Belmont overcomes Gilford in 50-40 clash
Gilford junior Korey Weston passes the ball behind Belmont senior Dylan Gansert at Gilford High School on Dec. 8. (Alan MacRae/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
TILTON — The Laconia Sachems made a statement in their opening game — a 57-42 win Friday at Winnisquam High School — that they’re a team to be reckoned with.
The Sachems, who were 3-15 last year, showed good offensive balance from start to finish. Six 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; Christian 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.
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 Dame 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.”
Winnisquam 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 three-pointer from Kyle Mann, who finished with a game-high 19 points.
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 three-pointer with an assist from Chandler. After a Winnisquam miss, Chandler hit a three assisted by Brooker, who then had an offensive rebound putback to keep the run going. 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.
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 three in the final minute of the third to trim Laconia’s lead to 48-37 going into the final quarter.
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.
Laconia, 1-0, will be host to Gilford (0-1) today at 6 p.m., while Winnisquam (0-1) will play at Newfound at 6:30 p.m.
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 as 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
Belmont is host to Prospect Mountain at 6 p.m. today while Gilford is at Laconia at 6 p.m.
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
Laconia plays at Gilford today at 6 p.m.. while Winnisquam plays host to Newfound at 6 p.m.
Belmont junior Griffin Embree looks to pass the ball to teammate junior Cam Magerer as Gilford junior Greg Madore attempts to block at Gilford High School on Dec. 8. (Alan MacRae/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
Gilford junior Korey Weston grabs a rebound during Friday's game against Belmont at Gilford High School. (Alan MacRae/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
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