ADAM FRITCHY puts up a shot over Kennett’s Scott Conner during action Feb. 27 in Wolfeboro. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
March 05, 2012WOLFEBORO — The final night of the regular season proved to be an exciting one for the Kennett and Kingswood hoop boys Feb. 27.
But anyone who's witnessed the previous few battles between the two teams, was certainly not surprised by that.
The Eagles and Knights have put on shows for fans the last few times they met, including an overtime thriller the last time the teams met, back in January in North Conway.
Kingswood coach Dan Chick knew, that despite the Eagles 2-15 record, his club couldn't take the Eagles lightly, especially with a spot in the Division III playoffs on the line for his team.
Kennett coach Steve Coté knew that a strong showing was important for his team after a tough season.
"This was our Super Bowl," the Eagle coach said. "We played as well as we could for 32 minutes. I am pretty proud of the guys."
Out of the gate, Kingswood seemed to establish an early advantage, but long distance shooting kept the Eagles in the game, as Robert Starkey drilled three three-pointers in the quarter and Seth Davison hit one, accounting for all but two of the Eagles' points in the frame.
Zach McKenzie got the Knights on the board first with a bucket, but Davison's three put the Eagles in front. Back-to-back buckets by Adam Fritchy propelled the Knights to a 6-3 lead, but Starkey's first long distance bomb tied the game at six.
Mackenzie Tetreault answered with a three-pointer for the Knights and McKenzie followed with a hoop to give the hosts an 11-6 lead.
Starkey drilled his second long distance shot of the game to cut the lead to two, but a hoop from Darren Duncanson got the Knights back to a 13-9 lead.
Dustin Stewart cut the lead to two with Kennett's lone non-three bucket of the quarter, but back-to-back hoops from Kohl Meyers and Fritchy (off his own steal), pushed the Knights to a 17-11 lead.
Starkey closed out the first quarter with his third three of the evening, cutting the lead to 17-14 after one period of play.
"We'd rather gamble on the threes than allow them something inside," Chick said.
The Eagles didn't go away in the second, though they only hit two three-pointers in the quarter. Instead, the inside game worked a little bit better, as they went to the hoop and got to the foul line.
Starkey opened the frame with his fourth three of the night, tying the contest at 17, but Meyers hit a bucket, Tetreault drilled his second three, McKenzie hit a hoop and Parker Shure converted to push the Knights to a 26-17 lead.
A pair of Jordan Stocker free throws stopped the 9-0 Kingswood run, but a Fritchy three-pointer pushed the lead back to 10. The senior tri-captain then followed with a putback to give the Knights a 31-19 lead.
Another Starkey three-pointer cut the gap to nine and a pair of free throws from Davison made it a seven-point game at 31-24.
McKenzie put back a rebound for the Knights to push the lead back to nine, but Kennett scored the final six points of the quarter. Michael Lautenschlager hit a hoop, Stocker hit two more free throws and Davison converted a hoop with 40 seconds to go in the half to send the game to halftime with the Knights up by a slim 33-30 advantage.
Starkey single-handedly kept his team in the game in the third quarter, as he was the only Eagle to score the frame.
McKenzie opened the scoring with a hoop but Starkey responded with a three-pointer to cut the lead to 35-33 with 4:30 to go in the quarter.
Meyers hit to hoops in a row and McKenzie drained two free throws to push the Kingswood lead to 41-33.
Starkey was hit firing a three and stepped to the line and hit all three free throws, cutting the lead to 41-36.
However, Meyers hit a free throw and then sunk a three-pointer with five seconds to go in the quarter to give the Knights a 45-36 lead with eight minutes to go.
McKenzie hit a free throw to push the lead to 10 opening the fourth. However, Starkey hit his seventh three-pointer of the night to cut the lead to seven. Stocker and Davison then hit back-to-back hoops to cut the lead to three with 5:02 to go and Stocker converted off a big defensive rebound by Ryan Vajentic with 3:25 to go to cut the lead to 46-45.
A Fritchy free throw put the lead back to two, but a Starkey bucket, his first non-three field goal of the night, tied the game at 47 with 2:25 to go.
McKenzie came up with two huge baskets in a row to push the lead to 51-47 with 1:05 to go. After Kennett missed two free throws, Meyers drained two with 39 seconds to go. Kennett missed two more free throws and Meyers hit two more to close out the 55-47 win.
"We had chances to push ahead and stay ahead, but we weren't hitting our foul shots until the last few minutes," Chick said. "It doesn't do us any good to go down and get possession and draw fouls if we're not scoring."
The veteran coach did note that Meyers came up big with foul shots down the stretch to seal the win.
He also praised his other two tri-captains for their solid work.
"Adam (Fritchy) had another huge night on the boards," the Knight coach said. "He's been jumping out of the gym."
McKenzie earned the praise for hitting the big shots in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.
"We took care of the things we needed to," Chick said. "We made some mistakes, but we forced them to make mistakes too."
Coté noted that he used a small lineup for much of the game, where normal "fours" Nate Ela and Vajentic played at the five spot. This allowed the offense to open up a bit.
"That way was a little more offensive, which we needed tonight," the veteran coach said. "But they had the ball at the end and shut the door on us."
The Eagle coach noted that the fact that the Knights were playing for their playoff lives made things even harder on his team.
"I've got to hand it to them," Coté said. "They certainly got us on the boards tonight. Their offensive rebounding allowed them to keep the lead and stretch it out."
Chick pointed out that though the win got his team in the playoffs, there was no easy road ahead, with a top-four team on the radar.
"When you end up 13th through 16th, you're going to end up playing one through four, there's no getting around that," the veteran coach said. "We made our bed, now we have to battle our way through it."
Starkey led all scorers with 26 points, including seven three-pointers. Stocker had eight for the Eagles.
McKenzie led the Knights with 17 points, while Meyers had 16 and Fritchy put in 12.
The Knights finished the regular season at 7-11 and opened the playoffs after deadline on Wednesday, March 7, at Portsmouth. The tournament continues on Saturday, March 10, at the home of the higher seed and at the University of New Hampshire on Wednesday, Feb. 14, at 6 and 7:30 p.m.
The Eagles finished the regular season at 2-16 and missed out on the Division II playoffs.
In the JV game, the Knights prevailed with a 47-39 win in the season finale. Dan Eldridge had 14 points and Ben Cashman put in 11 for the Knights, while Nick Graziano put in 12 and Dylan Thurston added nine for the Eagles.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 569-3126