High schools: Laconia exacts revenge on Winnisquam in season-opening win

  • Winnisquam freshman guard Phil Nichols (1) gets fouled by Laconia’s Ryan Paiva (12) on his way to the basket during the Division III season opener for both teams on Friday in Tilton. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Winnisquam guard Kyle Mann (center) gets sandwiched by Laconia’™s Ryan Dee (left) and Joey Lennon (right) during Friday’s game in Tilton. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Laconia’s Ryan Chandler (center) goes up to block the shot of Winnisquam guard Phil Nichols (left) during the season opener for both teams on Friday night in Tilton. The Sachems won, 57-42. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Friday, December 08, 2017

TILTON – They may have been opening a new season on Friday at Winnisquam High, but the players on the Laconia boys’ basketball team weren’t ready to forget last year.

“It was really a revenge game for us because we lost to Winnisquam last year in the first game at our place,” Laconia senior captain Christian Gaspa said. “So we all came in here with open hearts and open minds and we just knew we had to make plays.”

The Sachems made enough plays to earn their revenge, especially in the third quarter, as they claimed a 57-42 season-opening win on the road.

“Laconia only won three games last year, but they didn’t a lose a ton of seniors, they’re long and athletic, they beat Conant last year to show they can play with anybody, and I think they’re going to surprise some people,” Winnisquam coach Kevin Dame said.

The Sachems also showed good offensive balance from start to finish. Six different players scored in the first quarter and eight players had points by the end of the night. Sophomore Ryan Chandler finished with a team-high 14 points and five rebounds, Gaspa had 13 points and six boards, junior Ryan Paiva added 10 points and five steals and junior Kelby Brooker finished with eight points, seven rebounds and three assists.

“We have a very well-rounded and well-balanced team,” Laconia coach Stephen McDonough said. “We have a bunch of kids who can contribute on any given night and it can vary from night to night depending on the matchups and what schemes teams are throwing at us.”

That balance, selfless offense and poor shooting from the Bears helped the Sachems open a 14-5 lead after the first quarter. Laconia had four assists on its six first-quarter field goals while Winnisquam shot just 1-for-10 from the floor in the first eight minutes.

But the Bears bounced back in the second quarter as their 2-2-1 half-court trap caused havoc.

“That half-court trap has killed us since the word go. We know it’s coming. We know every year it’s coming. Eight years Kevin and I have coached against each other and every year it gets us no matter what,” McDonough said. “We practiced against it for a half hour every practice trying to get dialed in for that and it still caused some fits.”

Winnisqaum forced 10 Laconia turnovers in the second quarter, six of those steals from freshman Phil Nichols, who started at point guard in his first varsity game and did not look out of place. The defense led to offense for the Bears, who went on a 13-5 run to take a 24-23 lead with 1:50 left in the frame after a 3-pointer from Kyle Mann, who finished with a game-high 19 points and looked like the best player on the court for most of the night.

Laconia answered with a 7-1 run to take a 30-25 lead into halftime. Even though they were on top, McDonough knew he could get more out of his guys, and he told them so at halftime.

“I told them just to be players,” McDonough said. “I’m probably guilty of throwing too much at them, and I think at times they start thinking too much and stop playing. So I just told them to slow it down and play, and by doing that the game will actually come to you. And I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the second half. That really propelled us to where we needed to be.”

Gaspa opened the third with a 3-pointer with an assist from Chandler. After a Winnisquam miss, Chandler hit a 3 assisted by Brooker, who then had an offensive rebound putback to keep the run going. And Paiva capped the 10-0 run with a steal and coast-to-coast layup that pushed the Sachems lead to 40-25 early in the third.

“We weren’t ready to pack it in, but in hindsight, that run was the game,” Dame said.

Winnisquam got a big boost off the bench from Derek DeSousa, who scored all seven of his points in the third quarter. DeSousa hit a 3 in the final minute of the third to trim Laconia’s lead to 48-37 going into the final quarter.

But that was as close as the Bears would get as Laconia locked down defensively in the fourth. Winnisquam’s Gunnar Harmon (seven points, five rebounds) dropped in a layup with 5:05 left on the clock, and that was the last shot the Bears made for the game. Not only did the Sachems pick up their pressure on the ball and in the passing lanes, but they were also playing solid team defense.

“The first three quarters we didn’t have any help,” Gaspa said. “But coach called a timeout and told us that the far guy has to come help, and that was the main thing for our defense at the end.”

Now that they’ve gotten their revenge, the Sachems are ready to move on and forget.

“It feels good, but now it’s on to the next one,” Gaspa said. “This is just one, and we have a long season.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341 or tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timousllivan20.)


Belmont 50, Gilford 40

Key players: Belmont – Matt Pluskis (14 points, 5 rebounds), Matt Thurber (12 points, 8 rebounds), Dylan Gansert (10 points, 13 rebounds), Aiden Rupp (7 points, 5 rebounds), Nate Sottak (6 steals)

Highlights/key moments: Belmont overcame its shooting struggles in the first quarter and outscored Gilford 16-10 in the second for a 22-20 lead at halftime. Sottak, a freshman, stepped in at point guard and was a spark off the bench for the Raiders, grabbing six of the team’s eight steals.

Coach’s quote: “We finished the quarters well. Just a really good win for this group.” – Belmont’s Jim Cilley

Records: Belmont 1-0; Gilford 0-1

Hopkinton 50, Monadnock 35

Key players: Hopkinton – Kevin Newton-Delgado (15 points), Kevin McGrath (13 points), Dustin Rose (10 points), Caleb Yianakopolos (7 points), Zach Signor (8 assists)

Highlights/key moments: Hopkinton took an early 16-5 lead but Monadnock went on a 10-2 run to close the gap. In the second half, Monadnock took its only lead of the game by one point, but Hopkinton went on a strong run to close the third and never looked back.

Coach’s quote: “Our defense is what pushed us through in this game holding Monadnock to single digits in two quarters. Proud of these guys for opening up on the road in a tough place to play.” – Hopkinton’s Stephen Signor

Records: Hopkinton 1-0; Monadnock 0-1

Pittsfield 54, Groveton 36

Key players: Pittsfield – Cam Darrah (20 points, 5 assists, 5 steals), Garrett Guerrero-Hadley (12 points, 5 assists), Josh Whittier (9 points, 8 rebounds)

Highlights/key moments: Pittsfield led 29-26 at halftime and held Groveton to 13 points in the second half.

Coach’s quote: “It definitely felt like the first game of the season, as we didn’t seem to finish well, but made up for it on the defensive end of the floor. I was pleased with the way the boys responded with the halftime adjustments on defense and how they valued possession down the stretch. Garrett did well handling the ball and finding gaps to penetrate through their zone.” – Pittsfield’s Jay Darrah

Records: Pittsfield 1-0; Groveton 0-1


Lebanon 55, Coe-Brown 19

Key players: Coe-Brown – Ahna McCusker (9 points, 8 rebounds), Lauren Curtin (6 points)

Highlights/key moments: Lebanon jumped out to a 16-0 lead early and didn’t look back. Coe-Brown cut the deficit to eight at one point but could not get any closer.

Coach’s quote: “Lebanon is an experienced team. We are not there. We need to continue to work in practice to get better. This loss does not define who we are.” – Coe-Brown’s Joe Vachon

Records: Lebanon 1-0; Coe-Brown 0-1

Pembroke 52, John Stark 44

Key players: Pembroke – Brooklyn Zanis (19 points, 6 rebounds), Savannah Youngman (14 points), Morgan Allen (6 points, 10 rebounds); John Stark – Autumn Nelson (15 points, strong defense), Jillian Douzanis (9 points)

Highlights/key moments: John Stark cut a 13-point deficit down to three in the second half but couldn’t close the gap. Stark began to foul as the final minutes ticked away, but the Spartans were accurate from the free-throw line and pulled it out.

Coach’s quote: “We maintained high energy and composure against a competitive team. We hope to keep that intensity up as we return home to play two tough games next week.” – Pembroke’s Michaela Champlin

“My girls played very hard but just couldn’t make a shot (to tie it). We will be back in the gym tomorrow morning. They have goals they want to achieve. They are a great group.” – John Stark’s Bruce Johnson

Records: Pembroke 1-0; John Stark 0-1

Pelham 53, Kearsarge 31

Key players: Kearsarge – Jackie DeAngelis (8 points), Meg Roy (6 points), Livia Hernon (5 points), Caitlin Prescott (5 points)

Highlights/key moments: Kearsarge’s first test as a Division II program was a tough one. Pelham reached the Final Four last season and opened this year with 12-0 run against the Cougars in the first quarter. Kearsarge fought back, improved its scoring and tightened up on defense but couldn’t cut into Pelham’s lead.

Coach’s quote: “We couldn’t hit our shots, but we had good looks. We got more comfortable as the game went on.” – Kearsarge’s Keith Roberts

Records: Pelham 1-0; Kearsarge 0-1

Laconia 56, Winnisquam 9

Key players: Laconia – Becca Howe (13 points), Sydney Stevens (8 points, 7 rebounds), Meghan Gaspa (12 rebounds, 7 steals)

Highlights/key moments: Laconia put the pressure on Winnisquam early with 20 points scored in the first quarter.

Coach’s quote: “Our intensity on the defensive end created great opportunities on our offensive end tonight.” – Laconia’s Jeff Greeley

Records: Laconia 1-0; Winnisquam 0-3

Merrimack Valley 55, Kingswood 36

Key players: MV – Carly Huckins (23 points), Abby Grandmaison (20 points), Lauren Pettingill, Mia Boucher

Highlights/key moments: The Pride dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Knights 16-5 to pull ahead by 16 points. MV went 17-for-23 from the free throw line to help seal the game.

Coach’s quote: “Just excited to get our first win and continue to improve each and every night. We got into early foul trouble and every player helped to contribute to the win. It’s a long season and this is a step in the right direction.” – MV’s Bob McNutt

Records: MV 1-0; Kingswood 0-1

Stevens 55, Franklin 30

Coach’s quote: “Lauren Marsh got into early foul trouble, and we struggled without her leadership. We should get Hannah Hicks back next from a preseason injury, so her presence should help us on the floor as well. I look forward to getting everyone back and in their comfortable position.” – Franklin’s JJ Winters

Records: Stevens 2-1; Franklin 2-1