EXETER — Whether it’s early in a game or late, there has been a glimmer of hope this season for a few opponents when it comes to figuring out the Exeter High boys’ basketball team.
Nashua North had those moments when it was up by seven points late in the first quarter of Tuesday night’s highly anticipated game against defending Division I champion Exeter, but the Blue Hawks once again made the adjustments to extend their Division I win streak to 32 games.
Exeter used an 11-0 run and overcame an early deficit by outscoring the Titans 16-6 in the second quarter to take a 32-27 halftime lead. The Blue Hawks went on to dominate the second half on their way to a 75-61 victory.
“Our guys are really unselfish, with one more pass. Against these guys that are so athletic; we weren’t going to beat these guys one-on-one,” Exeter coach Jeff Holmes said. “We ran our offense, moved the ball, and it helps hitting shots. I had a good feeling coming into the game, because we had three straight games where we didn’t shoot well from perimeter.
“We’re a good shooting team, and we felt like the law of averages would come back,” Holmes added.
Exeter (11-0) came off a week when it narrowly beat Goffstown (47-43) and came back late to beat Winnacunnet (55-53). Jacob Gibbons led Exeter with 18 points, while Ryan Grijalva added 16.
“We prepared really well for them this week in practice; we knew they were a good team coming into it,” Gibbons said. “We were coming off three tough games, and we finally got back home. I think we played really well and got the job done tonight.”
North (8-3) countered a Grijalva 3-pointer with a hoop from Brenden Choate (17 points) and a 3-pointer from Chukweuemeka Okorie to give itself a seven-point lead, before a Grijalva basket brought Exeter within 21-16 heading to the second quarter.
The Titans led 22-18, when Grijalva began the 11-0 run and Justin Wass gave Exeter the lead for good with a 3-pointer, Grijalva followed with a trey, and a Gibbons rebound and pass in transition was completed by Tristan Comeau to give Exeter a 29-22 lead late in the quarter.
“We played a sagging man-to-man against them in the start of the game, and that’s when they got the lead,” Holmes said. “We went back to who we are, get on them, and beware of the penetration to the outside.”
A 3-pointer by Mike Leonard and a Grijalva feed to Jett Healy gave Exeter a 43-32 cushion. Chris Heffernan closed out the third quarter to give Exeter a 54-38 lead heading into the fourth.
“Exeter is a lot better than us,” North coach Stephen Lane said. “They deserved it.”
Gibbons scored 12 of his points in the fourth quarter for Exeter. The junior forward missed the first six games of the season with injury, but Holmes dubbed it as a “breakout” game for him.