NHIAA Div. I Boys' Basketball Semifinal: Bishop Guertin rallies past Spaulding
Ten minutes had barely gone by and things were already looking grim for Bishop Guertin of Nashua.
The Cardinals, however, know how to come back. And come back they did.
They held Spaulding of Rochester to three points in the third quarter and finished off an improbable comeback when Jeff Lunn knocked down a pair of free throws with 2.9 seconds left as BG moved into the championship game of the Division I boys' basketball tournament with a 59-57 win Tuesday night at Lundholm Gymnasium.
The seventh-seeded Cards (16-5) return to UNH for Saturday's championship game against the winner of the second semifinal game between Trinity of Manchester and Nashua South.
Third-seeded Spaulding ended its season at 17-4 after being stopped in the semifinals for the second straight season.
BG is back in the finals for the second time in three years. The Cards won the title in 2011 when they beat Trinity.
It didn't look like they would get that shot as they went into the half trailing 37-24. Starting guard C.J. Boykin wasn't dressed - suspended for disciplinary reasons after an off-court incident during the weekend - and senior center Lunn picked up his third foul with 5:26 left in the second quarter.
But the Cards used a trapping press and the play of senior guard Steve Toscano to mount a furious comeback. Toscano had 11 of his game-high 19 points in the second half and keyed a defense that held Spaulding to 3-for-19 shooting, 1-for-10 from the 3-point stripe.
"The defense was really good in the second half. I think it got them tired," BG coach Jim Migneault said.
"We wanted to come out with energy and attack (the press)," Spaulding coach Tim Cronin said. "We were prepared for it, we just didn't attack it."
A pair of free throws by Toscano cut Spaulding's lead to 40-39 after three quarters and the advantage was totally gone after BG's Joe Marandola scored in transition to start the fourth.
Lunn was able to stay away from his fourth foul until late in the quarter, helping the Cardinals shut down the inside against a Spaulding frontcourt that had its way in the first half. He had all 12 of his points and seven rebounds in the second half.
The lead changed hands 11 times in the final quarter. In that time, three players fouled out, including Spaulding leading scorer Dominic Paradis, and three others ended the game with four fouls. The final 18 points came at the foul line, none bigger than the two Lunn scored with 2.9 seconds left and the score tied at 53.
He got the ball along the sideline and made a strong move to the baseline, drawing contact as he went up for the shot. He calmly made both shots - he was 6-for-6 in the fourth quarter - to give the Cardinals the lead.
BG beautifully defended Spaulding's final play, forcing Nick MacGregor into a turnaround trey at the buzzer that fell short.
Bishop Guertin 55, Spaulding 53
Bishop Guertin: Costas Niarhos 1-0-2; Steven Toscano 4-11-19; Andy Williams 1-0-2; Kyle Gavin 3-2-10; Jeff Lunn 2-8-12; Joe Marandola 2-0-4; John Noon 2-0-6. Totals 15-21-55
Three-pointers: Gavin 2, Noon 2
Spaulding: Michael Bellio 2-1-5; Charlie Nevajans 2-2-6; Domonic Paradis 4-6-14; Seth Fogg 0-2-2; Nick MacGregor 3-2-8; Alex Gray 2-0-6; Quinn Connelly 1-0-2; Anthony Ciccotelli 3-1-7. Totals 17-14-53
Three-pointers: MacGregor 3, Gray 2
Bishop Guertin (16-5) 17-7-15-16-55
Spaulding (17-4) 17-20-3-13-53