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Balanced CV falls just short

  • The ConVal boys' basketball team hosted John Stark on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal’s Ben Henry takes a mighty wallop from behind with no call from a pair of John Stark defenders. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The ConVal boys' basketball team hosted John Stark on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' basketball team hosted John Stark on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' basketball team hosted John Stark on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' basketball team hosted John Stark on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' basketball team hosted John Stark on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, January 04, 2018

The ConVal boys have never been so balanced. With no hulking centers, and with several tall guards, the Cougars can throw similar looks at their opponents no matter who they put on the floor.

“We can all score,” said junior forward Manny Bowman. “We can all do basically everything the same. [We’re] just focused on being the same, getting the ball around, getting everyone their shots because everyone can hit, and feeding the hot hand because we can all get hot.”

That balance was obvious on Tuesday night, as ConVal hosted John Stark in the Cougars’ home opener. And while the boys looked good against the Generals, the hot hand didn’t come until too late, and the undersized frontcourt was dominated.

“Offensive rebounding really hurt us,” said head coach Leo Gershgorin. “We can be a good offensive rebounding

team, but not good enough to beat John Stark right now.”

ConVal and Stark started out strong, with the Generals pulling out to an early 18-12 lead. But when Cougar rebounding machine Mather Kipka picked up his third foul early, the boards belonged to John Stark. Kipka’s foul trouble was a result of help defense on guards, Gershgorin explained.

“We didn’t close out on shooters, mechanically correctly,” Gershgorin said. “We ran at them high and that gave them the opportunity for drives to the hoop or dishes for layups or whatever the case may be.”

Kipka was held scoreless in the first half, while General big men Parker McQuarrie (9 points, 14 rebounds), Chase Patterson (11 points) and Aaron Bergeron (7 points, 11 rebounds) kept John Stark ahead.

ConVal scored just six points in the second quarter and went into the half down 29-18.

“We just needed to work harder the whole game,” Bowman said. “We’ve got to play better all game, we need to get ahead earlier. It’s a little bit of a learning thing, but we’d better pick it up fast.”

The Cougars picked it up coming out of the half, holding Stark to seven points in the third, with only two made field goals and a slew of missed free throws (Stark was 8-22 from the line, ConVal 4-10). A pair of Connor Buffum threes set the stage for a ConVal comeback, and the Cougars cut it to 36-31.

After a quick Generals flurry to open the fourth, ConVal continued the comeback. The Cougars made it a one-possession game in the final minute, after a Ben Henry three, a Buffum steal, a Kipka three and another three by Del Bonsu-Anane made it 54-51. The Cougars were alive.

ConVal fouled Stark with mere seconds left. The Generals missed the free throw, got the offensive rebound, and missed another free throw. Henry grabbed the board but was taken down in the scrum; eventually, Bonsu-Anane got the ball and was fouled with .6 left. The only hope was a make, a miss and a tip-in — near impossible — but Bonsu-Anane missed and it was over. He’d finish as ConVal’s high-point man, with 12. Max Richard had 10 of his own.

The answers were obvious: rebound, close out correctly, and make some shots. Gershgorin and the boys hit the film room on Wednesday and are ready to move on to play at Lebanon (4-0) Friday at 6:30 p.m. Gershgorin likes how his Cougars are looking.

“I love the way the way this team is structured, especially the way the game is today, in 2017-2018, when guardplay dominates basketball,” Gershgorin said. “We spread them out, we allow guys to make decisions, we let guys take the ball to the hoop or take the three. It’s exciting, we have a lot of length and that’s why we put pressure on, full-court press, because we get a lot of deflections. We can create a lot of mismatches and problems, but when you don’t rebound, it doesn’t help.”