Cougars run out of gas in Division III final, 53-38

Staff photo by TOM KING Campbell's Jonah Crema, Joaquin Heller, and Chad Martel (14) react to Somersworth's 53-38 Division III title win on Saturday night.

MANCHESTER – They simply ran out of gas.

The 3-pointers and other shots that were falling for the Campbell High School boys basketball team to the midway point of the third quarter stopped falling. As a result, the Somersworth Hilltoppers reversed an eight point deficit and turned it into a 53-38 Division III title win over the Cougars on Saturday night at Southern New Hampshire University.

The No. 2 Hilltoppers (19-2),trailing by eight midway through the fourth quarter, outscored the tired Cougars 31-8 the rest of the way. On the second of back-to-back nights, the Cougars were the ones who felt fatigued.

“Absolutely,” Campbell coach Sudi Lett said, his No. 5 team done at 17-5. “The way we play, the fact we’re coming on a back-to-back night, the big floor, it got us.

“But I’m so proud of these guys. All the things they’ve overcome, all the adversity they fought through, I couldn’t be more proud. … It’s a loss, but we took a step forward.”

As Lett said, “We didn’t hit shots.” Campbell, which was led by Justin Furlong’s 11 points (all in the first half) and 10 from Jonah Crema, shot 16 of 64 for the game from the floor – 25 percent.

Leading 22-18 at halftime, the Cougars used a couple of James Scafidi put backs to grab a 30-22 lead midway through the third period.

However, the Cougars fell victim to turnovers and the ‘Toppers grabbed their first lead since early in the second on Colby Grant’s layup, 31-30, with 48 seconds left in the half. Tyler Clark’s 3-pointer at the third quarter buzzer capped a stunning 12-0 run to end the period with Somersworth owning a 34-30 lead it never relinquished. Clark led the wines with 14 points while Bryton Early added 11.

The ‘Toppers could tell that their opponents were gassed.

“We could,” Somersworth coach Rob Fauci said. “Credit our guys, they work hard day in day out, but his was a phenomenal opponent. They gave us everything we could handle. …That (staying fresh) was the tough part. Playing here last year in the Final Four gave us a definite advantage, we knew this is a much bigger floor. We were pacing ourselves…”

The ‘Toppers outrebounded Campbell 48-34, and were led by Evan Gray’s 15 boards.

It got worse in the fourth quarter, as the ‘Toppers expanded the lead to double digits. When Ethan Johnson hit his third layup in a span of a minute, Somersworth was up 51-36 with 1:26 to play.

“You’ve got to hit shots,” Lett said. “We didn’t hit enough shots to win. It’s OK though. No worries.”

The Cougars trailed, 11-6 after one quarter but got a burst of energy with an 13-3 run that gave them a 19-14 lead after a jumper by Jonah Crema with 3:13 left in the half. Furlong was huge in the quarter with three 3-pointers

The ‘Toppers bounced back with a four-point run of their own before Furlong’s third 3-pointer with 50 seconds left in the second gave the Cougars a 22-18 lead they took into the locker room at halftime. Furlong led all scorers with 11 at the half. Clark had seven points after the first two periods for Somersworth, which owned a big 26-17 advantage on the boards but shot just 7-for-26 from the floor in that span, while the Cougars weren’t much better at 9-for-32.

But the Hilltoppers committed 10 turnovers in the first 16 minutes to hurt their cause. But no harm by game’s end.

“It’s tough for the three seniors we have (James Scafidi, Daniel Castellano and Spencer Stanium),” Lett said. “But we’ll be coming back same team, same everything, ready to go.”

And much more refreshed.