In boys basketball: Falcons top Thunderbirds in high scoring affair

North Country’s Kendrick Gray (center behind number 22) jumps to block a shot by Missisquoi Valley’s R.J. Machia as Falcon Jason Hatin (right) and Thunderbird Alex Deuso look on. In mid-flight Machia would execute a maneuver that enabled him to bounce pass to Deuso for the basket. Photo by Richard Creaser

by Richard Creaser

copyright the Chronicle 12-15-2012

NEWPORT — It was a wild and wooly affair as the host North Country Falcons staved off a late run by the visiting Missisquoi Valley Union Thunderbirds to snag the 94-90 win.  Late foul trouble allowed the Thunderbirds to claw back into contention in a fourth quarter that saw the two teams score a combined 64 points.

“My boys delivered what I promised at the beginning of the year — an entertaining team,” North Country Coach Brian Bonvechio said after the game.  “We kept trying to attack, attack, attack.  We don’t play the slow game very well so we need to keep up the tempo.”

The tempo was clearly something the Falcons needed to build toward.  Through the first half of the game the Falcons rarely had the lead, often finding themselves chasing down MVU on the score sheet.  What kept the Falcons in the contest throughout the game was a barrage of three-point field goals and solid shooting from the foul line.

Sophomore Matt Duncan was among North Country’s most proficient shooters on the day.  Though held to a single three-pointer in the first quarter, Duncan came alive in the second notching nine of the Falcons’ 27 points heading into the half.  He finished the night with six of the team’s 13 three-pointers as well as going eight for 11 from the free throw line and adding in a couple of two-point baskets for good measure.

“You gotta run and gun and hit the shots,” Duncan said after the game.  “I really gotta give credit to the team for giving me those shots.  I just went out there and did what I had to do to get the win.”

North Country’s Matthew Duncan (center, number 21) springs in for the lay-up through a defensive screen on Missisquoi Valley Union defenders Alex Deuso (left), Matthieu St. Amour (right) and Alex Larose (obscured right) as Falcon Colton White (background left) moves in for the rebound. Duncan would finish the game with 30 points including six three-point field goals and shooting 8 for 10 from the free throw line. Photo by Richard Creaser

The Thunderbirds battled intensely under the net limiting North Country’s opportunities for rebounds.  MVU’s tight control around the net enabled them to establish a first quarter lead of 18-14.  As the Falcons settled into their outside shooting routine, however, control of the net became less of an issue for North Country.

With Rejean Roberge, Tyler Paxman and Matt Duncan landing three-pointers in the quarter, North Country managed to remain in contention. Paxman’s buzzer beating three-pointer to end the second trimmed MVU’s six point lead and finished the half with North Country down 44-41.

Though the third quarter wasn’t as productive as the second in terms of total points scored, 24 points in the third compared to 27 in the second, MVU’s own offense faltered to a game-low 11 points.  For the second straight quarter the home team outscored the visitors.  Duncan poured in three more three-pointers with Paxman and Tyler Sanville also contributing to the cause.

Foul trouble caught up to both sides in the final quarter of play.  It also contributed to an offensive explosion on the part of both teams.  Matthieu St. Amour, the Thunderbirds leading offensive contributor, would foul out in the final quarter.  After recording 45 of his team’s points, his loss to the MVU cause could not be underestimated.  St. Amour finished the game with ten two-pointers, five three-pointers and shot 10 for 17 from the free throw line.

“We drew way too many fouls at the end,” Coach Bonvechio conceded.  “They went to the line a lot and that really cut down our lead.”

As the Thunderbirds likewise ran into foul trouble the Falcons managed to maintain their lead.  Duncan shot 3 of 4 in his final two trips to the free throw line and Jason Hatin shot a perfect 5 for 5 on foul shots in the game, including 4 for 4 in the final quarter alone.

Duncan lead all North Country players with 30 points in the win while three other players contributed with double digit figures — Hatin with 15, Colton White with 11 and Paxman with 10.  St. Amour was the clear top offensive player for the Thunderbirds with his 45 points accounting for half of his team’s output on the evening.  Tyler Cooper scored 17 points for MVU while Nathan Lumsden contributed 13 in the losing effort.

Contact Richard Creaser at nek_scribbler@hotmail.com

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