Published DateGILFORD — Chip Veazey said it seemed as though his team was marching toward a victory on Saturday night, when Gilford High School hosted Campbell in the quarter-final round of the NHIAA Division III basketball tournament. Campbell had jumped out to an early lead, but Gilford charged back, outscoring the visitors in the second period. Before the Golden Eagles could finally dig themselves out of the hole, though, the final buzzer sounded. Campbell had held on to win, 57-55.
"We got off to a slow start," Veazey said on Monday, after having a day to think about the game. Campbell had throttled Gilford's offense by employing a "diamond plus one" defense – a four-man zone with the fifth player assigned exclusively to shut down Josh Joyce, the Golden Eagles' leading scorer. Veazey said his team wasn't "completely surprised" by the defensive look, and had in fact spent a day of practice preparing for such. However, solving an anticipated problem at practice is different than facing the real thing in a game, the Eagles found out. "It took us half a game to figure out what we wanted to do."
The Eagles, who came into the game as the fourth seed in the tournament and favored over the fifth-seeded Cougars, went into halftime looking at a nine-point deficit. By that point, Veazey said, his offense had found a way to find shots and the Eagles defense allowed the team to pull within one by the end of three and had tied the game early in the fourth.
As is always tempting after a close loss, Veazey looked back at missed opportunities that could have swung the decision in his favor. A missed open layup, a couple of uncontested but unsuccessful three-point attempts by an otherwise sure shooter, free throw attempts that bounced off the rim, Gilford was unable to assert command of the game. Making Gilford's mis-steps all the more glaring was Campbell senior guard Max Gouveia, who scored 21 points in the game. Many of those points came from the free-throw line, as Veazey said his players had trouble defending Gouveia's drives. "We put him on the line way too much."
Regrets aside, Veazey said there were several aspects of the game the Eagles can be proud of. "We adjusted well, our defense for the most part was pretty good." Veazey saw great performances from seniors Sam Prescott and David Sykie, who led the team's offensive production. He also liked what he saw from younger players, such as Rich Edson, Cam Partridge and Jack Athanas. Max Troiano, a sophomore, "has really stepped up for us," said Veazey. Joyce is also a sophomore, as is Kaleb Orton, who has grown into a powerful post player.
Although this season ended abruptly for Gilford, Veazey noted that he's only losing three seniors this year. "Everyone else is back. We had a very competitive JV team, the future is bright for this program."
"It's a nice group of kids, things look pretty good," he continued, explaining that the players exhibit certain intangible qualities that mark a winning team. "The chemistry is good, that's always important. They played well together."