Early run powers Panthers past Lisbon

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

MA senior Riley Swedberg (11) weaves between two Lisbon defenders for a basket in the post on Friday night. The host Panthers breezed to a 43-20 win in the season opener, with Swedberg scoring 12 points. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
December 15, 2014
MOULTONBOROUGH It didn't take long for Andrew Porusta and the Moultonborough Academy boys' basketball team to make a statement.

The junior guard scored just seconds after the opening tip on an easy layup, stole the ball on the ensuing possession and went in again on a reverse layup. The Panthers came to play in their season opener, and the result was a 43-20 victory over an overmatched Lisbon School side that wasn't nearly as close as the final score indicated.

"I thought that set the tone for us," said MA head coach Matt Swedberg of Porusta's early burst.

MA had it all working in the opening quarter. The Panthers extended their pressure defense, consistently forcing turnovers in the back court against a Lisbon side that had its share of issues crossing half court. The result was an impressive 15-0 run to start the game, as Lisbon didn't score until a layup with 2:58 left in the frame.

Porusta (six points), Riley Swedberg (six), Matt Norton (two) and Doug Stockwell (one) all contributed offensively during the 15-0 spree, with coach Swedberg mixing in 10 different players during the first period.

"We're looking to implement jumping on defense to create some turnovers," the coach explained. "Our communication could be better but we got some pressure and generated offense out of those turnovers."

The Panthers led 21-2 after one quarter, as the hosts completed overwhelmed Lisbon. Baskets from Tyler McLaughlin and Norton late in the first enabled MA to make a solid first impression.

That lopsided start carried into the second quarter, as Dylan Rowen and Porusta scored quick buckets, and Riley Swedberg followed with four straight free throws for a commanding 29-2 lead with 6:23 left before halftime.

That's when MA took its foot off the gas, mixing in a variety of substitutes the rest of the way and holding the ball on offense while mixing in multiple passing combinations before shooting. The hosts led 35-7 at intermission.

That carried into the second half, as MA scored just eight points (four from Norton, two from Riley Swedberg and two from Connor Porusta) in not pressing the issue.

"We were looking for five reversals before trying to score," said Swedberg of the offensive approach with the big advantage. "I told the guys, there's going to come a time in a game where you're up and have to be able to move the ball late in a game. We tried to use this to simulate that kind of tight, late game situation."

MA held Lisbon to 13 points in the second half, finishing off the 43-20 win that could have been much worse had the Panthers pushed the ball and looked to score each time they possessed the ball.

"I want the team to have a good inside/outside mix," Swedberg said of areas to improve. "Our vision has to be better inside. That's something that we're going to have to work on throughout the season."

Riley Swedberg led the way with 12 points on the night, while Norton was in double figures with 10 points (six rebounds). Andrew Porusta (eight points, three assists) and Rowen (five) also aided the cause, while freshmen Reese Swedberg and McLaughlin pulled down four rebounds in their first-ever varsity game. John McClay added three assists in the win.

The Panthers were off for a week after the win, with the second game of the regular season slated for this Friday night (Dec. 19) at perennial power Derryfield School. The game will be held at NHTI (6:30 p.m.).

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