In boys basketball: Falcons defeat Thunderbirds

Matthew Duncan soared over Thunderbird defenders to hit this sweet finger roll.  Duncan finished with 12 points on the night.  Photos by David Dudley

Matthew Duncan soared over Thunderbird defenders to hit this sweet finger roll. Duncan finished with 12 points on the night. Photos by David Dudley

copyright the Chronicle January 21, 2015

by David Dudley

NEWPORT — The North Country Union High School Falcons defeated the Missisquoi Valley Union High School Thunderbirds 65-53 Friday. Led by senior guard Keenan Warner, who scored the game high of 15 points, the Falcons jumped on the Thunderbirds early on and never let up.

Falcons coach Ed Duncan was pleased with his team, who defeated the Thunderbirds by five points in their previous meeting.

“We did a good job tonight,” Coach Duncan said. “I thought at times we could have moved the ball quicker, to get more open layups. That’s what we’re looking for. Not so many jump shots, but we’ll take it.”

While easy shots are always desirable, the Falcons perimeter play may very well have made the difference.

In the opening half, the Falcons benefited from solid mid-range shooting by Matthew Duncan, who scored 12 points, including four points from the line. Connor Hogan and Collin Myrick locked down the paint, scoring on the inside with relative ease, and inhaling board after board.

Hogan spent the first half banging around beneath the rim with Thunderbirds center Andrew Hubbard. Hogan was shifty inside, pulling down boards, and initiating contact on a number of put-backs.

The Thunderbirds found themselves in foul trouble early on, but Hogan wasn’t complaining. He seemed perfectly comfortable standing at the line, where he sunk four extra point attempts.

Falcons forward Hunter Stanley swoops across the lane.  The Thunderbirds Richard Walker got his fingers on the ball, but it wasn't enough to stop Stanley from flipping the ball up and into the hoop.

Falcons forward Hunter Stanley swoops across the lane. The Thunderbirds Richard Walker got his fingers on the ball, but it wasn’t enough to stop Stanley from flipping the ball up and into the hoop.

But the flow of the game wasn’t so clearcut; both teams played well throughout the game, resulting in a number of shifts in momentum.

The Thunderbirds rose to the challenge in the opening half. Junior Austin Sullivan answered Warner with a three-pointer in the early moments of the game.

On the next possession, Sullivan stole the ball, then tossed it ahead of the pack to teammate Hunter Reynolds for a breakaway layup. They finished the night with a respectable 11 points each.

The Falcons held a 19-15 advantage as the first quarter expired.

In the second quarter, the Falcons cracked the game wide open. After two straight shooting fouls, during which the Falcons hit three shots out of four attempts, Warner stepped up again to knock down a three-pointer.   He followed that up with a fast break layup to give the Falcons a 32-23 lead.

Hogan closed out the half with a pair of free throws, stretching the Falcons lead to ten points, as they took a 34-24 advantage into halftime.

Having been outscored 15-9 in the previous quarter, the Thunderbirds had their backs to the wall. They needed someone to step up and take hold of the opportunity at hand.

Though the Falcons were up ten points, they were not entirely in control. If the Thunderbirds could muster a run, they had a shot at escaping defeat.

Enter senior forward Hunter Moniz.

Though Moniz was quiet in the first half, scoring only four points, he came alive as the second half began.

Moniz scored nine of the Thunderbirds 17 points in the third quarter. Sullivan, Reynolds and Hubbard each pitched in with a bucket to give the Thunderbirds a much-needed lift.

By all appearances, the Thunderbirds had turned things around and clawed their way back into the game.

With moments to play in the third quarter, the Falcons clung to a narrow three-point margin, 40-37. But the foul trouble that had plagued the Thunderbirds throughout the game reared its ugly head again.

Stanley cut towards the hoop with one thought in his mind: Score. He hit a layup and drew contact on the shot. After knocking down the extra point, the Falcons were up 43-37.

With 40 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Warner hit a floater from the foul line, pushing the Falcons lead to 45-38.

After pulling down an offensive rebound, Connor Hogan goes right back up to score two.  Having been fouled on the put-back, Hogan hit the extra point.

After pulling down an offensive rebound, Connor Hogan goes right back up to score two. Having been fouled on the put-back, Hogan hit the extra point.

Then Hogan scored off a sweet bounce pass from Warner to give the Falcons a 47-38 lead with time winding down.

That’s when Moniz really stepped his game up. As time ran out, Moniz hit a buzzer-beater from behind the arc to cap a strong third-quarter effort by the Thunderbirds.

Still, the Falcons held onto a 47-41 lead going into the final quarter of regulation.

In the fourth quarter, Moniz fell silent once again. The Thunderbirds third-quarter hero didn’t hit a single shot in the fourth.

Instead, the Falcons bench did what any good bench squad is supposed to do: Close out the game.

Led by Stanley, the Falcons finished with an 18-point push. The Falcons defense shut down the Thunderbirds, allowing a scant 12 points in the entire fourth quarter.

“We’ve been working on our defense,” Coach Duncan said, after the game. “We’ve been getting into foul trouble, so I’ve been stressing the fundamentals. Get yourself into position, know where your help’s coming from. They’ve worked hard and it really showed tonight.”

With the 65-53 win behind them, the Falcons improved their record to 8-2 on the season.

contact David Dudley at [email protected]

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