With the biggest crowd of the season for the Keene High boys basketball team in the first round of the NHIAA Division I tournament, the second half was the difference.
The No. 5 ranked Blackbirds outscored the visiting Jaguars 29-18 in the final 16 minutes of play to secure a 52-38 win over No. 12 Windham.
Even more impressive about the win was that Keene lost its best player and leading scorer Noah Timmer in the first quarter. The senior guard didn’t return.
With the victory, Keene advanced to the quarterfinals and will host No. 13 Salem following its opening-round upset of No. 4 Bishop Guertin.
In the third quarter, the Blackbirds hit a trio of three-pointers in a row, giving them a nine-point advantage and momentum with it.
Junior forward Alex Charles hit the last of the three pointers, then stole the ball at half-court, took it to the other end and finished with a two handed slam that got the crowd in a frenzy.
This, his first dunk of the season in a game, brought energy throughout the home court.
“Yeah, it’s his first in-game dunk this year, but he’s capable of doing it,” Keene Coach Kevin Ritter said. “It was a big stretch. I think we hit two threes and got a steal and the dunk and, yeah, if you look back on the game from start to finish that was a good stretch for us and it kind of sealed momentum in our direction.”
After that run in the third, it was all Keene the rest of the way.
Not only did the Blackbirds make flashy plays on the offensive end but they played lock down defense all night, which was just what they drew up.
“Our game plan was to try to limit Joey DaSilva, No. 5 for them he’s a really great player, great shooter,” Ritter said. “I thought we did a tremendous job on him, limiting his touches and his clean looks from three and I think kind of took him out of rhythm and we were able to get some turnovers.”
Both teams started the game off sloppy. Mistakes and turnovers were commonplace for the first 16 minutes of action, with the score at halftime 23-20 in favor of Keene. Keene knew it had to step up and could.
The Blackbirds also had a great night on the boards. It seemed like almost every rebound ended up in the hands of a Keene player. This led to a large number of offensive rebounds for the team.
With the status of Timmer unknown, Keene will have questions surrounding it entering Saturday night.
“We know we can play well, we know we can play together, it was just really working together, Losing Noah Timmer really hurts but coach Ritter just told us to stick together and play your game.”