D-III boys’ hoop semifinals: Hopkinton advances in OT, Kearsarge loses by 3

  • Hopkinton junior Brendan Elrick lays the ball in against Raymond in the NHIAA Division III boys' basketball semifinals in Laconia on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Elrick finished with 18 points and three blocks in Hopkinton's 40-34 overtime win. JEFF SULLIVAN—sullivaneventphotography.com

  • Hopkinton junior Brendan Elrick connects on a key bucket in overtime against Raymond in the NHIAA Division III boys' basketball semifinals in Laconia on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Elrick finished with 18 points and three blocks in Hopkinton's 40-34 win. JEFF SULLIVAN—sullivaneventphotography.com

  • Hopkinton junior Quinn Whitehead connects on a key bucket in overtime against Raymond in the NHIAA Division III boys' basketball semifinals in Laconia on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Whitehead finished with six points in Hopkinton's 40-34 win. JEFF SULLIVAN—sullivaneventphotography.com

  • Hopkinton senior John Jacobsen rises for a shot against Raymond in the NHIAA Division III boys' basketball semifinals in Laconia on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Jacobsen finished with five points in Hopkinton's 40-34 win. The Hawks will face Gilford in Saturday's championship game. JEFF SULLIVAN—sullivaneventphotography.com

  • Kearsarge junior Sam Carl celebrates a 3-pointer from his team during the NHIAA Division III boys' basketball semifinals in Laconia on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Carl finished with 12 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals, but Kearsarge lost to Gilford, 38-35. The Golden Eagles will face Hopkinton in Saturday's championship game. JEFF SULLIVAN—sullivaneventphotography.com

  • Kearsarge junior George Jallah rises up against Gilford in the NHIAA Division III boys' basketball semifinals in Laconia on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Jallah finished with nine points and 10 rebounds and played great defense, but Kearsarge lost to Gilford, 38-35. The Golden Eagles will face Hopkinton in Saturday's championship game. JEFF SULLIVAN—sullivaneventphotography.com

Monitor staff
Published: 3/11/2021 9:26:01 AM

Hopkinton and Kearsarge both executed their defensive game plans during Wednesday night’s Division III boys’ basketball semifinals. Offense was a challange for both, but one did enough to advance.

The Kearsarge boys (12-5) held Gilford’s top threats in check in the first semifinal, but the Cougars scored just one point in the second quarter and couldn’t connect from deep in a narrow 38-35 loss.

In the second semifinal, Hopkinton (12-5) held Raymond (6-3) to five points in the fourth quarter and just three in overtime, and the Hawks were better at utilizing their main offensive weapon – 6-foot-8 junior center Brendan Elrick (18 points) – as they pulled out a 40-34 overtime victory.

Saturday’s 5 p.m. championship between Hopkinton and Gilford (13-1) will be a rematch of last year’s semifinal that sent the Hawks packing. It will be the first championship appearance by Hopkinton’s program in 55 years.

The Hawks executed their defensive game plan the way head coach Steve Signor drew it up, shutting down Raymond early to take a 12-5 lead after the first quarter and holding on, despite Raymond closing the gap to 20-15 at halftime, 27-26 through three and 31-31 to force overtime.

“We never blow teams out, we like to keep it interesting,” Signor joked. “We were trying to close hard on their shooters and prevent the dribble on the Krafton brothers and keep them from attacking the rim. We did a good job with that and forced them to take some shots they don’t normally take. We played good defense, but it was a battle for sure.”

The Hawks held Nate Crafton to just four points and made Josh Crafton work for his 17 points. Hopkinton’s John Jacobsen (five points) did a nice job limiting Raymond point guard Paul Goding to seven points, and Elrick intimidated in the paint.

The rest of the Hawks playing in Signor’s six-man rotation – seniors Owen Milchick (eight points), Mike Oberheim (three points) and Thomas Hoffmann, and junior Quinn Whitehead (six points) – helped keep Raymond from driving to basket, forcing the Rams to shoot over the top.

Raymond didn’t shoot well from 3-point land (4-for-24), but three of those 3-pointers came from Josh Krafton, and he made them count. Krafton’s trey on the final possession of the third quarter cut Hopkinton’s lead to one point heading into the fourth. He also hit a 3 with about 1:30 to go in regulation to tie the game, 31-31 (the closest the Rams ever came to taking the lead), and another to cut Hopkinton’s lead to 37-34 with 18 seconds left in overtime.

But it wasn’t enough to keep up with Elrick’s dominance inside. The big man scored six points in the opening quarter to open up a quick lead for the Hawks, and then he was able to get to the rim in overtime. Elrick made two layups and had a huge offensive rebound with 9 seconds left, drawing a foul and connecting on the ensuing free throws to make the score 39-34.

Oberheim also was big from the line in OT, shooting 3-for-4.

The story for Kearsarge was similar, but unlike the Hawks, the Cougars couldn’t unlock their top scorer, junior guard Chris Stanchfield, who finished with five points.

Facing a major size disadvantage, Kearsarge juniors George Jallah (nine points, 10 rebounds) and Adrian McCarthy (three rebounds, two steals, assist) did a fantastic job against Gilford’s Reese brothers – 6-4 senior Malik, 6-5 sophomore Jalen (one point) and 6-2 freshman Isaiah (10 points) – holding the trio to just 11 points.

“If you told me that we’d hold the Reese brothers to 11 points, I’d take that any day of the week,” Kearsarge head coach Nate Camp said. “I really thought our defense was exceptional. We wanted to clog the middle and take away their height and we did that. We stuck to our game plan.”

Junior guards Sam Carl (12 points, five rebounds, three steals, three assists), Stanchfield (seven rebounds, four assists) and Connor Pillsbury (three rebounds, assist) all played well defensively, as did senior guards Tim Flanders, Adam Reeve and captain Nolan Grant (six points), but Kearsarge’s woes came on the offensive side of the ball.

The Eagles shut down the Cougars on their first five trips down the floor, with Malik Reese getting a steal and a block on Kearsarge’s first two possessions. Senior forward Alex Cheek also had a steal and senior Curtis Nelson (eight points) had a block in the first quarter.

A 3 at the buzzer by Kearsarge junior guard Robert Needham gave the Cougars a 9-5 lead at the end of the first quarter, but scoring just one point in the second put the Cougars on the wrong end of a 13-10 halftime score.

Unable to go inside as frequently as they wanted to against Gilford’s size, the Cougars took to the perimeter, but shot 1-for-15 from 3-point range in the first half and 7-for-27 for the game.

“There were some shots that normally fall that didn’t tonight,” Camp said. “If we hit a couple of those, we win that game. At this level in the playoffs you’ve got to find ways to score.”

Carl connected on three shots from long range after halftime, but so did Gilford’s junior guard Riley Marsh (14 points). The two squads played even during the second half, but the youngest Reese brother Isaiah scored seven points in the last four minutes to ice the game.

“We’re disappointed that we didn’t quite get the job done tonight, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort, heart and hustle,” said Camp, who gave a special nod to all his seniors – including “glue guy” Grant, who connected on a pair of 3s at clutch moments in the second half. “We wouldn’t be in the state semifinals if it wasn’t for how he’s played over the last few weeks.”




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