LANGDON, N.H. – A basketball program must walk before it can run. Sometimes if a team has not found the winners’ circle much in recent seasons, the players tend to become inpatient to get running, before they learn to walk well enough. Fall Mountain boys’ team fits that bill. They are 1-3 in the regular season and have recently captured third place in the Keene State Holiday Tournament. In each case, the players feel they should have done better. From here, it looks like they are making good progress.
Achieving third place in an eight-team tournament takes playing some pretty good basketball. Especially when ConVal and Murdock, Mass. are the two teams finishing above you. Justin Cassarino’s team defeated Newport 52-51 to take third place honors. Cassarino said, “It was a sloppy game all around.”
But that’s what happens when any team plays three games in three days after some time without playing over the holidays. A win is a win and, however sloppy it was, the Fall Mountain team are pointed in the right direction.
Owen Marandino attacked the basket with 20 seconds remaining to push the Wildcats over the Tigers and win round one of three battles the two will stage this winter. Marandino led the team scoring parade in the contest with 16 points and was strongly aided by Jacob Bardis’ 10.
Cassarino’s team had lost a tough battle to Murdock in the semi-finals despite Marandino and Bardis tossing in 28 points, evenly split between them. The Wildcats came from 32-22 down at halftime to bring the game back to one point 51-50 and had two cracks to take the lead, but Murdock’s defense prevented a score. “Both teams played some strong defense at times in this one,” Cassarino noted.
The Wildcat men had little trouble in the opening round of the tournament, easily beating Sunapee 63-42. “We started out slow after the time off but picked things up, with lots of intensity on defense helping us to easy baskets,” Cassarino said. Bardis led the offense with 15 in the game followed by the Murdoch brothers Michael and Joey with 11 and 10 points respectively.
Fall Mountain had their heads in every game all season despite their official 1-3 record. They fell to a good Contant team 68-58 in the opener, before another 10-point defeat 66-56 in the home opener with Monadnock. A couple of technical fouls helped point the Wildcats the wrong way versus the Huskies. Bardis had 23 in the opener, while Marandino added 10. Marandino and Michael Murdoch contributed 16 and 10 respectively in the Husky encounter.
The Wildcats first win 69-61 over Franklin on the road was a come-from-behind effort in which Marandino with a season high 21, Ranger Wilson with 18, and Michael Murdoch with 15 assured the triumph. It was another tough regular season loss to Mascenic 63-58 just before the tourney. Michael Murdoch and Wilson paced the offense with 20 and 13 on the night when the Cats led a 49-45 lead slip away in period number three.
Cassarino tells us, “This is a big week for us.” The Wildcats host Bellows Falls on Wednesday, Jan. 3 at 5:30 p.m. and Springfield on Saturday, Jan. 6 at 2:30 p.m. They travel to Hillsboro-Deering on Friday, Jan. 5, 2017.