LANGDON — There is nothing better than to have your team peaking at tournament time and that is exactly what Mitch Harrison’s Wildcats did on Wednesday in the Den as they welcomed Nate Camp’s Kearsarge Cougars.
“We knew that Kearsarge was a very good team and we needed a near perfect game tonight,” Harrison said.
That perfection Harrison was looking for was there as the Wildcats had answers for everything the Cougars threw at them. Kearsarge looked to create offense any way they could as their outside shots just weren’t there especially in the first half as Sam Carl kept things close hitting 6 from the charity stripe while adding a three pointer to boot. Dom Van Laere-Nutting got the nod to start tonight for the Wildcats and that paid dividends as he and Brady Elliot were on fire connecting for 8 and 6 each points early as Fall Mountain grabbed an 18-13 lead heading into the second quarter.
Tonight’s game was a coaches chess match as adjustments were made all evening. With Fall Mountain's big gun, Alexander Ford starting to heat things up with three long range bombs that found net, Nolan Grant was given the assignment to guard Ford.
“That guy was incredible tonight,” said Grant after the game. “I just did my best to try and contain him.” That match-up turned into a personal one on one highlight film as Ford and Grant started to knock down multiple bombs from beyond the arc.
The Fall Mountain lead grew to 31-23 before George Jallah found some space to cut the lead down to 31-24 with some heavy inside work. Mitchell Cormier dropped in another Fall Mountain 3-pointer but the Cougars would answer right back as Chris Stanchfield's bucket was followed by a Grant 3-ball and suddenly the Fall Mountain lead was only 34-31 at the break setting up a fantastic final 16 minutes.
“We needed our best effort tonight, Fall Mountain was determined and to grab a win on the road is never easy,” Camp said.
Kearsarge decided to double team Ford and Grant seemed to like the help as he responded with nine points in the quarter from beyond the arc. With the score tied 39-39, Kyle Fischer dropped in back to back hoops to keep Fall Mountain ahead before Stanchfield began to find his shot as momentum drifted towards the Kearsarge side of the court with the visitors holding onto a 48-47 lead entering the final quarter.
Jallah opened the final quarter with a bookend hoops around an alley-oop to Stanchfield as Carl’s offensive rebound kept the Cougars on offense giving Kearsarge a 6-0 run to start the quarter.
“We had incredible ball movement and contributions from everyone tonight and an almost flawless game,” Harrison said. But the Cougars' adjustments allowed for open looks and the shots began to fall for Kearsarge. Ford’s three-point play slice the lead to 54-50 but that would be as close as it would get as Camp spread out the court and milked the clock forcing Fall Mountain to foul. Connor Pillsbury and Stanchfield were perfect from the line down the stretch as Kearsarge walked away with a very hard earned 60-54 win.
“We really stepped up with solid match-ups down the stretch with a collective effort,” Camp said. “We responded the way we had to tonight.”
After Grant made his way to mid-court after the buzzer sounded to talk with Ford, he heaped praise on him after the game.
“He is just a phenomenal player, and that team really came to play tonight” Grant said.
Kearsarge would place four players in double figures with Stanchfield leading the way with 18 points. Grant would finish with 17 points and Jallah and Carl would add 11 points apiece. Ford led everyone tonight with 21 points while Cormier, Fischer and Van Laere-Nutting all finished with eight points each and Brady Elliot chipped in with six points.