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ConVal knocks off Mascenic on senior night

  • The ConVal boys' basketball team hosted Mascenic on Wednesday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' basketball team hosted Mascenic on Wednesday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' basketball team hosted Mascenic on Wednesday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' basketball team hosted Mascenic on Wednesday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal senior Tim Burgess grabs a rebound over Mascenic’s Sam Stauffeneker during last Wednesday’s game. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The ConVal boys' basketball team hosted Mascenic on Wednesday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' basketball team hosted Mascenic on Wednesday night. Staff photo by Ben Conant—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, February 26, 2018

Leo Gershgorin’s inbox was working overtime last week. Normally, the ConVal head coach sets up a film exchange with other coaches around the state – send me film on my opponent, and I’ll send you some on yours. But with Mascenic sitting near the top of a tightly grouped Division III, the tape kept pouring in, unsolicited, from teams hoping to help ConVal knock the Vikings down a peg on Wednesday night.

“Other than Social Security numbers,” Gershgorin said, “I think I knew just about everything about them. [Sam] Stauffeneker, I think I knew his birthday, what he likes to do, what he doesn’t like to do ...”

Nonetheless, it looked like business as usual for Mascenic in the first half, as they rode a balanced attack to a 34-21 halftime lead, sending Gershgorin stomping off into the locker room in disgust, his team trailing behind him. In the locker room, the coach laid out his vision for the program one more time in no uncertain terms.

“Our goal was to start to change the culture,” Gershgorin said. “That first half was what ConVal basketball’s been for the past 12, 13 years. I told them at halftime, I will not be a part of it. For some of you, this might be your last opportunity to play on this basketball team. Enjoy these next few games because I will bring in freshman that I can mold to be aggressive mindset players with less skill. I love you guys, I want to keep you, but I can’t have that, and they responded.”

Connor Buffum came out of the break with a hot hand, knocking down four threes in the third period on his way to a game-high 19 points. Meanwhile, the Cougars clamped down on the Vikings’ usually torrid scoring.

“We knew what we had to do,” said senior Tim Burgess. “We had to D up the ball, had to be in help, we really focused on our defense. We wanted to hurry them up, we wanted to get them off their spots and it worked.”

The Cougars tied the game at 34 after a 13-0 run and managed to keep just ahead of the Vikings down to the final minute, when they took a two-point lead to the charity stripe. ConVal’s Max Richard and Ben Henry took turns at the line as the Vikings fouled to extend the game. Fortunately for ConVal, the two guards had spent hours after Tuesday night’s practice playing “21” with Gershgorin, and their free throw stroke was homed in.

“When Max and Ben were the ones at the line, I thought, they must have shot 100 free throws last night, they can not be any more comfortable,” Gershgorin said.

Henry was a perfect 6-6 from the line in the fourth quarter on his way to 12 points. Richard (14 points) went 4-7 but hit the ones that mattered most, and ConVal hung on for a 53-49 win.

“It means a lot,” said Burgess on the senior night win. “We’ve been grinding all season, sometimes the ball hasn’t fallen our way but I think it’s important for the team, not only for this year but next year, that we can stick together and grind out wins.”

Stauffeneker, still feeling the effects of last week’s wrist injury, was held to just two buckets in the second half; he’d finish with 10 points. Drew Rines scored nine before fouling out; DJ Turner had 11 and Zach Barthel led the Vikings with 15.

The win was the second straight for ConVal over Mascenic, as the Cougars won in New Ipswich last year. Add in ConVal’s past two games against Conant, where the Cougars were a last-second shot away from winning in each, and it seems like something’s up with their geographic rivalries.

“The big thing is that they’re local,” Burgess said. “There are a lot of people here, every one from the region is watching and I think we just really want to put on a show. Next up now is we have to find a way to bring that mindset into the rest of our league games.”

ConVal (5-11) hosts No. 1 Hollis-Brookline (14-2) Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.

After losing again in the season finale to Hopkinton, Mascenic finishes at 13-5, the seventh seed in DIII. The Vikings host No. 10 Belmont (11-7) Thursday at 7 p.m.