-44 victory, lifting the Pride over the defending D-III champions and punching a ticket to Monday’s semifinals.

MV (15-5) will play top-seeded Hollis-Brookline (17-2) at 7:30 p.m. at UNH.

“These kids had a lot to prove,” Pride head coach Tim Mucher said. “They’ve gotten little respect from other teams. I think I have a solid team in my locker room.”

Kearsarge (15-5) defeated the Pride, 71-60, on Jan. 16 and, 69-54, on Feb. 9 and seemed destined to make it 3-for-3, taking a 9-7 first quarter lead and 24-18 lead at halftime.

But MV stayed confident and played their game, making some adjustments offensively, but stayed true to their defensive scheme. The Pride held 6-foot-9 senior center Tayler Mattos to seven points through three quarters and also held 6-2 senior guard Johnson (nine points) in check, outscoring Kearsarge, 15-2, in the third quarter to take a 33-26 lead into the final frame.

Senior guards Ryan Defina (17 points) and Jack Prewitt (10 points) led MV’s scoring.

“We just readjusted offensively against their 1-3-1 and we attacked it differently,” Mucher said. “We made plays when we had to. We had to change up a couple of things and that went our way.”

But Mattos, last season’s D-III Player of the Year, who dropped 29 and 22 points against the Pride in their first two meetings, was not about to go quietly, scoring 14 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter (Kearsarge scored 18 fourth-quarter points as a team) to help the Cougars claw their way back into the game.

Kearsarge connected on a pair of free throws to give the Cougars a 44-43 lead late in the game.

The Pride failed to score on a key possession late and were forced to foul, sending Johnson to the line for a one-and-one with about 18 seconds left.

Johnson missed the shot and senior guard Caleb LaClair drove the ball down the court, passing it to Hebert (five points) who banked a deep 3 off the backboard for the win.

“It was only fitting he scored the winning bucket,” Mucher said. “He struggled in our last game at Kearsarge. It was nice to get a little redemption. Plus he’s a senior. Seniors have to make plays.”

That sense of redemption was shared by the entire program.

“This is why we play the games,” Mucher said. “On paper there was no question they were better than us ... with their length and their height ... we’re proving a lot of people wrong. Hopefully we turn a few heads after this nice team win.”

Mucher was also quick to credit Kearsarge, a squad that entered Friday’s quarterfinal on a 12-game winning streak.

Despite the big victory, MV isn’t done yet and Mucher and his squad still know they are underdogs against the No. 1 Cavaliers, but are confident and know they have plenty to play for.

“My kids are playing loose,” Mucher said. “They are playing with a lot of confidence. These kids want to leave their legacy behind at MV ... we still have a chip on our shoulder. We’re going to play aggressive basketball and see what we can do against the No. 1 team.”


No. 3 Pembroke 65,
No. 6 Coe-Brown 52

Key players:Pembroke – Jake Sherman (38 points, 8 rebounds, steal), Noah Cummings (10 points, 6 rebounds, steal), Sean Menard (4 points, great defense), Brandon Linscott (4 points, great defense), Jack Lehoullier (4 points, great rebounding); Coe-Brown – Scott Spenard (17 points, 5 deflections, 3 assists), Luke McCusker (12 points, 17 rebounds), Kyshaun Rowell (9 points), Brendan Eaton (8 points), Mitchell Wade (5 points)

Highlights/key moments: The Bears led 18-17 after one and 29-25 at halftime, but the Spartans switched up defenses in the second half and effectively utilized their halfcourt 2-2-1 trap to speed things up and get the ball out of Spenard’s hands to punch Pembroke’s ticket to the semifinals. The Spartans outscored Coe-Brown 19-11 in the third quarter and 21-12 in the fourth. Sherman scored 23 of his points in the second half. Pembroke will take on No. 7 Oyster River in Monday’s semifinal at 5:30 p.m. at UNH.

Coaches’ quotes: “Jake was on a mission tonight. He wanted to get to UNH (for the final four) and he put us on his back. He was unbelievable. I’m extremely proud of him. We took (Coe-Brown) out of its rhythm in the second half and did a pretty good job against Scott Spenard, one of the best players in the division. We were fortunate enough to win against a very good basketball team. Coe-Brown has a lot of class. Dave Smith is a great coach.” – Pembroke’s Rich Otis

“In the second half Sherman put on quite a shooting display, and they weren’t easy shots. I give him credit. I’m proud of the season we’ve had. Pembroke is a good team and we wish them well in the semifinals.” – Coe-Brown’s Dave Smith

Records: Pembroke 16-4; Coe-Brown 14-6

No. 7 Oyster River 75,
No. 15 John Stark 47

Key players: John Stark – Parker McQuarrie (9 points, 8 rebounds), Joe Simeone (9 points), Chase Patterson (8 points), Troy Gamache (8 points)

Highlights/key moments: Three days after upsetting No. 2 and defending champion Lebanon in the first round, the Generals’ season came to an end at the hands of the Bobcats in Friday night’s quarterfinal matchup. Oyster River took a 25-3 first quarter lead and extended it to 40-13 at halftime.

Coach’s quote: “I was really proud of how we played this season, we just fell short tonight.” – John Stark’s Mike Smith

Records: Oyster River 14-6; John Stark 8-12