Gilford’s Kaleb Orton boxes out his Somersworth defender and grabs an offensive rebound during the Eagles’ 52-47 win in overtime on Feb. 7. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
February 11, 2013GILFORD – Chip Veazey admitted he didn't know quite what to say afterwards.
His Gilford High School boys' basketball team pulled out its best win of the season on Feb. 8, coming back from a five-point deficit with 26 seconds remaining in regulation to earn a 52-47 win over visiting Somersworth in overtime.
"I enjoy the close, pressure games, personally," the veteran Gilford coach admitted. "The kids responded to playing in a game like that even though this was really the first time we've been in that type of situation all year."
It was an instant classic for sure, with the crowd fired up during a back and forth, playoff-type atmosphere.
"Just awesome," said Gilford sophomore Josh Joyce of the environment. "I think we owe this win to the fans."
The Eagles led 34-32 early in the fourth quarter before Somersworth went on a 7-0 run to take a 39-34 lead with 2:57 remaining.
David Sykie stopped the run with a basket with 2:09 to play, but Somersworth's Drew Francoeur matched it with a hoop with 1:06 remaining.
Trailing 41-36 with less than 30 seconds to go, fortunes seemed bleak at best for the Eagles. But Joyce drilled a three-pointer with a hand in his face with 26 seconds left, and Gilford fouled the Hilltoppers to send them to the free throw line with 24 seconds to go.
Somersworth missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Sam Prescott managed to get his hands on the ball off a rebound. Prescott was then fouled by Somersworth's Josh Ream with 22.5 seconds remaining, sending Prescott to the free throw line with a chance to tie the game.
That's when things really got crazy. Ream was whistled for a technical foul after picking up what was his fifth personal, meaning the Eagles would shoot their one-and-one, followed by two free throws for the technical and possession of the ball.
"Obviously that's a huge swing," said Veazey. "We were in a difficult spot there at the end. That was certainly not a good time for them to take a technical, but the official had to call it."
While Somersworth coach Lorne Lucas vehemently argued the call, Prescott stepped to the line and hit one of two freebies to get his team within one points. Joyce followed with the technical foul shots, and he also hit one of two to tie the game at 41-41. Gilford held the ball on the ensuing possession for a final shot, but the Eagles didn't manage to get a good look off and the game was sent to overtime.
Gilford never trailed in OT, using the momentum it gained from the end of regulation to take a quick lead when Sykie scored on the team's first possession. Richie Edson also tallied, while Max Troiano sank a pair of free throws to keep the Eagles in front. With Gilford clinging to a 47-46 lead, Sykie came through with the biggest basket of OT, when he tipped in a missed shot with 1:01 to play for a 49-46 lead.
After the teams matched single made free throws, Somersworth had a look at a three to tie the game in the waning seconds, but Francoeur's shot was well short and Joyce was fouled after corralling the rebound. He sank both freebies to secure the thrilling 52-47 win.
"This was a very important win," admitted Joyce, who scored 17 points to go with seven rebounds and four assists in the victory. "We tried to prove ourselves against Berlin (a 76-54 loss) and that didn't go so well. But this win gives us confidence. We feel we can compete with anyone out there."
Francoeur led Somersworth with a game-high 32 points, including all six of the Hilltoppers' points in OT. The Somersworth guard in fact scored 21 of his team's final 23 points in the game dating back to the third quarter. Gilford did a good job defending him in overtime however, forcing other Hilltoppers to try and beat them. They were not successful.
"We tried to get the ball out of his hands late in the game," Joyce said of Francoeur.
Gilford managed to come back and hold on despite the loss of sophomore forward Kaleb Orton, who appeared to roll his ankle right at the end of the third quarter. Orton got his ankle taped by athletic trainer Jen Gorsuch on the bench but did not return the rest of the way.
"Obviously that was a big loss," said Joyce of Orton. "He's a big part of our lineup. I was confident with any one of those guys that came in though."
Sykie finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Eagles on the night, while Orton had 10 points and seven boards in his three quarters of action.
The victory puts Gilford at an impressive 13-1 on the season entering this week, tied for the most wins in Division III. Somersworth falls to 10-4 on the year, though the Hilltoppers will have another shot at the Eagles when the teams meet in the regular season finale on Feb. 22 in Somersworth.