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Eagles struggle in second half, fall to Gilford in finale

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by Joshua Spaulding
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Sports Editor - Salmon Press Newspapers

KENNETT'S Kyle Perry goes hard to the hoop against Gilford's Malik Reese in action last Thursday. (Photo by Joshua Spaulding) (click for larger version)
March 03, 2021
NORTH CONWAY — The Kennett and Gilford boys' basketball teams got in their final tune-ups before their respective postseason tournaments on Thursday, Feb. 25.

The visiting Golden Eagles used a strong second half to pull away from the host Eagles and advance to the tournament with positive momentum and a 54-30 win.

"We held them to 12 points in the second half, that was awesome," said Gilford coach Rick Acquilano of his squad's defensive effort. "Like everybody, we're still trying to get better every day.

"We're happy to come up here and get a win," the Gilford coach added.

"We took bad shots," said Kennett coach Jack Loynd. "What we had to do was team play and shoot solidly.

"We had too many individual efforts, people trying to do it themselves," the Kennett coach added. "Turnovers and poor shot selection, that was it."

Gilford got out to a quick start, scoring the first six points of the game, though both teams took a while to get going. Alex Cheek got the first basket of the game more than two and a half minutes in, drilling a three-pointer to get the Golden Eagles off and running. After Curtis Nelson hit a free throw, Jalen Reese drained a bucket and Gilford had the 6-0 lead.

Kyle Perry got Kennett's first basket but a three from Riley Marsh and a hoop from Nelson gave Gilford the 11-2 lead after one quarter of play.

Kennett came charging back in the second quarter. Perry got things started with a hoop and after a basket at the other end from Marsh, Evan Dascoulias drilled a three for the hosts and Perry converted a three-point play to cut the lead to 13-10.

A Nick Houghton-LaClair basket for the hosts cut the lead to one but Austin Normandin hit one from the line to push Gilford up by two, 14-12.

An Alex Clark basket tied the game at 14 with 3:30 to go in the first half and a Perry free throw gave the Kennett boys their first lead of the game. Reese hit a hoop to give Gilford the lead back but Houghton-LaClair drilled a three after making a nice save on a ball heading out of bounds, giving Kennett the 18-16 lead.

Nelson responded by drilling back-to-back baskets to put Gilford back in the lead and then Andrew Flanders drilled a three-pointer to close out the scoring in the first half, giving the Golden Eagles a 23-18 lead at the halftime break.

Consecutive baskets from Nelson got the Gilford boys out to a quick start in the second half but Clark answered with a basket at the other end for Kennett. Malik Reese came through with a putback of a rebound and then hit a free throw to stretch the Golden Eagle lead to 30-20.

Jalen Reese finished off his own steal for two more points for Gilford but Matt Nordwick converted a three-point play for the hosts.

However, from there, the third quarter belonged to the visitors, as Marsh and Isaiah Reese hit back-to-back three-pointers, stretching the lead to 38-23. Jalen Reese then hit consecutive baskets to close out the quarter and Gilford had a 42-23 lead heading to the final eight minutes.

Isaiah Mojica hit a hoop for Kennett to start the fourth quarter but Malik Reese answered with a basket for Gilford and Jalen Reese converted a three-point play. Dascoulias hit a hoop for Kennett and Perry drained a free throw to make it 47-28.

Gilford got a hoop from Nelson, a free throw from Jalen Reese, a hoop from Marsh and another from Flanders to stretch the lead to 54-28 before Perry got the final basket of the game for the 54-30 final score.

"I feel like we're still getting better," Acquilano said. "The kids are still enthusiastic in practice every day.

"We're happy to just make it this far in the season," the Gilford coach continued. "And now we've got a whole new season in front of us."

"They're (Gilford) good, I think we defended well in the half court, particularly in the first half," said Loynd. "But it wasn't our half-court defense, it was our offense that created those transition baskets.

"We had a pretty good end of the first quarter to the last minute of the second quarter," Loynd said. "Then we came out at the half and we didn't execute."

Jalen Reese led all scorers with 14 points while Nelson added 13 points and March chipped in with 10. Perry led the way for the hosts with 11 points.

Gilford got a bye in the first round of the Division III tournament and was scheduled to host either Winnisquam or Newfound after deadline on Wednesday.

Kennett is scheduled to visit Kingswood in the opening round of the Division II tournament today, March 4.

The quarterfinals for both rounds are scheduled to take place on Saturday, March 6.

GHS 11-12-10-12-54

KHS 2-16-5-7-30

Gilford 54

Flanders 2-0-5, Nelson 6-1-13, I. Reese 1-0-3, Cheek 1-0-3, Marsh 4-0-10, M. Reese 2-1-5, Normandin 0-1-1, J. Reese 6-2-14, Totals 22-5-54

Kennett 30

Nordwick 1-1-3, Houghton-LaClair 2-0-5, Mojica 1-0-2, Dascoulias 2-0-5, Clark 2-0-4, Perry 4-3-11, Totals 12-4-30

Sports Editor Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 279-4516, ext. 155 or josh@salmonpress.news.

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