SWANZEY — In front of an electric crowd at Paul Breckell Gymnasium, the Monadnock boys basketball team cooled off a scorching hot Mascoma Valley team with a 61-44 win in Swanzey on Thursday.
Mascoma Valley came into Thursday’s game on a seven-game win streak, which included a victory over Division III-leading Gilford (11-1) just three days ago.
“[Mascoma is] coming in here rolling and we had a game plan and the kids executed,” said Monadnock coach Jim Hill.
Monadnock’s depth proved to be too much for the Royals, as the Huskies used its rotation to wear down Mascoma and pull away late.
After falling behind 31-17 at the half, Mascoma put together a stunning 15-0 run, capped off by a three-pointer by senior Ben Seiler (25 points) which gave the Royals their first lead of the night, 32-31.
“At halftime, we knew they were going to come out in the press,” said Monadnock senior Kevin Putnam, who scored a team-high 21 points. “And they executed. That’s what good teams do. They executed.”
Putnam ended Mascoma’s run and got the lead right back with a layup on the other end, and after a block from senior Connor Branon (14 points) on the next possession, it felt like the momentum pendulum was starting to swing towards the Huskies once again.
In a testament to the Huskies’ depth, one of the biggest plays of the night came from junior Nate Johnson, who came off the bench. Late in the third quarter, as Monadnock was still reeling after giving up 15 straight points, Putnam missed a free throw on a potential three-point play and Johnson came up with the fearless rebound and created a second and-1 opportunity, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
Johnson hit his free throw to put the Huskies ahead, 40-34, with under a minute to play in the third quarter.
“That was huge,” Putnam said. “That got us the momentum back.”
From there, Monadnock’s fast defense started to look like itself again, and as the physicality grew, so did the Huskies’ lead.
Putnam hit his free throws down the stretch, and senior Carson Shanks (15 points) found room in the post in the final minutes to seal the deal.
“This is huge for the program, huge for this team,” Putnam said. “It’s always a battle when we go up against Mascoma, this one was huge for us.”
In a game where the Huskies were still without senior Lucas Smith, Monadnock leaned on its entire roster to contribute valuable minutes, and they did. Senior Anthony Poanessa (eight points), sophomore Ben Dean and Branon continued to be leaders on the defense, and Johnson had the big three-point play off the bench to help stop the bleeding in the third quarter.
“It’s plug and play with these guys, and we trust all of them,” Hill said. “There’s never hesitation. It doesn’t matter. And sooner or later, it gets to a point where you really feel a certain connection with the kids and that’s there. And it’s fun.”
Monadnock (9-3) has now won five straight — including three over the last four days — and hosts Raymond (3-7) on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
“We’re trying to make it 4-0 this week,” Putnam said. “Our mentality each practice is to be better than we were before. We’re not going to win championships by settling.”