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Hopkinton topples previously undefeated Newport

Windex has nothing on the Hopkinton High boys’ basketball team, not with the way the Hawks cleaned the glass last night.

Up against the top-ranked team in Division III, Hopkinton put on a rebounding clinic, pulling down 50 caroms to just 28 for Newport in a 58-52 victory over the previously undefeated Tigers (13-1).

“Our bigs really showed up today; we got on the boards,” said Hopkinton Coach Dave Chase, adding that Newport shot just 16-for-60 from the floor but managed just nine offensive boards, thanks to the Hawks’ rebounding prowess. “The difference in the game was we killed them on the boards. It’s something we talked about going in.”

There were several points of emphasis for the eighth-ranked Hawks (9-4) along with rebounding: getting out to a strong start, more consistent scoring and better free throw shooting.

Check. Check. Check.

With the tournament just three weeks away, Hopkinton played like a team that’s won five of its last six games and one that is hoping to peak for the postseason.

The Hawks scored on each of their first four possessions, and Harry Legier’s 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter gave Hopkinton a 15-9 lead. The Hawks extended their advantage to seven points, 35-28, at halftime.

A big part of that first half was Gabe Nichols, a junior who put up career numbers of 17 rebounds and 15 points – 12 of his boards and 13 of his points all came in the first half.

But it wasn’t going to be that easy for the Hawks in the second half.

“We kind of lost it in the third,” Chase said. “We lost our composure, we started forcing shots, we lost our rhythm, we couldn’t defend.”

Hopkinton shot just 3-for-10 from the floor – including 1-for-3 from beyond the arc – in the third. And while Newport shot just 5-for-17, three of those buckets were 3-pointers, and the Tigers were 5-for-5 from the line to take a 46-45 lead heading into the final eight minutes of play.

Neither team scored for the first two minutes of the quarter, but Liam McNicholas drove the lane and sank a two-footer to put the Hawks back on top, 47-46, then Steve Auger drained a pair of free throws for a three-point lead. A trip to the line pulled Newport back within a point, but Auger responded with a jumper. Newport hit two more free throws to make it 51-50, but McNicholas scored the next four points from the line as the Hawks pulled away.

The defense, meanwhile, shut down Newport from the field, with the Tigers going 0-for-8. Their only points in the period came from the free throw line. Hopkinton, which has had its struggles from the line this season, went 17-for-25 last night. Both Auger and McNicholas were 5-for-6 from the stripe.

“It came right down to good ‘D’ and timely foul shooting,” Chase said.

Nichols had his monster night to lead the Hawks, but Hopkinton also had well-rounded outings up and down the lineup. Auger finished with nine points and 11 rebounds, Collin Paraskeva came off the bench for 10 points and four rebounds, Legier scored nine points (including two 3s) with seven boards, McNicholas added seven points and four assists, and Jake Nelson scored six points with eight rebounds.

“I’m very pleased as a whole with our team,” Chase said. “I’m especially pleased that after Newport came back and took the lead after three that we fought back. (An assistant coach) said we played the best on-ball ‘D’ that we had all year.”

Newport along with Hopkinton both have weak schedules. Neither will last long in the Tourney. Too many other teams in D-3 who are much better. Such as Conant,Campbell,Berlin and Prospect Mtn to name a few who will beat either of them. Just an opinion.

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