Panthers’ defense does talking in comeback win

Telegraph photo by TOM KING Nashua South's Steve Alkalay (32) and Andrew Moody (12) secure the ball away from Alvirne's Joe Canelas during the Panthers' 45-42 come-from-behind win over Alvirne on Tuesday night at the Belanger Gym.

NASHUA – Nate Mazerolle isn’t one for big halftime speeches.

But time was running out on the Nashua High School South boys basketball team, and its head coach knew it, as his team was down 31-19 and 16 minutes away from an 0-5 start to the Division I season.

“So I kind of let them have it,” he said. “I didn’t cross the line, obviously, but we were five games in. It was time, and they responded. I didn’t know if they’d respond, but they did.”

They did by holding the Broncos to just 11 second half points en route to a 45-42 comeback win at the Belanger gym. Andres Hulfachor hit two big free throws with 27.6 seconds left for the game winning points, and Stav Alkaly added one more with 1.6 ticks remaining for good measure.

“We knew we were going to come back, that’s just the way our team is built,” Hulfachor, who had a team-high 11 points, said. “We’re just like that. We’ve been trying to come back against adversity and it hadn’t been going our way. … But we made it happen this time, and I think we’re going to make it happen the rest of the year.”

Scoring just 11 in the final two quarters was probably the last thing Broncos coach Marty Edwards may have expected, but the fact is his team has scored just 82 points in the last two games.

“We need to transfer what we do in practice to the game floor,” Edwards said. “We just haven’t done a good job of that yet. Just need to keep working on the things that will ignite our scoring.”

Ryan Weston led Alvirne with 12 points, all on 3-pointers, but the Broncos (3-2) couldn’t get him free down the stretch.

They led 36-29 going into the final quarter, but South’s tenacious defense severely took its toll, as the hosts actually grabbed a 39-38 lead with 6:19 to play on two Ivan Nyantenji free throws, as he had six big points in the period.

The Broncos went a critical 0-for-4 with two turnovers in the final four minutes, and couldn’t score again after Paul Manzi (nine points) tied it at 42 with 1:06 remaining.

“I thought Andres Hulfachor’s three rebounds to start the third quarter were huge because we were down 12-1 on the offensive boards,” Mazerolle said. “Nyantenji getting out on the ball handler, and Casey McNally doing a great job on Weston was big.”

Indeed, nobody was scoring.

“We’re OK with that,” Mazerolle said, as his team also got eight points from McNally and seven from Andrew Moody. “We’ll take the low-scoring games.

“We’re off Friday, and we’re headed to Merrimack on Tuesday. Oh-and-6 was looming. I don’t care how many speeches I have in the last 20 years, it’s tough to get a bunch of high school kids to accept 0-6 and we’re still in this thing. That (comeback) was very important.”

So, evidently, was the coach’s halftime speech, whether he likes to give them or not.