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Crusaders fight off Eagles in quarterfinals

by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter

Austin Lesperance puts up a layup during a playoff battle against the Crusaders in Littleton on March 2. Tara Giles. (click for larger version)
March 07, 2018
LITTLETON — The gymnasium at Littleton High School was packed with Eagle and Crusader fans who watched enthusiastically to see which team would advance to the next round during a quarterfinal battle last week. Both teams played well but Littleton was the best team that night and will move on. Groveton put up a great fight and certainly didn't make it an easy win for the Crusaders.

At the end of the first quarter, Littleton was up by three points, outscoring Groveton 16-13. Crusader Danny Kubkowski put up an impressive 11 points for the red team, three from the foul line. For Groveton, Austin Lesperance and Derek Rogers scored a combination of 11 points including a three-point bucket from Lesperance late in the quarter. Josh Wheelock contributed two.

Gavin Simpson was on fire for the Eagles, snagging rebound after rebound in the second quarter. Matt Mason tied the game 16-16 with 6:42 left. Wheelock put the Eagles up by two points then Simpson added one from the foul line to give the Eagles a three-point lead. Littleton's Parker Briggs added back to back three-point buckets to put the Crusaders back in the lead with 2:49 to go. Lesperance tied things back up 21-21 on a layup. The Crusaders answered with back to back baskets to take the lead 25-21 with 2:18 on the clock. Mason found the net for the Eagles but Briggs sunk his third three-point bucket to keep Littleton up. With 1:42 left, the Crusaders had a seven-point lead at 30-23. Matt Guay scored two for Groveton but Littleton added two from the foul line. Lesperance put up one from a free throw to make the game 32-26 with 1:13 to go. The score at halftime was 34-29.

Wheelock was the first to score in the third quarter, closing the gap. Littleton scored on an easy layup but Rogers and Mason scored back to back buckets to put the scare in the Crusaders. With 5:51 to go, the score was 36-35, Littleton. The Crusaders went on a six-point run before Rogers and Cody Charon scored six for Groveton to make it a one-point game, 42-41, with Littleton holding the lead. The Crusaders added three more points before Simpson used an opportunity at the foul line to add one, then scored two on a layup directly after. Jean Rodriquez of Littleton sunk a three-point basket to bring the score to 48-44 with 1:21 left. Briggs scored another three for Littleton. Lesperance, Rogers and Wheelock put up free throw points and the quarter ended with the Eagles trailing 34-29.

The Crusaders were up in the fourth quarter 54-47 at the 7:43 mark. A Simpson jump shot followed by a Mason layup had the score 55-51 with the Crusaders ahead with 6:57 to go. Wheelock made it a two-point game after a layup then tied the game 55-55. Groveton took the lead after a Mason basket with 4:46 left. Littleton put up one from the foul line but Guay snagged the rebound then fed the ball to Wheelock, who scored two more. The score was 59-58 with the Eagles on top with 3:36 to go. Mason scored two right before Littleton's Rodriguez made it a one-point game 61-60. The Crusaders took the lead with 1:44 to go and didn't look back. Littleton scored seven points in the final minute while the Eagles were held to three.

It was a good season for the Eagles and with the history of solid Groveton basketball, next year is looking to be just as successful.

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