Exeter holds off Nashua South for boys basketball win

NASHUA – Every time it seemed the Nashua High School South boys basketball team was going to crawl out of the hole, Zack Holler was right there to kick the Panthers back.

The Exeter guard seemed to score most of his 28 points right after South put together a run, and his four free throws in the final 11 seconds Friday night helped secure a 75-69 win for the Blue Hawks.

Holler hit three of Exeter’s nine 3-pointers and scored 18 of his points in the second half, as the Blue Hawks overcame a handful of runs by the Panthers, including a 15-1 run by South that tied the game at 64 with 3:05 to play.

Exeter (6-8) answered by ending the game on an 11-5 run to win for just the second time in its last seven games.

“This was a big win for us,” Exeter coach Jeff Holmes said. “We hadn’t had a big win yet and we’ve had a couple bad losses at our gym, so this is the medicine that we needed.”

Yordy Tavarez also had 28 points to lead South (8-5), including 15 in the fourth quarter, while Mike Osgood added 16 points and Vinny Ortolano was also in double figures with 11.

Although the Panthers topped 60 points for the first time in four games, they started out slow, scoring nine points in the first quarter.

“We have a habit of coming out flat,” South coach Nate Mazerolle said. “The last two days, being off and not having a practice, I think that fed into why we were flat early. If we want to be as good as we think we are, you overcome that, and we didn’t.”

South trailed by 10 for most of the second quarter, and were down 37-29 at halftime before opening the third with a 14-8 run, cutting Exeter’s lead to 45-43 on a 3-pointer by Ortolano.

But the Blue Hawks answered right back, getting a 3 and then a layup from Jordan Dickenson (16 points, four 3s). Holler followed with two layups sandwiched around a 3 by Bryant Holmes, and in two minutes, Exeter had its lead up to 12 at 55-43.

“Defensively, that’s as bad as we’ve played,” Mazerolle said. “To give up 75 points in our gym, that is inexcusable. For a team that is pretty athletic, we got beaten over the top far too many times, either for a layup or for a kick-out 3s. We gave up nine 3s. That’s a lot and we can’t allow that to happen.”

For Jeff Holmes, it was good to see his team answer when it needed to.

“Basketball is a game of runs and they are a good team,” he said. “There is no way we’re going to hold Tavarez to three points. He’s going to get a quick eight here and there, so it was good for us to not fall apart.”

But Exeter nearly did. With 5:12 left in the game, Tavarez hit a 3 to pull South within 11 at 63-52. On the Blue Hawks’ next possession, Dickenson was called for an intentional offensive foul when his elbow caught Tavarez, knocking him down.

Tavarez hit the two free throws, starting South on a 15-1 run to tie the game at 64 on a layup by Osgood. After scoring the basket, the South junior was able to steal the ball and the Panthers had a chance to take their first lead of the game.

But South lost the ball out of bounds and Exeter scored the next five points to go up 69-64 and retake control of the game.

“That may have been enough of a turning point to get over the hump, but I don’t know,” Mazerolle said of the possession after Osgood’s tying basket. “We had another chance.”

South will have a chance for a win on Monday, when it heads to Bishop Guertin for a 7 p.m. start.

at Nashua

EXETER (75)

Zach Holler 9-7-28, Jordan Dickenson 6-0-16, Max Medley 5-2-12, Zach Adler 3-1-7, Joe Scheidler 2-1-5, Bryant Holmes 1-0-3, Ben Swett 0-2-2, Tony Duarte 1-0-2. Totals: 28-13-75.

NASHUA SOUTH (69)

Yordy Tavarez 8-9-28, Mike Osgood 7-2-16, Vinny Ortolano 4-1-11, Malik Langa 3-0-6, Cam Joyal 2-1-5, Trevor Knight 1-1-3. Totals: 25-14-69.

EXETER (6-8) 15 20 22 16-75

NASHUA SOUTH (8-5) 9 20 15 22-69

3-pointers: E-Jordan Dickenson 4, Holler 3, Holmes; NS-Tavarez 3, Ortolano 2. Next game: South plays at Bishop Guertin on Monday.