×

Cougars dealt stinging defeat

  • The ConVal boys' basketball team hosted Stevens on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal’s Ben Henry gets two against Stevens. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The ConVal boys' basketball team hosted Stevens on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' basketball team hosted Stevens on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' basketball team hosted Stevens on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' basketball team hosted Stevens on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' basketball team hosted Stevens on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal’s Mather Kipka goes up for a tough basket against Stevens. Staff photo by Ben Conant



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, January 15, 2018 5:22PM

ConVal didn’t score a single point in the second quarter against Stevens on Friday night. Nonetheless, the Cougar boys were in position to beat the Cardinals, but a turnover and a pair of last-second free throws put the ConVal comeback to bed.

“That was impressive,” said Stevens coach Matt Baird-Torney of his team’s defensive effort in the second quarter. “Our shape stayed pretty good and our hands were active. When we communicate and play like that, we’re tough to break down.”

It was 15-15 after one when the Cougar well went dry, and Stevens took a 9-0 run into the half, lead by Luke Come (game-high 19 points).

“We became less focused, we gave up a lot of points to [Come], and we just stopped playing defense,” said junior guard Ben Henry. “We kind of went back to our old habits, which hurt us.”

After an inspired speech by ConVal coach Leo Gershgorin at halftime, the Cougars flipped the switch.

“He just told us ‘Look in the mirror. It’s up to us if you want to come back,’” said Henry. “He’s put us in the situations to win and we’ve just got to keep on going, keep on learning.”

Henry took it upon himself to lead the Cougar comeback, hitting a pair of big threes to punctuate a run out of the half that tied the game at 33. Manny Bowman added all seven of his points in that quarter as well.

“You have a lead on the road, and usually when you lose that lead at that point in the game, it’s tough to recover from,” said Baird-Torney.

Stevens went on an 8-0 run at that point, stretching that lead back out. But ConVal clawed back again, and the two teams were neck-and-neck down the stretch. Another Henry three gave ConVal one more brief lead, and Mather Kipka scored eight of his ten in the fourth, but the Cardinals were up 57-55 with just 43 seconds left. That was when Henry really took over.

The feisty guard picked a Stevens pocket at halfcourt, going to the ground for the ball, coming up dribbling and getting fouled immediately.

“He’s so quick on the ball,” Baird-Torney said. “He has really good instincts. He plays with his feet but he’s not guessing. He sets you up well. When you have a kid like that who can play on both sides, it’s pretty impressive.”

Henry hit both free throws and Stevens had the ball with the game tied. Incredibly, Henry would tie up another Stevens guard and force a jump ball — possession arrow in ConVal’s favor. Henry dribbled the ball upcourt with 13 seconds left. ConVal would hold for the final shot, and who better to take it than the hot-handed Henry? But he picked up his dribble and passed it to a teammate, looking for an immediate pass back. But ConVal carried the ball away from Henry, Stevens made a play, forced the ball loose and all of a sudden, Joe Desilets was streaking down the sideline with the rock. Desilets got fouled and hit both free throws, and a Max Richard desperation heave fell short, and with it, ConVal’s hopes.

“It’s on us as a team,” Henry said. “If we want to get better, we need to start taking it more seriously, preparing more, we’ve got to really want it.”

ConVal (2-3) is at Windham (2-4) tonight at 6:30 p.m.