Gilford’s Jack Athanas flies through the lane during the Eagles’ 62-51 win over Belmont on Jan. 18. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
January 21, 2013BELMONT – When his team needed him the most, Josh Joyce delivered.
The Gilford High School sophomore scored 20 points, including seven in a decisive 16-0 run between the third and fourth quarters that allowed the visiting Golden Eagles to pull away for a 62-51 win over Belmont High School in Division III action on Jan. 18.
"Joyce was the difference," admitted Belmont coach Derek Hamilton. "He made two big buckets when we got within (four points at 34-30)."
Gilford coach Chip Veazey agreed.
"Josh made some huge plays for us," the GHS head man said. "He continued to attack the basket which was important in that situation."
The first of two regular season meetings between the local rivals (they also met in the semifinals of the Lakes Region Holiday Tournament last month) proved to be a game of runs, as the Eagles stormed out of the gates. Gilford scored the game's first 11 points, and held leads of 15-1 and 17-3 in the first quarter thanks to an attacking transition game.
"You can't spot (an undefeated) team that kind of lead," Hamilton explained. "I didn't expect them to get out in transition against us as much as they did but credit to them for taking advantage of it."
The lead grew to as big as 21-5 early in the second quarter after hoops from Joyce and Cam Patridge.
"We started the game really well," Veazey said. "We controlled things in the first quarter and our defense was moving and helping."
Belmont chipped away before halftime however, as senior Kaleb Brace (11 points) provided most of the offense in keeping the Raiders within striking distance. Brace scored eight of his team's 17 points in the opening half, getting to the basket and finishing on several occasions to pull Belmont within 30-17 at intermission.
The Raiders continued to creep closer in the third quarter, as Brace finished off a three-point play and Pedro Perez drained a three from downtown to climb within 30-23.
Belmont would put together a 13-4 run to open the frame, with Bret Spaulding burying a three from the corner with 3:53 left to pull the hosts within 34-30 and force Veazey to call a timeout.
"We created some turnovers and we were able to finish on the other end," said Hamilton of his team's run. "The momentum came with that run."
"We started taking quick shots and they got back into the game," said Veazey.
But like they have all year long, the Eagles responded following the adversity. Joyce jumpstarted the 16-0 run, with Jack Athanas also providing a lift off the bench. Back to back hoops from David Sykie and Joyce early in the fourth quarter gave Gilford a commanding 50-30 lead.
"There are times when we just don't play with energy," Hamilton said. "We just didn't execute at all during that part of the game."
Belmont would get within 56-46 following a 16-6 run thanks to big baskets from Jared Clough, but the lead proved to be too insurmountable. The Eagles finished things off from the foul line, as Sykie drilled four freebies in the final minute to secure the 62-51 win.
Prescott scored 14 points (10 in the first half) in the win for Gilford, while Sykie added 10. Athanas tossed in seven off the bench.
"Belmont's played everybody tough," admitted Veazey. "We've done a good job to be where we're at up to this point."
Perez led the Raiders with 17 points, including 15 in the second half. Spaulding joined Brace in double figures with 11 points while Clough added nine for Belmont.
The loss was the fifth in six games for the Raiders (2-6), but Belmont has been in all of those contests. The five losses have come by an average margin of eight points per game.
"We've been right there," said Hamilton. "Mascoma hit a three at the buzzer to force overtime and beat us. We lost by six at Somersworth. Our defense, I think, has been playing well. It's just going to come down to if we can execute in the half court (offensively)."
The victory propelled Gilford to a perfect 8-0 on the season, though the Eagles were scheduled for a showdown with defending state champion Berlin (8-1) after deadline on Jan. 22.