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Kearsarge boys survive wild rematch with Concord for Cap Area title

  • Concord's Tyler Burns (23) takes a shot over Kearsarge's Tayler Mattos (5) during Friday's Capital Area Holiday Tournament boys' basketball championship game at NHTI in Concord, Dec. 27, 2017. Kearsarge defeated Concord, 64-63. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Kearsarge's Tom Johnson (23) drives down the court during Friday's Capital Area Holiday Tournament boys' basketball championship game at NHTI in Concord, Dec. 27, 2017. Kearsarge defeated Concord, 64-63. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Kearsarge's Joe Storozuk (25) goes to the basket during Friday's Capital Area Holiday Tournament boys' basketball championship game at NHTI in Concord, Dec. 27, 2017. Kearsarge defeated Concord, 64-63. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Kearsarge's Tayler Mattos (5) goes to the basket during Friday's Capital Area Holiday Tournament boys' basketball championship game at NHTI in Concord, Dec. 27, 2017. Kearsarge defeated Concord, 64-63. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Kearsarge's Kyle Hernon (12) goes up for what would be the game winning basket during Friday's Capital Area Holiday Tournament boys' basketball championship game at NHTI in Concord, Dec. 27, 2017. Kearsarge defeated Concord, 64-63. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Concord’s Rylan Canabano (21) goes up for a shot in the final seconds of the game during Friday’s Capital Area Holiday Tournament boys’ basketball final at NHTI in Concord. It rimmed out and the Cougars won, 64-63. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Concord's Rylan Canabano (21) goes up for a shot during Friday's Capital Area Holiday Tournament boys' basketball championship game at NHTI in Concord, Dec. 27, 2017. Kearsarge defeated Concord, 64-63. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Concord's Tyler Blodgett (5) goes up for a shot during Friday's Capital Area Holiday Tournament boys' basketball championship game at NHTI in Concord, Dec. 27, 2017. Kearsarge defeated Concord, 64-63. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Kearsarge boys’ basketball team was well aware of who its opponent was in the Capital Area Holiday Tournament championship on Friday night.

It was the same team who handed the Cougars their last loss almost exactly one year ago.

And if not for a game-winning shot with under five seconds to play this time around, the Concord Crimson Tide would be off celebrating another holiday tournament title, and another win over one of the state’s most talented teams.

Instead, Kearsarge senior Tom Johnson passed over the top of a double team to forward Kyle Hernon inside, and Hernon powered his way through two defenders on his way to the lane for the biggest bucket of the night with 4.6 seconds left in a 64-63 win for the Cougars.

“We can’t really rush, but we can’t force anything either,” Johnson said of the eventual game-winning shot. “With them coming with the double, you have to find somebody quick and Kyle was wide open and he hit a great shot.”

“It’s a play where you have alternative options,” Kearsarge coach Nate Camp said after capturing the program’s first Cap Area title. “Obviously, it’s for Tommy and Tayler (Mattos) to kind of do their pick-and-roll thing, but (Hernon) released and did exactly what he was supposed to do. It was an unbelievable finish, too, because he was still in traffic and finished with his left hand.”

Concord still had an opportunity to extend or win the game with the precious time left, but sophomore Rylan Canabano’s coast-to-coast layup attempt at the horn rimmed out, sending the Tide home in defeat in a game they controlled for three quarters.

“The bottom line for us is that we missed some foul shots when we needed them, we didn’t handle the press very well at the end and I thought we had a poor fourth quarter as far as handling possessions,” Concord coach Dave Chase said.

The Tide opened the game on fire, countering Kearsarge’s offense inside with make after make from behind the arc.

Concord connected on 7 of 11 3-pointers in the first half, including a 4-for-4 showing from deep for Tyler Bruns (team-high 17 points), who rattled off 11 second-quarter points in the blink of an eye on the way to a 42-30 lead at halftime.

It was the type of half Concord probably envisioned when the game started. The Tide successfully kept Kearsarge big man Tayler Mattos in check, did the same with Johnson and were swinging the ball all over the floor and finding the open man.

But the Cougars’ run was coming, and they knew it.

“I kept saying at the half and during timeouts that (Concord) shot the lights out,” Camp said. “I told them, ‘They’re going to miss shots and we haven’t hit any yet so there’s going to be a run and when we got on one, look out.’ ”

That spurt Camp was looking for finally came in the fourth quarter.

After Concord pulled ahead by as much as 16 (56-40) in the third, the Cougars began to make their way back.

Led by Mattos (27 points, 11 rebounds) and Johnson (19 points), Kearsarge shot 8 of 10 in the final frame to pull off the comeback.

Johnson scored nine points alone in the quarter, and any time he did miss, Mattos was there to clean things up with a rebound and a putback.

“(Mattos) is going to get his 25 points and whatever, so we were trying to keep Johnson in check and I thought we did a good job of that in the first half,” Chase said. “He got going in the second half and we had a couple of mistakes as far as switching guys and we lost him a few times and a lot of the momentum got started in their favor.”

Kearsarge cut the deficit from 16 all the way back to just a single point at 63-62 when Canabano stepped to the free-throw line late, but the young point guard who played well with 15 points and five assists couldn’t get either to drop to extend the lead.

“Concord played as good tonight maybe as they’ve played in 20 years when Matt Bonner was playing for them,” Camp said. “Credit to them. They made shots, they looked as good as I’ve ever seen them play and so it’s good for us to be able to come in here and take their best shot.”

(Jay McAree can be reached at 369-3371, jmcaree@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JayMcAree.)