GOFFSTOWN — It was like staring up at the ocean’s surface from under a glass floor and watching it all fade away. No matter how much Saint Anselm tried, no matter what the Hawks did, the 13-point gap was too much.
The top-seeded Hawks fell behind early to eighth-seeded Caldwell and never found a way back as the Cougars pulled off an 80-71 upset in front of an overflowing crowd at Stoutenburgh Gymnasium.
“It’s always tough when it ends, even more so when you don’t play anywhere near what you think you’re capable of playing,” Saint Anselm coach Keith Dickson said. “We picked a very poor time to play a very bad game. That’s sports. They deserved to win. They played much better than we did. I tip my hat to Caldwell.”
The first half was controlled by a Caldwell team that shot 46% from the field and consistently found ways to stonewall comeback attempts. The Hawks found ways to get the gap to eight and to nine before the half, but couldn’t turn the corner.
Saint Anselm turned the ball over 15 times compared with eight from the Cougars — and got punished for it. Caldwell scored 23 points off turnovers in the game, consistently deflating the crowd.
“We knew it was going to be an uphill battle coming up here,” Caldwell coach Dean Johnson said. “We’ve been executing our game plan and watching film from the defensive end. We defended well physically. We knew we had to make them work for everything and run. They (Caldwell players) never thought they were going to lose and that helps in an environment like this tonight.”
Caldwell got 22 and 19 points from Darnell Evans and Mark Heber, respectively, and the 17 bench points from forward Derrick Bueno off the bench were backbreaking.
The second half played differently as the Hawks found ways to string together buckets and stops. Tyler Arbuckle had 15 of his 19 points in the second half as he keyed a comeback that rocked the house and got the Hawks to within one. Owen McGlashan had 10 of his 15 after halftime as well.
Miles Tention was the third Hawk in double figures with 17 points.
But once the Hawks got within one, the floor fell out. Caldwell scored the next 10 points to put the game to bed. Evans and Bueno combined for all 10 of those points. The Cougars pushed the gap to 14 points with just over a minute to play.