Alvirne on to quarterfinals in Division I boys hoop tournament

Photo by CHRIS PANTAZIS Alvirne's Davonte Mckoy-Sophos keeps an eye on a Concord ball-handler during the Broncos' first-round tournament win in the state capital last night.

CONCORD – If you asked just about anybody who has paid serious attention to New Hampshire Division I boys basketball this winter which side should have been favored in the first-round tournament game between Alvirne and Concord in the state capital Tuesday night, the response you likely got was a quizzical look and a resounding shrug of the shoulders.

Ninth-seeded Alvirne and eighth-ranked Concord both posted 11-7 regular season records, the host Crimson Tide stepped into tournament play having won five of its last six contests while the visiting Broncos had taken four of their last five, and just three points separated the teams in a 55-52 decision won by Concord in a Jan. 2 regular season game in Hudson. Hence, you’d expect the tourney contest to be a toss-up in the minds of most.

And with one side looking at a quarterfinal-round tourney battle with top-seeded Exeter later this week and the other looking at placing its uniforms into moth balls, Tuesday night’s tourney contest wound up being the feverish battle one would expect. And on this night, coach Marty Edwards’ Broncos were the better team.

The locals put forth all kinds of intensity, played smart and strong defense, and shot tremendously well from the free-throw line in defeating their hosts by a 63-57 tally to advance in the D-I tourney.

Coach Edwards has become used to seeing his squad do a bit of struggling at the charity stripe. But free-throw success – to the tune of 19-for-22 overall and 14-for-16 in the pivotal fourth quarter – ended up making a major difference for the victorious Broncos in first-round tourney play.

“That’s not normal for us, but they wanted to win so bad and they got it done,” said Edwards of his team’s free-throw success while wearing a rather wry smile moments after the final buzzer sounded.

Alvirne played man-to-man defense throughout the majority of the contest but then, with five minutes to go in the final stanza, slid into a zone and worked diligently at it. And fiery defense was a big factor for the Broncos as well.

“We figured out that they have a little lower scoring percentage against zone defenses, so we made the switch from man with about five minutes to go and it worked out well,” said Edwards.

The Broncos outscored their hosts by margins of 15-8 in quarter one and 16-10 in quarter two to grasp a pleasing advantage of 31-18 at the half.

But Concord senior guard Scott Lampron, who had been held scoreless in the first half, began tossing home three-point shots in earnest in the third period in helping his team right back into the fray.

The slick-shooting guard hit a trio of treys early in the third to help his Crimson Tide back to within three points (36-33) with 3:15 to go in that period. But he then had to leave the game for a few moments after a cut on his left forearm left blood on his uniform and his coaches scampering for a clean jersey for him to wear.

Alvirne built its lead back up to seven points while Lampron was gone, but he came back in and nailed a fourth three-pointer with a dozen seconds left. However, the Broncos got the last points of the third on a Paul Manzi shot at the buzzer to roll into the fourth quarter grasping a lead of 42-36.

The fevered pace of play only increased as the final stanza began, with Concord battling its way back to knot the score at 50-50 with 3:15 remaining on a Tyler Bruns three-pointer. But Manzi and Davonte Mckoy-Sophos did yeoman work at the charity stripe through the final moments, busting a 52-52 deadlock with 2:11 remaining and helping their side outscore its host 11-5 down the stretch.

The victors had six players net points, with five of them finishing in double figures. Manzi led the way with a game-high 20, Jamie Bertrand netted 11, and Ryan Weston, Mckoy-Sophos, and Meshack Mugariri all contributed 10. The Tide had Rylan Canabano (18), Bruns (15), and Lampron (14) all hit double digits.

The Broncos will have their hands all kinds of full yet again this Friday night when they take on those top-seeded Exeter High Blue Hawks on the seacoast.