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Spartans tip Bobcats with strong second half

by Joshua Spaulding
Sports Editor - Granite State News, Carroll County Independent, Meredith News, Gilford Steamer, Winnisquam Echo, Plymouth Record-Enterprise and Baysider

Jared Kuehl goes hard to the hoop for a bucket in action against Pembroke on Feb. 1. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
February 04, 2013
PLYMOUTH — A dominating 11-4 run to close out the first half put the Plymouth Bobcat hoop boys in the driver's seat against undefeated Pembroke Academy at the half on Friday, Feb. 1.

However, the Spartans weren't looking to relinquish control and came out in the fourth quarter and held Plymouth to just four points, taking back control of the game on the way to a 58-45 victory.

"Every time they needed us to miss, we missed and every time we needed them to miss, they made it," Plymouth coach Mike Sullivan said of his team's second half struggles. "But there is a reason they're 12-0.

The Bobcats were playing again without forward Kyle Reisert and Sullivan is convinced if the two teams meet up again in postseason play, his boys will put up even more of a fight with the extra big guy.

"It certainly hurts not having him, but I was really confident that if we showed up to play, we'd keep the game close," Sullivan said. "But without a second big guy who can dominate the glass, it's hurts."

The first big guy was junior Jared Kuehl, who turned in a monster game, scoring more than half of his team's points in the first half and cleaning up on the glass with huge rebounds at both ends of the floor.

"Enough can't be said about Jared tonight," Sullivan said. "They didn't have an answer for him."

Sullivan also noted that Kuehl was seven-of-eight from the free throw line, something he's been working on a lot in practice.

After the Spartans got the first hoop of the game, Kuehl got the Bobcats on the board with a pair of free throws and after the Spartans scored the next five points, he put back a rebound to cut the lead to 7-4. Pembroke hit another hoop, but this time Jordan Browne responded and after another visitor bucket, Browne responded again, cutting the lead to 11-8.

Pembroke hit another hoop, but Collin Sullivan hit in the lane to cut the lead to three before Gavin Brickley drilled a three-pointer right in front of the Pembroke "student" section, which was led by a group of 30-year-old guys clinging to their high school dreams. The three tied the game with 30 seconds to go in the quarter, but the Spartans got the final two points of the frame on free throws for a 15-13 lead heading to the second quarter.

The Spartans came out and scored the first five points of the second quarter, much to the delight of their fans, but the Bobcats didn't back down. Browne drilled a three to cut the lead to 20-16. After a Spartan hoop, a rebound and hoop from Kuehl made it 22-18. Pembroke hit another hoop to take a 24-18 lead, but the Bobcats took over.

Kuehl converted a three-point play to cut the lead to three and then put back a rebound to make it a one-point game. Browne then canned a jumper from the top of the key to give the Bobcats the lead to 25-24 with 2:10 to go.

The Spartans hit the next bucket, but Kuehl hit another hoop to put his team on top and then drilled two free throws to give Plymouth a 29-26 lead with 36 seconds to go. The visitors hit a shot at the buzzer to cut the lead to 29-28 at the halftime break.

Out of the gate in the second half, the Spartans hit four free throws to pull in front, but Kuehl kept Plymouth close with two of his own from the line. However, the Spartans then hit two hoops in a row to take a 36-31 lead. Kuehl somehow got a shot off while falling to the ground between two Spartan defenders and the ball slipped through the net to cut the lead to 36-33, but Pembroke hit the final two hoops of the quarter and led 40-33 after three.

Pembroke upped the lead to double digits with the first five points of the fourth quarter, but Browne drilled a three right in front of the Plymouth student section, which was led by actual students, cutting the lead to nine. Browne then hit a pair from the line to cut the lead to 45-38.

After a Pembroke hoop, Kuehl answered with a bucket, but the Spartans came right back and got another. Brickley drilled a three with 2:30 to go, cutting the lead to 49-43 and after a Spartan basket, Browne hit another shot to keep it a six-point game, but the Spartans scored the final seven points, including three from the foul line, to seal the 58-45 win.

Sullivan viewed the game as a big step for his team, noting the energy and effort the Bobcats put forward against the Spartans was something they needed to continue going forward.

"We need to get more consistent with our effort, like we had tonight," Sullivan said. "If we don't show up like we did tonight, it could be a long four weeks ahead."

The Bobcat coach was also excited to see Browne turn in a solid game after struggling a bit in the previous few contests. He was also pleased to see his team convert on free throws, something that's been a problem most of the year.

"Free throws have let us down this year," Sullivan said. "We've been stressing how important it is."

Sullivan also noted he is really hoping to see the Spartans again in the postseason.

"I would like another shot at them, because we can play with them," he said. "But we're taking one game at a time. We've got to show up Tuesday (at Kingswood) and be ready to play."

Kuehl led the way for Plymouth with 21 points on the night, while Browne added 16.

Plymouth will be at Coe-Brown on Friday, Feb. 8, for a 7 p.m. game and will be hosting Merrimack Valley on Tuesday, Feb. 12, in a 6:30 p.m. game.

JV wins

The Plymouth JV boys defeated Pembroke 62-51. Mike Buhrman scored 16 points, Jim Wieliczko added 12 and Steve Southard added 11.

Joshua Spaulding can be reached at sportsgsn@salmonpress.com or 569-3126

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