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High schools: Pittsfield boys stay red-hot with D-IV quarterfinal win over No. 10 Epping

  • Pittsfield's Garrett Guerrero-Hadley (24) goes up for a shot during Friday's boys' quarterfinal basketball game against Epping at Pittsfield Middle/High School in Pittsfield on Mar. 2, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Pittsfield’s Matt St. George goes up for a layup Friday during a Division IV boys’ basketball quarterfinal game against Epping at Pittsfield Middle High School. The Panthers won, 85-65. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Epping's Hunter Bullock (10) grabs a loose ball during Friday's boys' quarterfinal basketball game at Pittsfield Middle/High School in Pittsfield on Mar. 2, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Pittsfield's Dylan Bocash (23) grabs a rebound during Friday's boys' quarterfinal basketball game against Epping at Pittsfield Middle/High School in Pittsfield on Mar. 2, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Pittsfield's Casey Clark (2) defends the ball during Friday's boys' quarterfinal basketball game against Epping at Pittsfield Middle/High School in Pittsfield on Mar. 2, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Pittsfield's Cam Darrah (1) drives to the basket during Friday's boys' quarterfinal basketball game against Epping at Pittsfield Middle/High School in Pittsfield on Mar. 2, 2018. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Saturday, March 03, 2018

PITTSFIELD – Nick Fiset has been grappling with how to slow down Pittsfield’s Cam Darrah all year. The Epping boys’ basketball coach tried his hand at it twice during the regular season and failed to keep the senior guard in check both times.

During Friday night’s Division IV quarterfinal game, Fiset finally found a formula that worked. But it came at a cost.

No. 10 Epping held Darrah – one of the top scorers in the division – to five points at halftime and only 16 for the game, but the rest of the Panthers made the Blue Devils pay for it. Senior guard Casey Clark went off for 21 points and six 3-pointers, Garrett Guerrero-Hadley nearly finished with a triple-double and big man Josh Whittier added 17 points for No. 2 Pittsfield in an 85-65 victory.

The Panthers (19-1) will take on No. 3 Littleton (17-3) at Plymouth State in Monday’s first semifinal game at 5:30 p.m.

“They’ve got a player of the year candidate, I mean I voted for him. He’s that good,” Fiset said of Darrah. “Our game plan was basically to shut him down as much as we could and hope the other guys who aren’t in the position to be the main guys most of the time make chances.

“We ran a triangle with two guys on (Darrah),” Fiset said. “It’s a gimmick defense, but it’s also something I didn’t think they would see and it took them a while to kind of figure it out. Like I said, our game plan was to make the other guys beat us and we hung around there for a pretty long time.”

Teams shifting defenses and locking in on Darrah is nothing new, which is why Pittsfield coach Jay Darrah had his team ready for anything.

“They obviously came with a game plan and wanted to stop Cameron,” coach Darrah said. “We haven’t seen a triangle-and-two on him since middle school, it’s just one of those things high school teams don’t do. But they did it and we made sure our other guys were prepared for it.”

And those role players were prepared from the opening tip.

The Panthers, winners of 15 straight, came out of the gates ready to shoot with a 21-point first quarter. All five starters scored before five minutes had even ticked off the clock, but Epping stayed in it early with strong showings from junior Hunter Bullock (team-high 21 points) and senior Doug Nadeau (20 points).

But the Blue Devils (11-9) could only hang around for so long against the Panthers’ potent offense.

Pittsfield opened the second quarter on a 9-3 run with buckets from Whittier, Dylan Bocash (11 points, eight rebounds), Clark and Guerrero-Hadley (15 points, 11 assists, nine rebounds) and led, 41-25, at the half. And before Epping could find its footing in the second half, Clark buried the Blue Devils in the third quarter.

Open look after open look, Clark connected on a trio of 3-pointers in a span of 1:49 to start the frame. Cozying up to his spot in the corner, Clark delivered back-to-back long-range daggers and added another moments later from the same spot to provide the Panthers with their biggest lead of the night at 52-29.

“We’ve seen every type of trick defense, junk defense that you can see on Cam,” coach Darrah said. “We’ve got something prepared for it every time and it’s just the next guy steps up. Tonight it was Casey. ... We run a lot of misdirection stuff. Everyone thinks we run stuff for (Cam), and we do, but a lot of it is misdirection stuff to get the defense to go the other way.”

Holding a 20-point lead entering the final quarter, Pittsfield finished Epping off at the free-throw line. The Blue Devils opted to foul for most of the frame, hoping for misses at the line while hucking up 3s in an effort to bring the deficit down. But the Blue Devils could never get closer than 15 points.

It was a tough night for the Epping seniors, but the future is bright for the program.

“Bullock is only a junior, Rivers is a sophomore and I’ll lose two seniors who play, but other than that I have a lot of juniors and sophomores,” Fiset said. “I think next year is maybe a prime year for us and the league is going to be down a little bit, too. But that doesn’t help our seniors tonight.”

With impressive victories through the first two rounds, Pittsfield gets its toughest matchup yet against Littleton in the semifinals. The Panthers are in search of their first state title appearance since losing to Newmarket in the 1981 Class M championship game.

“We had goals to start the season and some of them were to host a first-round game, host a second-round game, get to Plymouth and see what happens when you get there after that,” coach Darrah said. “So these guys’ goals were lofty, but they’re all attainable.”

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

BOYS’ BASKETBALL

Spaulding 61, Concord 56

Key players: Concord – Tyler Blodgett (20 points, 8-for-14 shooting), Tyler Bruns (11 points, 14 rebounds), Scott Lampron (14 points), Jacob Knowles (7 points, 7 rebounds)

Highlights/key moments: Needing a win to guarantee a playoff spot, the Crimson Tide fell just short on the road. Concord trailed by three with 16 seconds left and had two shots from beyond the arc for the tie, but neither fell and Spaulding made a pair of free throws on the other end to seal the win. The Tide could have snuck in to the playoffs if Keene upset Nashua South, but South won, 65-52.

Coach’s quote: “This game was like the tale of the season for us – played hard, came close, but didn’t get the breaks we needed at the end. The improvement for this team has been huge, we’ve come a long way in two years, but I know they want that end result.” – Concord’s Dave Chase

Records: Concord 6-12; Spaulding 10-8

Coe-Brown 62, Timberlane 52

Key players: Coe-Brown – Luke McCusker (23 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists), Brendan Eaton (17 points, 10 rebounds), Scott Spenard (7 points, 5 assists), Kyshaun Rowell (6 points), Ben Watson (4 points, defense), Mitchell Wade (4 points, defense)

Highlights/key moments: Coe-Brown trailed at halftime, 28-24, before picking up its defense in the third (holding the Owls to six points in the quarter) and picking up its offense in the fourth (scoring 27 in the frame, led by McCusker and Eaton) to finish the regular season with a win.

Coach’s quote: “It was a grind-out type of game, and we worked our way through it. A lot of players stepped up, and it’s always good to win on Senior Night.” – Coe-Brown’s Dave Smith

Records: Coe-Brown 13-5; Timberlane 10-8

Pembroke 60, Bow 34

Key players: Pembroke – Noah Cummings (14 points, 4 steals), Sean Menard (13 points, 4 steals), Malik Faraj (9 points), Brandon Linscott (7 points, defense), Jake Sherman (6 points, 5 steals), Shea Shackford (6 points)

Highlights/key moments: Needing a win to guarantee a playoff spot, Bow jumped out to a 12-7 after the first quarter and trailed by only three, 25-22, at halftime. But Pembroke upped its defensive pressure in the third quarter, led by Linscott and Tyler Smith, and opened up a 39-26 lead going into the fourth.

Coach’s quote: “We locked up the third seed in the tournament with the win, so now we’ve got to concentrate on the tournament and come ready to play. The Bow kids played hard and (coach) Frank Moreno is doing a great job with a young team. They are going to be a team to be reckoned with in the future.” – Pembroke’s Rich Otis

Records: Pembroke 14-4; Bow 7-11

GIRLS’ HOCKEYD-I QUARTERFINALS

No. 3 Brady-Trinity-West 7, No. 6 Berlin-Gorham 2

Key players: Brady – Sydney Herrington (3 goals, assist), Mary Anne Wiley (3 goals), Lauren Trippiedi (goal, 3 assists), Kate Shoemaker (3 assists), Rae Roberts (3 assists), Emily Senko (20 saves)

Highlights/key moments: Berlin-Gorham came out strong, skating hard and playing with enough heart to keep things close in the first period. Still, the Giant Pioneers held a 3-2 lead after one and kept building from there, scoring two goals in the second and two more in the third. They will now face No. 2 Hanover in the semifinals on Tuesday at Plymouth State.

Coach’s quote: “We hadn’t played in more than a week, so there was a little rust, but the girls picked it up as the game went on and they played their best in the third period.” – Brady’s Dan Earley

Records: Brady-Trinity-West 16-2-1; Berlin-Gorham 10-9-0

No. 1 Exeter 6, No. 8 Concord 0

Highlights/key moments: The Crimson Tide came out with a jump in its step, played an even opening period with the top-seeded Blue Hakws and the second started with things all square at 0-0. But Exeter’s Carissa Towlson scored once in the second to help her team to a 2-0 lead after two and then scored three more times in the third as the Blue Hawks pulled away down the stretch.

Coach’s quote: “Certainly a tough way to end a great season. Our team battled to the end, and because of that, we continued to give ourselves a chance. Thank you to the seniors, and everyone who came out to support us this season. We’ll be back.” – Concord’s Patrick McDonough

Records: Concord 10-10-0; Exeter 17-1-1