Gilford’s Jason Hayden pounces on a loose ball during second quarter action against Franklin on Dec. 7. The host Eagles won their season opener, 52-41. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
December 10, 2012GILFORD – It very much looked like the first game of the season for the Gilford High School boys' basketball team early on.
Luckily, the Golden Eagles shined when it mattered most.
Behind sophomore Josh Joyce's 18 points, the host Eagles opened their season with a solid win, defeating Lakes Region foe Franklin High School, 52-41, in a Division III contest on Dec. 7.
Franklin (0-1) looked like it might run away with things in the first quarter, as Jake Jameson scored his team's first nine points and Kody Benwell added a free throw to put the Tornadoes ahead 10-2.
The Eagles didn't score their first field goal until Max Troiano hit a jumper off a nice feed from Joyce with 29 seconds left in the opening period. Joyce, who opened the game 0-3 from three-point range, scored his first bucket from downtown with a triple just before the buzzer to get Gilford within 12-7.
"I was kind of forcing it early on," admitted Joyce. "But I try to always just think about the next shot and move forward."
Despite the slow start, Gilford (1-0) was still within striking distance of the Tornadoes.
"We were nervous I think early on but once we got settled, we started to play pretty good," Joyce said.
Veteran coach Chip Veazey knew the early deficit wasn't the end of the world.
"If you're going to get behind, you might as well get behind early," he explained.
Joyce hit back-to-back hoops to open the second, and a Troiano free throw tied the game at 12-12.
But Benwell hit a three-pointer late in the half, and his 12 points before intermission gave Franklin a 19-15 lead at the break.
"We turned it over some in the first half and we didn't have many good looks at the basket," said Veazey.
The Eagles came out of intermission firing on all cylinders however, as Veazey's club opened up the third quarter on a 19-4 run. Junior Jack Athanas hit a pair of jumpers from the corner and Joyce followed with a layup to give Gilford its first lead of the night at 21-19.
The Eagles picked up their intensity on the defensive end, with Troiano and senior Sam Prescott providing a ton of pressure in the back court that led to steals. Rich Edson and Prescott each scored four points during the scoring spree, and a Joyce added a huge three-ball as the hosts took a 34-23 lead.
"We settled down and that made a big difference," said Joyce. "We had a lot of energy on defense and it paid off."
Veazey was impressed with his team's athleticism during the 19-4 run.
"We can get out and run and that was the biggest difference there," the coach said. "It was mostly done on the defensive end. We were active with our hands and some good things happened."
Franklin would get as close as 36-31 with 6:19 left in the fourth quarter before Athanas and Joyce converted offensively to extend the lead back to 10 points. Prescott hit four free throws in the final minute to secure the 52-41 victory.
Joyce's 18 points led the way for Gilford, while Athanas totaled eight points – all in the second half. Prescott finished with 10 points, eight of those coming after intermission, while Edson (six points) and Cam Patridge (four) made key contributions off the Gilford bench.
"Our bench was very good," said Veazey. "Cameron, Richie…those guys were effective and they were in the game when we went on that big run."
Benwell (17 points) and Jameson (15 points) combined for 32 of Franklin's 41 points, a whopping 78-percent of the team's total. The big key was the third quarter, when the Tornadoes were held to just seven points in seeing a four-point advantage turn into an eight-point deficit.