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Defense sends Bears to huge win over Mascoma

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

Winnisquam sophomore Kyle Mann bodies Mascoma Valley's Alex Schwarz off the block in the host Bears' 41-38 victory in a key NHIAA Division III matchup on Friday night in Tilton. Mann scored 10 points as one of three Winnisquam players in double figures. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
January 30, 2017
TILTON Kevin Dame knows every game matters. But some games more directly affect the standings come postseason time.

That was the case on Friday night.

Dame's Winnisquam Regional High School boys' basketball team picked up one of its best wins of the season, holding off a Mascoma Valley squad fighting in the same tier for playoff positioning as the Bears. After leading for most of the night, Winnisquam shook off a Mascoma run in the fourth quarter, and closed things in fine fashion en route to a 41-38 win that improved the Bear record to 7-4 overall entering this week's slate of games.

"Every game is huge but that being said, swing games like this are the difference between going to an undefeated Hopkinton early in the playoffs and finding yourself in a more desirable matchup," said Dame, whose team won its second key game in a row after also knocking off rival Franklin on the road two nights earlier. "Beating Franklin at Franklin was huge for many reasons. But (Mascoma) is a very quality team with one of the better players in the state."

That player would be senior guard Alex Schwarz, who reached the 1,000 point club the previous week in a win over Newfound. Not only did the high-scoring Schwarz reach the number however, he did it in fine fashion, scoring a career-high 52 points on the night.

"He's a great player and we knew that it was going to be a challenge going against him," Dame said of Schwarz. "It was really about making sure we were communicating out of our zone (defense) and knowing where he was at all times."

Schwarz scored a game-high 19 points, but the Bears did an outstanding job in their zone defense limiting he and his Royal teammates to one and done possessions. Winnisquam, which was bolstered inside by Logan Morrison's blocking, did a nice job on the glass in forcing Mascoma to mostly long jump shots.

"To hold any team to 38 points is tremendous effort," lauded Dame. "We made their best player get tough looks and when he missed, we didn't let him get another chance. That's what you have to do against a team like Mascoma."

After leading the bulk of the game, Winnisquam watched Schwarz hit a layup with 4:32 remaining in the fourth quarter that put the Royals on top, 32-30. But the deficit would be short-lived, as Morrison began a string of six straight points with a layup to tie the game. He added a bank shot and an opportunistic put back with 1:57 left to give the Bears a 36-32 lead, and Kyle Mann's hoop with 1:35 to play had Winnisquam smelling the finish line up 38-32.

Mascoma rallied within 38-35 with 48 seconds left after a Schwarz three-point play, but Mann and Thomas Marchese hit free throws late to ice the game and send the Bears to the winner's circle via the 41-38 win.

"There can be that tendency to try and slow the game down and stall when you're ahead late but I told the guys we had to keep playing our game and push the ball when necessary," Dame said. "Logan hit some huge shots for us and we finished the way we needed to."

Morrison scored a team-high 16 points in addition to his strong defensive and rebounding outing. Marchese was also in double figures with 11 points, showcasing his reliable free throw shooting, while Mann put three Bears in double digits with 10 points.

Winnisquam takes to the road this week with trips to play against Campbell and Fall Mountain.

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