Gardner Nets Crucial League Win Over Oakmont
ASHBURNHAM -- With the way things are in Mid-Wach C for boys’ basketball, every game is important. There is a great deal of parity here, which means there are chances to sneak into the postseason -- especially when you’ve had the kind of rough season that the Gardner boys have had in this winter of 2018-19.
Even though their overall record coming into Friday night’s league tilt with rival Oakmont Regional is tilting toward elimination, the Wildcats are still alive via their league record. And the Black and Orange helped improve their standing in the league thanks to a 60-50 victory over the Spartans at Wyman Gymnasium.
The win lifts GHS to 5-9 on the season, with another important C match-up against Quabbin Regional set for Tuesday evening at LaChance Gymnasium. The Wildcats are 3-2 in the league, good enough for second place.
Oakmont, which will play at league-leading Hudson on Tuesday, fell to 6-8 (3-3) and is currently third.
Wildcats head coach Pete Gamache was thrilled with the victory.
″(Oakmont) whacked us by a lot at our place, but tonight was the biggest game of the year for us, standings-wise,” Gamache said. “And pride-wise: They smoked us by 30 last time. We had a good three days of practice (following a loss to Peabody), working on keeping the man in front of us, and just trying to get confidence.
“They executed real well.”
Gardner did not trail in the contest, with only two lead changes: Timothy Chipman hit an opening 3-pointer for GHS before Oakmont’s Evan Pappas matched it. Half a minute later, Chipman (12 points) hit another, before Felix Morales (12 points) scored off what was the Spartans’ seventh turnover of the game.
It was a sloppy opening, as the Spartans had 10 first-quarter turnovers, including four in the first 66 seconds of the game. Gardner, too, was the victim of some bad play early, as it had three turnovers in that same amount of time.
“We were so careless with the ball,” longtime Oakmont coach Eric Dawley said. “I thought Gardner played really well; they challenged us and we couldn’t stop them.”
Gardner, though, limited turnovers for the rest of the first half, and managed to go into the locker room with a 34-17 lead after 16 minutes thanks to a 13-of-29 shooting effort from the floor.
Oakmont had cut the deficit to 17-14 with just under five minutes left in the half thanks to a pair of 3-pointers by Pappas and Dan Dumas (11 points each), but those were the last field goals the Spartans hit for the remainder of the opening half.
After Gardner sophomore guard Lorenzo Colon (game-high 17 points, four rebounds, five steals) hit what appeared to be a devastating 3-pointer to give GHS a 51-35 lead early in the fourth, the Spartans stormed back thanks to a healthy press which saw them trap several times -- including two consecutive times which saw Oakmont regain the possession arrow and the ball.
A 15-footer by Dumas preceded the trapping play, which saw 6-foot-3 sophomore Matt Arcangeli (team-high 15 points, 15 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks) come up with the ball.
He hit Pappas with the outlet to make it a 12-point game.
Arcangeli followed that up with a hoop, before Jordan Hatch hit the back end of two freebies to make it a nine-point, 51-42 ballgame.
“We took a couple of timeouts and finally got it set up where we were not dribbling into the trap,” Gamache explained. “It was a good switch by (Dawley). If someone attacks you with the trap, you have to go right at it. If you’re passive, you’re going to dribble into it.”
Later, Oakmont would get the lead down to seven, 55-48, after a series of free throws and an Arcangeli hoop following a Dumas theft.
But that was as close as the Spartans came to turning this game on its ear, as the Wildcats regrouped and hit enough free throws down the stretch to hold the hosts at arm’s length.