Nashua North boys hoop throws scare into Portsmouth

Photo by ANDREW SYLVIA North's Brendan Choate looks to get around Portsmouth's Calvin Hewitt during Thursday night's game.

NASHUA – Anyone who appreciates the game of basketball probably left Nashua North High School with a smile on Thursday night, but that fact comes as little solace in what was a heartbreaking finish for the Titans.

With less than a second left, Portsmouth senior Max Lincoln stole an inbound pass and converted it into a layup, giving his squad a 62-60 victory over North.

That finish encapsulated the wild nature of the game, which swung from a back-and-forth battle in the first half to what appeared to be a Portsmouth rout for much of the second half.

The Clippers’ lead grew to 12 with just over five minutes left in the contest, but Titans’ sophomore Brendan Choate single-handedly took back 10 of those points down the stretch.

And when one more basket after that from North’s Casey Lane wasn’t enough to keep the game even, Choate responded one more time to give the Titans what looked like a trip to overtime at the very least.

After the ball went out-of-bounds off Portsmouth on their next trip down the floor, there was only three seconds left and Portsmouth head coach Jim Mulvey called a timeout.

“We just wanted to put a big guy on the ball, we didn’t want to let them see where he was going to go, we didn’t think (Lincoln) was going to tip it or steal it or anything,” said Mulvey. “(Choate) and (Lane) were killing us in the second half and we didn’t want either of them to get a good look. In the end, it was just Max being heads up.”

North head coach Steve Lane had also had praise for Matt Wall, Pat McCarthy and Yassine Jakib despite the loss, but he praised Choate’s efforts in particular against the defending state champions.

“He kind of took it upon himself during that late stretch, he was gaining confidence, making some jumpers, and he hasn’t been really good at jumpers all year, so I think he just needed experience,” said Lane. “He’s a really good shooter and I think tonight was a breakout night for him.”

Curtis Harris led the Titans with 23 points while Alex Tavares led the way for Portsmouth with 22 points.

Given their respective places in the NHIAA Division I standings, one might not have expected such a close contest, but Mulvey knew coming in that between Choate’s efforts and Lane’s coaching, it was going to be a difficult night.

“I’ve watched them on tape a lot and knew they were getting good, records sometimes don’t mean anything,” said Mulvey. “And (Lane) did a good job, he changed his rotations and I hadn’t seen (Choate) play like that in four other tapes I had seen of them.”

North is now 1-8, looking for their second win at home against Pinkerton on Tuesday. Portsmouth is 8-2 and heads to Concord tonight.