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Mascenic, Conant upset in first playoff round

  • The Mascenic boys' basketball team hosted Belmont on Thursday night in the first round of the NHIAA playoffs. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' basketball team hosted Belmont on Thursday night in the first round of the NHIAA playoffs. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' basketball team hosted Belmont on Thursday night in the first round of the NHIAA playoffs. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' basketball team hosted Belmont on Thursday night in the first round of the NHIAA playoffs. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' basketball team hosted Belmont on Thursday night in the first round of the NHIAA playoffs. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' basketball team hosted Belmont on Thursday night in the first round of the NHIAA playoffs. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' basketball team hosted Belmont on Thursday night in the first round of the NHIAA playoffs. Staff photo by Ben Conant—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Saturday, March 03, 2018

It wasn’t supposed to go down like this. Surely, No. 4 Conant and No. 7 Mascenic would survive Thursday’s first-round playoff matchups with their lower-seeded opponents and take another step toward SNHU.

Belmont and White Mountains hadn’t read the script. The Red Raiders and Spartans went off-book to upset the home teams and advance in the playoffs.

In New Ipswich, the Vikings had a seven-point lead entering the fourth quarter against No. 10 Belmont, and Red Raider senior captain Matt Pluskis was scoreless and struggling.

“He didn’t have his offensive game tonight, I could tell right at the beginning he wasn’t going to have it,” said Belmont head coach Jim Cilley. Cilley grabbed his captain and gave him direction.

“I told him, ‘Leadership is about when your shot’s not going, you can’t get down right now. You do all the other things, you do the little things, you make sure they don’t score,’” Cilley said.

Belmont went box-and-one with Pluskis on sophomore guard Sam Stauffeneker, who was Mascenic’s most effective scorer at that point with a game-high 12 points. The Vikings patiently swung the ball around the perimeter, killing some clock and looking for their shot.

“They were packing it in, and we wanted them to come out and play man on us,” said Mascenic head coach Jay Starr.

The Raiders stayed put, possession by possession, and eventually, the Vikings would drive or shoot an open three.

Nothing was falling.

“I thought we had a lot of good looks, we just weren’t hitting our shots,” Starr said.

Pluskis held Stauffeneker scoreless in the fourth quarter, while Belmont forward Dylan Gansert lit it up. Gansert scored ten of his team-high 12 in the final frame and sparked a 7-0 Belmont run that tied the game at 38.

A Griffin Embree free throw gave Belmont the lead; then, Gansert scored and the Raiders were up 41-38. Zack Barthel got to the hoop with a Eurostep and cut into the lead; Gansert scored again. Senior DJ Turner (10 points) fired a three that was short, but fellow senior Drew Rines was there for the rebound and the putback and it was 43-42.

Belmont missed a wide-open layup that could have stretched it to three, and Jake Zina (10 points) attacked the hoop for Mascenic. Raider forward Matt Thurber got out ahead of him under the basket and drew a player-control foul with 14 seconds left.

Pluskis made 1-2 from the line and it was one last possession for Mascenic, down two with the season on the line.

The Vikings inbounded, and Belmont defended Stauffeneker and Turner well to take away the game-winning three opportunity.

“We forced them not to take a three,” Cilley said. “I didn't want to lose on a three.”

Instead, Mascenic got the ball to Rines, who slashed in to the elbow and fired a jumper up over two defenders. The ball went off the glass, halfway down into the hoop and rattled back out, no good. 

“I actually thought we had a pretty good look at the basket,” Starr said. “It was just in and out like a lot of our shots tonight.”

Belmont (12-7) plays at No. 2 Somersworth (17-2) Saturday at 7 p.m.

Mascenic (13-6) finished their season on a three-game losing streak after opening 8-0.

Twelve miles down Route 124, another upset was brewing as No. 13 White Mountains came out invigorated at No. 4 Conant.

Oriole senior captain Ryan Smith had a badly rolled ankle, and he re-rolled it three minutes into the game; he was not close to 100 percent, said head coach Eric Saucier. 

The Spartans maintained a one- or two-possession lead for the bulk of the game before sophomore Peyton Springfield (22 points) tied the game at 39 in the final seconds. White Mountains inbounded and got a baseline jumper to fall, but the shot came after the buzzer and the officials waved it off. 

The Spartans scored 14 points in overtime and held off the Orioles and White Mountains moved on with a 53-49 win.

“Proud of our guys,” Saucier said. “Undersized every night and the guys brought it, and that is a credit to them. This loss does not define their season.”

Jake Drew finished with 10 points. The Orioles (15-4) only graduate one senior starter, Smith.

White Mountains (11-8) travels to No. 5 Campbell (15-4) Saturday at 7 p.m.