Boys’ basketball: Fast start leads Kearsarge past Stevens

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  • Kearsarge guard Chris Stanchfield goes up for two points in the first half against Stevens High School on Tuesday night. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Left: Even with his teammates holding a commanding 33-0 in the second quarter, Kearsarge guard Sam Carl dives for a loose ball during the first half of Tuesday’s victory. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Kearsarge guard Noah Whipple battles with Stevens guard Lucas Belisle during the first half on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Kearsarge guard Noah Whipple (33) battles for the basketball with Stevens guard Lucas Belisle (24) during the first half of the Cougars’ 71-20 win on Tuesday night. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Kearsarge guard Noah Whipple battles with Stevens guard Lucas Belisle during the first half on Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Above: Kearsarge forward George Jallah (15) goes up for a first-half layup on Tuesday night. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

 Monitor staff
Published: 1/19/2022 6:23:22 PM

There were no main characters or consistent individualistic moments.

Rather, the culmination of a team that’s been building something before it ever stepped foot in the gym at Kearsarge. The culmination of refusing to take a break – seriously, the varsity Cougars were recently told they’d get a day off, but they came into the gym anyway.

Connor Pillsbury, Bobby Needham, Sam Carl, Adrian McCarthy and Chris Stanchfield all took the floor as Kearsarge’s starting five against Stevens on Tuesday, and in the first quarter alone, those five with help from the deep bench, outscored the visitors, 31-0, and paved the way to a lopsided 71-20 Division III boys basketball victory.

The Cougars (8-0) felt as if they hadn’t played a complete half this season. Against the Cardinals (6-3), they quickly went to work aided by a stifling zone defense. It didn’t seem to matter which pair of Stevens hands the ball was in, the Kearsarge defense moved as a unit toward the ball handler while closing off any sort of outlet or relief.

The turnovers followed nearly on every possession, whether it was at the top of the key with Carl snagging a careless dribble or down on the block where McCarthy or Stanchfield intercepted passes. The beauty in the Cougars’ defense was that it easily set up the offense, which was even more impressive.

Pillsbury and Needham combined for the game’s first 13 points, and only 2 minutes, 18 seconds into the game they forced a Stevens timeout. Kearsarge’s ability to play in transition and stretch the floor allowed for the offensive bonanza to occur as well. It seemed like any player in a white jersey was open on the floor, a testament not only to their spacing but to the Cougars’ ball movement.

“You can throw any defense our way, and we can play through it,” Pillsbury said. “Our ball movement is pretty fast. We’re an all around team. (I think) we’re a pretty hard team to defend.”

Several players posted high assist numbers, including Needham, who — even when he had good open looks — passed the ball off to a teammate because of the unselfish identity Kearsarge has created this season.

“We have such a great group of guys, and we give up good shots for great shots,” he said.

Pillsbury and Needham, whose nights ended midway through the third quarter, are two of nine seniors on the team, and the class of 2022 is a special one, according to coach Nate Camp. The 13-year coach for Kearsarge, Camp remembers his current seniors when they were in middle school – the same time Camp and the Cougars won the Division III state championship.

“They’ve put their team goals first,” Camp said. “If they continue to believe and buy in and play for each other, then the sky’s the limit for them. Hopefully we can be there on that last Saturday playing.”

Kearsarge still faces a couple of big tests before the playoffs begin. Barring a postponement, it’ll make the short trip down Interstate 89 on Jan. 24 to face off against nearby rival Hopkinton in a matchup of two final four teams from a year ago. The Cougars will play the Hawks again after that and have games with middle-of-the-pack teams in Winnisquam and Mascoma.


Matt Parker bio photo

Matt Parker is a sports reporter at the Monitor and started in August 2021. He is an Ohio native and relishes being from the Buckeye state. A proud graduate of Ohio University located in Athens, Ohio, he served as the sports editor for the student-run newspaper, The Post, from 2019-20. When not at a game or chasing around a coach, you can catch him playing his guitars or looking for the next Peanuts memorabilia piece to add in his growing collection.



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