DURHAM — The Kearsarge of North Sutton boys’ basketball team has let youth take it through the highs and the lows this season after graduating a pair of 1,000-point scorers a year ago. The roller-coaster season is on an upward swing at just the right time for the Cougars, who are on their way to the Division II championship game.
Two days after shocking the tournament’s top seed, No. 9 Kearsarge weathered a late surge from No. 5 Merrimack Valley of Penacook and took a 59-46 win in Monday’s D-II semifinal at UNH’s Lundholm Gymnasium. Kearsarge had what was once a 17-point edge trimmed to five points with 2:42 to play before a Noah Tremblay 3-pointer began a 9-1 closing run for the Cougars, who will face off with Pembroke in Saturday’s noon championship game back at UNH.
“You saw some of when we’re really good, but also when we are pretty bad here tonight,” Kearsarge coach Nate Camp said. “I try not to panic with these guys with some young kids out there. Noah just made some big-time plays, but especially that shot because they were coming.”
Tremblay ended up scoring nine of Kearsarge’s 13 points in the fourth quarter while registering a game-high 23 points overall. Ben Carl added 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Kearsarge while Kyle Hernon pitched in nine points and three boards.
The Cougars served themselves well by running out to a 30-18 lead at halftime and entered the fourth quarter up by 14. Merrimack Valley finally found itself in the first four six minutes of the fourth quarter, reeling off an 11-2 spurt to cut Kearsarge’s lead to two possessions. While Tremblay’s 3-pointer proved to be the dagger, Pride coach Tim Mucher believed the cause for his club’s loss came well before that conversion.
“We just ran out of gas,” Mucher said. “We’ve played from behind a number of times this season and it finally caught up with us. We played the fourth quarter with the sense of urgency that we should’ve brought at the start of the game. It just wasn’t in the cards today.”
Kyle Dube finished with 22 points for Merrimack Valley.
but Hernon held him to just two in the fourth quarter. Poor shooting overall in the fourth quarter also hurt Merrimack Valley as it went 5-for-14 from the field, including 0-for-4 from behind the arc, and just 4-for-8 from the free-throw line.
The Cougars’ first-half success aided their late woes. The key moment that sparked Kearsarge early was when Jak Jallah (six points) turned a poke steal into a breakaway dunk in the second quarter and 10-5 run to end the half.
“He was the starting quarterback for our football team and didn’t play for us last winter,” Camp said. “He’s integral part of what we want to do with how he finds the ball and it finds him at times, and he just lays it in. That tip steal and then a dunk here at UNH is just unbelievable. I’m super proud of him because he went and earned it.”