Pittsfield rolls into D-IV boys’ basketball final with 62-42 win over Littleton

Monitor staff
Tuesday, March 06, 2018

PLYMOUTH – Pittsfield slowly built a first-half edge in Monday’s Division IV boys’ basketball semifinal against Littleton, taking a nine-point lead into halftime.

There was nothing slow about the second half.

The No. 2 Panthers rolled up and down the big court at Plymouth State University in the final 16 minutes. They shared the ball, scored in transition, caused havoc on defense and blew past No. 3 Littleton for a 62-42 win and a spot in Friday’s championship game against No. 5 Newmarket, a game that will be played on the same PSU court that fits this Pittsfield team so well.

“Coach has seen us since first and second grade, fifth and sixth, middle school, he built us for a court like this,” said Pittsfield senior point guard Cam Darrah, who finished with 22 points, four assists, five rebounds and three steals. “So for us to get out here finally, to get on the big court and open things up for everyone, it was awesome. We’re built for this court.”

The Panthers (20-1) hadn’t made the trip to Plymouth for the semifinals since 2006. They haven’t played in a final since 1990, and they have never won a championship. But that didn’t stop this group from talking about a trip to PSU.

“After last year going 16-2 (but losing in the quarterfinals) and knowing what these guys were capable of, our goals were clear – host a first-round game, host a second-round game, get to the T-shirt game, which is what we call the final four, and then get to the banner game,” said Jay Darrah, the Pittsfield coach and Cam’s father. “From the very get-go … that was our discussion.”

All that history, and all those expectations, could have weighed heavily on Pittsfield. It could have led to sweaty palms, missed shots, errant passes, mental lapses.

It didn’t.

“A lot of us were really, really excited to come here and play at Plymouth State, but I could tell we were a little nervous,” said senior center Josh Whittier, who had 15 points and eight rebounds. “And then once we got on that court, it all just went away.”

Littleton (17-4) hung with the Panthers early, keeping them contained on the fast break and crashing the offensive glass for second-chance points. And when Parker Briggs (nine points) finished a drive with 3:12 left in the first, the Crusaders held an 11-9 lead.

It wouldn’t last.

The younger Darrah went on a personal 7-0 run to close the first quarter in style. He spun through Littleton’s zone defense for a nasty take, nailed an NBA-range 3 off the dribble and then chucked one off the backboard at the buzzer to give Pittsfield a 16-11 lead after one.

“Cam threw the ball away and then it bounced back to him, finds his hands, and he throws it up in desperation and it goes in,” coach Darrah said. “You’ve got to be lucky at some point, and he was lucky then.”

The Panthers pushed their lead to 26-17 by halftime, thanks in large part to their defense on Littleton’s leading scorer, sophomore Danny Kubkowski (nine points on 2-for-10 shooting).

“Dylan Bocash was unbelievable for us on the defensive side of the floor … his task was to slow down Kubkowski and he did that,” coach Darrah said. “Kubkowski still got some good looks, but they weren’t quality looks, and that was our game plan.”

Another part of the game plan was to feed Whittier in the post, and Pittsfield did that in the second and third quarters as the big man scored 13 of his 15 points in those two frames.

“Josh Whittier is a difference maker,” Darrah said. “If he’s not in the paint area, solidifying the basket area, it’s tough for everyone else. … That was our talk at halftime, let’s get the ball down low, let’s work the ball around a little bit.”

The talk worked. The Panthers went on a 6-0 run to start the third quarter and forced the reeling Crusaders to call a timeout. But coming out of the break, Darrah picked off a pass and went the other way for a layup that upped the lead to 34-17.

“To go on a run like that and for them to call an early timeout, that really sparked us,” Cam Darrah said. “We had all the momentum in the world.”

Littleton answered with back-to-back buckets, but Pittsfield immediately squashed any hopes of a comeback with a 13-0 run that effectively put the game out of reach in the middle of the third quarter.

Bocash finished with 11 points and five rebounds for Pittsfield and Garret Guerrero-Hadley had 10 points, three steals and two assists.

“This team’s typical style, four guys in double digits sharing the basketball,” coach Darrah said. “Chemistry is underrated. This is one of those teams that just loves to share the ball. They honestly care just as much about their teammates doing well as they do about themselves, and that’s what makes this team special.”

On Friday, they’ll get one more chance to show just how special.

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341, tosullivan@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)