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NHIAA D-II Boys' Hoop Semis: Lewis a hero twice for Oyster River

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 12. 2018 10:17PM
Oyster River beat Pembroke Academy in overtime in their NHIAA Div. II Boys Basketball semifinal held at University of New Hampshire at Durham on Monday evening. Oyster River teammates Brennen Oxford and Tyler McKenna are embraced by coach Lorne Lucas after the game. (Allegra Boverman/Union Leader)

DURHAM — The brink of elimination is not a fun place to be. The Oyster River High of Durham boys’ basketball team found itself on that edge not once but twice in Monday’s Division II semifinals at Lundholm Gymnasium.

The Bobcats did not waver in either moment of despair, which is how they sneaked past Pembroke Academy 58-57 in overtime.

Max Lewis played hero twice for seventh-seeded Oyster River (15-6) as he forced overtime with a buzzer-beating layup before hitting a pair of free throws in the waning moments of the extra period to overcome No. 3 Pembroke (16-5) one final time.

Lewis’ theatrics puts the Bobcats into Saturday’s 3 p.m. title game back in Durham against top-seeded Hollis/Brookline, which beat No. 5 Merrimack Valley of Penacook in Monday’s other semifinal, 46-43.

It’ll be the first trip to the title game for Oyster River (15-6) since winning the Class I title in 1996.

“This is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life,” said Lewis, who joined Kyle Landrigan atop the Bobcats’ scoring with 18 points apiece. “I’m so happy I got the ball at the end. I wanted it and I have all year. I got the chance to do it for my team and win this here. I just love these guys.”

Sending the game to overtime might have been the greater of Lewis’ two feats.

After Noah Cummings (14 points) put Pembroke up 48-46 with three seconds to play, Oyster River coach Lorne Lucas called a timeout to draw up a half-court inbounds play. The play was executed well as Brennen Oxford rifled a pass to a wide-open Lewis on the baseline off a screen for a layup just before the horn sounded in regulation.

“I’ve been running (the inbound play) for 28 years and it’s actually never worked,” said Lucas, who credited Oxford’s well-known throwing arm for the perfect execution. “So rarely in high school does the play you run get the ball to where you want it. I always say that if the ball goes in at the end of a game, the coach has nothing to do with it. But these guys executed.”

Lewis was the initial screener on the inbound pass before rolling onto a screen of his own to seize an open run at the basket. The junior was as shocked as anyone when he found himself open with the ball and time to get a shot up.

“I really thought it was over when they went ahead,” Lewis said. “Coach brought us in and told us he believed in us while drawing up just the perfect play. The misdirection and everything just worked.”

The Bobcats and Spartans went back down to the wire in overtime, where Pembroke again looked poised to advance when Jake Sherman hit a 3-pointer with eight seconds to play. The Spartans shot themselves in the foot though as Lewis was fouled while bringing the ball up and sent to the free-throw line with 3.9 seconds to play. Pembroke got a final possession, but Cummings missed at the buzzer off the back of the rim.

“We had our opportunity in overtime when Jake hits the big shot,” Pembroke coach Rich Otis said. “That was kind of fluke foul where we kind of got in the way. Is it a foul or is it not? I don’t know. … There’s no way we’re blaming anybody. We could look at anybody as far as the course of our game went.”

Pembroke, which led 20-18 at halftime, had a seven-point edge with three minutes left in the third quarter. Oyster River drew back in with a 9-0 spurt between the end of the third and the start of the fourth. Landrigan’s two buckets to start the final frame capped the run, which gave the Bobcats a 40-38 lead.

“I wanted to go crazy on them. Just scream and yell, and I was the same way at halftime,” said Lucas of falling back in the third. “We had to slow it down. I said we were fine, but we had to execute. … I knew they had it in them and I knew they could do it. I wasn’t going to panic.”

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