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Basketball: Conant champion turned Mascenic coach beats his alma mater

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/15/2020 10:45:21 AM

New Mascenic head coach Brandon Kear couldn’t have started his tenure with the Vikings any better. After beating last year’s runner-up Somersworth Friday, Mascenic came to Kear’s alma mater Conant Tuesday night and beat the defending champion Orioles at the Pratt. 

The Vikings played fast and focused on defense – not surprising for a team coached by Kear, who played for four consecutive championships under Eric Saucier at Conant and assisted him during another championship run. 

“I think he’s the best coach in the division,” Kear said after the 52-44 win, “and that’s not a knock on any other coach whatsoever, I just think he’s that good, and I know a lot of people think that. I took a lot from him... Mainly what I took was letting the guys play and having trust in the players, having them just lay it out there. Either they’re going to buy in and lay it out there or they’re not.”

The Vikings, always fired up for a trip to Jaffrey, laid it all out there on Tuesday. Conant jumped out to an early lead as Anthony Gauthier – Division III’s top scorer at 26.2 ppg – got eight points in the first quarter. 

“He imposed his will in the paint,” Kear said. 

The Vikings dropped into a 3-2 zone and sagged into the lane to slow down Gauthier, daring the Orioles to hit from outside. The adjustment was effective; Connor Hart (ten points) hit a pair of threes, but Conant went just 6-26 from behind the three-point arc in the game.

“One, we’ve got to make shots,” Saucier said after the game. “Two, we’ve got to be more aggressive. If we miss a couple threes, on your next shot, step in. But we weren’t. We played right into their game plan and they deserved to win. We didn’t deserve to win tonight.”

Conant didn’t take a free throw until late in the fourth quarter and only shot two in the entire game, as Gauthier knocked down a pair to finish with a game-high 19. 

Meanwhile, Mascenic spread the scoring around with Dylan Vaillancourt (14 points), Sam Stauffeneker (11 points) and Zack Barthel (11 points) all in double figures and Trey Shaw finishing with nine points on three three-pointers. 

“Offensively, they are very talented,” Saucier said. “I thought we did a good job there holding them to 24 in the first half.”

Mascenic used a 15-5 third-quarter run with seven quick points from Stauffeneker to turn their halftime deficit into a lead; Vaillancourt kept hitting in the fourth as the Vikings pushed the lead to ten at the five-minute mark before decelerating, taking their time and running out the clock.  

It was Mascenic’s first win at the Pratt since February 2017 and an auspicious start for Kear, now 2-0 after taking over from John Langlois, who resigned last week. 

“I keep telling them, we’re behind the eight-ball here,” Kear said. “We’re trying to put in an all-new system and run some different looks. We’ve got to go to work each and every day in practice, bring our hard hats and our working boots and come to practice every day ready to work and ready to get better and grow as a team.”

Despite the loss, it was a special night for Saucier and the Conant basketball program. After looking up at the orange-and-black banners to remind himself just how long he’s been coaching at Conant, Saucier pointed out that out of the four teams who played at the Pratt Tuesday night, three of them were coached by his former players; besides Kear at Mascenic, Steve Hodgson coaches the Conant JV team and Jimmy Peard is Saucier’s varsity assistant. 

“To me, that’s really special,” Saucier said. “It just shows what Conant basketball is that these guys are still involved in basketball and it means that much to them. That’s a proud moment.”

Conant (4-2) is at a tough 6-1 Hopkinton team Friday night; the Hawks are second in Division III behind undefeated Gilford (6-0)

Mascenic (5-1) moved up to third in DIII with the win and hosts Franklin (1-5) on Friday at 7 p.m. The Tornadoes, who lost their season opener to Gilford 56-3, are losing by an average of 35.2 ppg but did pull out a win over winless Newfound. 

ConVal 67,
Hollis-Brookline 57

The ConVal Cougars (5-0) took down a shorthanded Hollis Brookline squad on Tuesday night by a score of 67-57.

The Cavaliers, playing without last year’s All-State Honorable Mention forward Grant Snyder, kept things close in the first quarter. They shot 5-7 from three-point range and ended down one by a score of 19-18.

In the second, Hollis’ hot hand switched to the Cougars’ side as senior captains Connor Buffum and Mather Kipka combined for 14 of the ConVal’s 16 points and saw their lead balloon to 10 at the half.

Coming out of the locker room, Hollis cut the lead to six with a minute left in the third quarter thanks to 11 points from Adam Razzaboni, but that is as close as the Cavaliers would get.

Buffum hit a buzzer beating layup to put ConVal up eight going into the fourth, and picked up right where he left off. He started with an and-1 and scored 12 points in the quarter to silence the home crowd. Buffum finished with a near double-double, scoring 28 points, grabbing 9 rebounds, and dishing out four assists in the victory.

“It was a close game and they were missing their best player so I knew I had to take over,” Buffum said. “I can’t let turnovers happen and we had to continue to put the ball in the hoop to keep the lead. I’d say it worked out for us.”

The Cougars will be back in action next Tuesday when they face Coe-Brown (1-2) at home. ConVal is currently atop Division II; the only other undefeated team is 4-0 Hanover, who will come to town to play ConVal in the second-to-last game of the season on Feb. 25.

— By MAX SCHEINBLUM

 

Hinsdale 92,
Wilton-Lyndeborough 48

JJ Leblanc led the Warriors Tuesday night against Hinsdale with 17 points but WLC dropped their fourth straight game. 

Jack Schwab scored 16 points and Zach Taylor added nine. 

WLC (2-4) hosts Portsmouth Christian (6-1) Thursday at 5:30 p.m. The Eagles have won six straight since losing the season opener to Pittsfield. 

GIRLS’ BASKETBALL

Hollis-Brookline 56,
ConVal 23

Head coach Kevin Proctor said his Cougars struggled to score against undefeated Hollis-Brookline Friday night. ConVal focused on slowing down Hollis-Brookline star Christina Balsamo (13 points) and did a solid job, but that attention allowed Elisabeth Stapelfeld to get free for a game-high 19 points.

“We knew what to expect,” Proctor said. “We had a plan. We didn’t execute.”

With senior captain Emma Hixson out sick, no Cougars scored in double figures; Julia Donovan finished with eight points and Morgan Bemont had six. Maddy Faber played excellent defense and led the team in rebounding, Proctor said.

ConVal (3-3) is at undefeated Spaulding (5-0) Friday at 6 p.m.




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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