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Shorthanded Lakers fall in OT thriller

Inter-Lakes sophomore captain Eli Swanson (13) and junior Eli Dupigny (11) trap Monadnock's Tom Pouliot under the basket in Division III boys' basketball first round tournament action in Meredith. Joe Souza. (click for larger version)
March 07, 2018
MEREDITH — Down two players, the Inter-Lakes boys' basketball team did all it could in a classic showdown between an eight and nine seed in the postseason.

For the Lakers, it wouldn't be enough.

The eighth-seeded Lakers, down two key players – one sick and one suspended, wouldn't have enough in the tank to pull out a tough back-and-forth battle with No. 9 Monadnock and bowed out of the NHIAA Division III tournament with a frustrating 53-49 loss.

"It was the free-throw line. We shot just 42 percent (6-14, 3 for 10 in the second half and extra frames)," said Inter-Lakes head coach Mike Rathgeber after his team finished their season with a 13-6 record.

"I'm sure it wasn't serves. We had to grind out a lot of wins this year," he continued. "We were a six-man team tonight. We had kids play almost 40 minutes. The legs just weren't there."

And it was a taxing back-and-forth slugfest between two evenly match teams.

Neither team established control in a game that featured six ties and eight lead changes. Neither team enjoyed a double-digit lead, with the Huskies, who are now in the Division III semifinal round following a 52-43 upset win over No. 1 Hopkinton, enjoying the largest lead of the night – seven points (44-37) with 3:06 remaining in the contest.

The Lakers, switching to a full court man-to-man defense at that point, quickly erased that deficit and had a chance to win the game in regulation. That pressure defense led to a couple of turnovers and transition buckets by Inter-Lakes sophomore captain Eli Swanson. After forcing another Monadnock miss on the other end, the Lakers pulled even when Eli Dupigny knocked down a three-pointer from the corner and the home crowd erupted with 1:17 remaining.

In the final minute, Dupigny knocked the ball away from Monadnock's Quinn Grover and Inter-Lakes junior Quinn Taylor grabbed it. Following a timeout with less than 40 seconds remaining, the Lakers worked the clock to the final seconds. Swanson took the ball to the hoop but got tied up in the lane, giving the ball back to the Huskies with 2.2 seconds left. A long shot by Monadnock was off the mark, sending the game to an extra session.

In the extra session, the defensive intensity picked up and neither team got an easy bucket. The Lakers missed an opportunity to jump on top, missing two free-throws, and went on to go just 1 for 4 at the charity stripe in the extra session. Despite that, Inter-Lakes hung tough and had another opportunity to win the contest, but the shot didn't fall.

Monadnock jumped on top in the second four-minute overtime frame, with Grover finishing off a fast-break opportunity from Joe Minson. The Lakers could not answer and had an opportunity. Jake Kidney missed both free-throws, but Monadnock's Tom Pouliot grabbed the offensive rebound. Kidney then knocked down two free-throws to put the Huskies up by four (51-47), and the Huskies would hold off the Lakers down the stretch.

"It was a typical eight vs. nine game," pointed out Rathgeber. "There was nothing we could do different. We did so much well. We were handicapped with just six players. The free-throws down the stretch hurt, but we had an opportunity to win the game. We had a good look. We just didn't hit the shot. We had five players play nearly 40 minutes, and we just ran out of gas.

"We don't make excuses though," Rathgeber added. "We didn't lose in an embarrassing way. When the sting goes away, we'll realize we still had a good year."

The Huskies had four players score in double figures, with Minson leading the way with 14 points. Kidney and Grover both had 11, while Tim Santaw finished with 10.

Monadock also controlled the glass, finishing with a huge advantage on the boards.

"We always talk about rebounding, and a lot of that is effort," Monadnock coach Jim Hill said. "You can scheme all you want, but it comes down to effort.

"Yes we won, but win or lose, this was a great experience for the players, the coaches and fans," added Hill. "It was a great game."

Swanson poured in a game-high 21 points to pace the Lakers. Davis Jollimore netted 12 points, while Taylor and Dupigny finished with seven apiece.

The tone was set in the opening quarter as the two teams came out swinging, with the Lakers taking a 10-8 edge after one frame. Little changed in the second quarter, only the Huskies owned a slim 19-18 lead at halftime.

Monadnock would snap a 26-26 deadlock on a Grover three-pointer with 1:09 on the clock in the third quarter, and the Huskies would add two free-throws from Santaw for a 31-26 lead to set the stage for the wild fourth quarter and extra sessions.

And that extra time was too much for the shorthanded Lakers, who lost on their home court in the tournament for the second straight season.

"It's frustrating but you can look at it as the glass is half full and half empty," pointed out Rathgeber, whose team is 26-5 at home in the last three years. "We've been in the top eight the last three years. We're there, we just need to figure out how to get to the next level."

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