HINSDALE – It may be “Oscar season” at the movies, but the Hinsdale boys’ basketball team had a new production of its own to showcase for a different kind of Academy Friday night.
Opening the season against Moultonborough, the Pacers hoped to display its new style of offense — no longer relying on the physicality of recently-graduated stars Caleb Steever, Ryan Boggio and Peter McCosker, but instead using speed, finesse and ball movement to set up the outside shot as the key to victory.
The two teams did put on a show for the packed crowd at “The Stable” at Hinsdale, but unfortunately for the Pacers, they didn’t come away with a happy ending, losing 58-55.
The Panthers overcame a 54-48 deficit in the final minute of play, tying it on a three by Ryan Morin and then winning on a go-ahead layup and free throw by Michael Badea with 7.7 seconds left.
“We played ebbs and flows, we had some good times, we had some bad times,” Hinsdale Coach Carl Anderson said. “We missed some opportunities, but we’re growing.”
Hinsdale had multiple chances to put the game away at the free throw line, but went just 1-for-6 at the charity stripe in the final minute. In total, the team went 13-for-24 from the line.
But Anderson said an even more costly aspect was the team’s repeated losses on the defensive boards, which gave Moultonborough several extra chances to score. According to the coach, while the missed free throws were costly, the second-chance points gave the Panthers at least 14 extra points.
“I was talking to one of my boys, who missed four down the lane, and I said, ‘you didn’t lose it because you missed those four,’” Anderson said. “Those extra put-back points is what killed us.
“We’ve just got to take care of the little things. We don’t have to be 6-foot-6 to rebound, we don’t have to be elusive, we’ve just got to put man on body and just do the fundamental things and we can be alright.”
When the Pacers’ offense worked, it was exactly the type of smooth, fluid, everyone-touches-the-ball type of system Anderson is looking for. Junior Greg Howard took full advantage of the open looks outside, finishing with a team-leading 14 points and three three-pointers.
“To see Greg come out, I wasn’t expecting that kind of output right off the bat,” Anderson said. “But if it’s every night, it’s just another weapon for us to use.”
Senior Danny Roberts added 12 points and two threes, and junior Ryan Lee tacked on nine.
But when things weren’t working for Hinsdale, the players forced passes and dribbled into tight spaces, leading to strings of turnovers that prevented the team from pulling away.
“When we did our jobs right, we made easy baskets,” Anderson said. “When we got clustered and flustered, it led to turnovers and bad shot selection and they were able to get rebounding and take it from us.”
Joey McClay put on a monstrous performance to lead Moultonborough, finishing with 25 points and five treys, while Mark MacDonald added 14 points and two threes.
The Panthers started the game with a 7-2 run as the Pacer offense stalled, but after a timeout midway through the quarter, Hinsdale found its groove, going on an 11-0 run to take a 13-7 lead and finishing the quarter with five threes and a 19-12 advantage.
“I told the guys at halftime, I couldn’t believe how we came out,” Anderson said. “Ball movement created all that. We’ve just got to take care of that foundation before we get to the second floor.”
Both offenses sputtered in the second quarter — putting up 10 points each — and although both did better in the third, the Pacers still held a 43-38 lead going into the fourth. But Moultonborough went on a 10-4 run to open the fourth and tied things up at 48 with 2:52 to go.
Hinsdale didn’t lay down to this first comeback, however, coming up with big steals on three consecutive possessions to pull away again. Senior Ryen McClair grabbed the first and hit one of two free throws to re-take the lead, then sophomore Arth Patel got the second and hit a fast-break layup to put his team up three.
Roberts intercepted a pass on the next possession, and after a jump ball kept it with the Pacers, Patel hit a three-pointer to make it 54-48. Patel finished with eight points off the bench, including five in the final two minutes.
“Once again, we have another kid that’s coming up in the varsity level contributing,” Anderson said. “I’m not relying on three guys this year, I have five, six guys that are stepping up and playing ball and doing all the little things. That’s going to be positive down the road for us.”
Anderson said that while this first night’s tale may have had a heartbreaking ending, he doesn’t want his team to get down on itself. Rather, he wants his players ready for take two, when they host Portsmouth Christian Friday at 7 p.m.
“You just tell them you love them, and you just tell them that, hey, the ball bounced a certain way, and one of those nights it’s going to be us on the other side of it,” Anderson said. “One game doesn’t define our season. We’re going to have plenty of opportunities to compete in this league.”