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Gilford pushes past Belmont in intense battle

by Bob Martin
Sports Reporter - Gilford Steamer, WInnisquam Echo, Meredith News

Greg Madore of Gilford comes down with a rebound during a big win for the Golden Eagles. Bob Martin. (click for larger version)
February 21, 2018
BELMONT — As the season winds down, there is a log jam of teams in the middle of Division 3 for boys' basketball, which means every win counts for teams like Gilford and Belmont. Last week the Red Raiders hosted the Golden Eagles in a fiery occasion both on and off the court, with Gilford topping Belmont 67-47.

The game was much closer than the score indicates, with both team neck and neck until the second half, where Gilford found ways to pick apart the Belmont defense and widen the gap for the victory.

It was a packed gym for senior night at Belmont High School, and the intensity was strong all throughout the gym. Gilford and Belmont students, as well as family members and supporters, filled the room with loud cheers and chants aimed to push their teams to a win.

It was tight in the first quarter, with Belmont's Aidan Rupp starting the scoring with a wide open three-pointer. It was quickly answered by a Logan Hughes, who hit nothing but net on a three-pointer from the corner. The two teams traded leads and then chippy play led to a technical foul for Gilford. Griffin Embree drained four free throws to reduce the gap for Belmont and it was a 15-13 game in favor of Gilford after one quarter.

The second quarter was also close, but Gilford's Greg Madore used his size and skill near the net to chip away at Belmont and give Gilford a 25-21 lead at halftime.

The third quarter was where the wheels fell off the bus for Belmont. The Red Raiders couldn't find any way to stop Madore, who steamrolled his way to the basket time and time again. He had nine points in the quarter and David Hart also helped lead the way with six points. The Golden Eagles took a 42-34 lead into the fourth quarter, and it was still anyone's game.

In the final quarter, Madore continued his charge and scored eight points to lead the Golden Eagles, but a major momentum shift came when sophomore Adrian Siravo took the ball up the baseline and roared in for a one-handed slam in traffic. He let out a mighty roar and the Gilford fans went nuts for the huge play that put the Golden Eagles up 50-36.

Aside from nine points from Matt Pluskis in the fourth quarter, the Red Raiders couldn't find ways to get on the board in the final quarter and they found themselves in a big hole. The Golden Eagles continued to chip away until the team had a 20-point lead and came away with a huge win over its rival.

For Gilford, Madore had 22 points which included 17 second half points to help shut down the Red Raiders. Hart had 15 points and Nate Hudson pitched in with 10 points. Siravo had a solid game with 12 points on the night.

Pluskis led the Red Raiders with 22 points on the night. Embree had a good game at point guard with nine points. Senior Dylan Gansert had eight points on the night. A big aspect of the game was Gilford shutting down Matt Thurber, who had no points and did not play much in the second half due to foul trouble.

Gilford coach Chip Veazey was very happy to come away with a win in what he described as being "entertaining in a lot of ways." He said the win capped off a week where the Golden Eagles had been peaking in both practice and in games. The win over Belmont was the fifth consecutive victory and gave Gilford a 12-4 record.

"We are kind of doing what you want to do at this part of the year," said Veazey. "Things are starting to click on both ends of the floor. Our defense has gotten better."

Veazey commended Hughes for his play, saying he did a great job guarding Pluskis. He also said Madore was a force for the team, especially in the second half where the Red Raiders couldn't find an answer for the big man.

"We created good spacing on offense and it gave us the opportunity to drive to the basket," said Veazey.

Belmont coach Jim Cilley knows that the team fell apart in the second half, but he said it wasn't due to a lack of effort. He said the difference was that Gilford hit some shots and beat the team off the dribble. He said the Red Raiders got a bit slower in the second half and may have been tired, and he added that foul trouble was an issue.

"When they found that mismatch, and our big was in foul trouble, we were in trouble," said Cilley.

Cilley said the team needs to get back to playing solid defense and needs to learn to jump to the pass to hold teams to low point totals.

The Red Raiders are looking forward to finishing out the final games of the season and have high hopes for the playoffs. He said the team has been constantly counted out, even in the preseason, and the team needs to finish out strong.

"We've battled through adversity all year long, starting in March with Derek Stevens having the heart issue," said Cilley. "We graduated a 1,000-point scorer, a guy who did everything for us. Nobody expected us to do anything. People were telling us we were going to be an eight, nine-win team this year. We knew we were going to be better than that."

The loss brings Belmont to a 10-6 record at deadline with the final two games of the regular season this week.

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