Titans run out of runs in quarterfinal loss to Salem

Telegraph photo by TOM KING Nashua North's Chris Inzerillo (14) and Salem's Ben Laycock battle for the ball underneath during Salem's 65-54 Division I quarterfinal win in Salem on Friday night.

SALEM – The Nashua North Titans fell a run or two short on Friday night.

Yes, we’re still talking high school boys basketball. Last night’s Division I quarterfinal at the newly rennovated Salem High School was a game of runs, but the Titans couldn’t make that one that counted in a 65-54 loss to the second seed Blue Devils.

“Inxperienced kids, and you get experience by playing in games like this tonight,” North coach Steve Lane said. “Salem executed down the stretch, made shots down the stretch, and they didn’t miss their free throws.”

The No. 10, 11-9 Titans hung in there as long as they could. It looked like they would get run out of the Blue Devils’ gym, down 15-2 right out of the gate.

“I loved the way we came out,” said Salem coach Rob McLaughlin, who got his 100th career win guiding the Blue Devil program. “We came out on fire at 15-2, but they’re (North) good. They’re young, they’re athletic, they can shoot.

“We knew they were going to make runs, and it was just a matter of if we could get up and weather the runs.”

Salem will move on to face No. 6 Portsmouth in the semis on Wednesday at the University of New Hampshire. Still, true to McLaughlin’s words, North rallied to actually take a 19-18 lead early in the second quarter. Still, the Titans trailed at all the stops, 30-25 at the half and 47-43 after three.

But oh, that fateful fourth. Keyed by a Ben Laycock jam off a pretty Kyle Poulin feed with 3:10 left, the Blue Devils (18-2) went on a 5-0 run to go up 60-49 with 1:37 to play as the Titans were hurt by a couple of tough turnovers.

“Laycock with the exclamation point really turned up the momentum a bit,” McLaughlin said.

And that was about it. Poulin was tough and scrappy, splitting team high honors with Zack Caraballo with 17 points apiece. Curtis Harris led the Titans with 17, but was held to just four points in the second half.

“They hit a couple of shots, we just slowed down a little bit and didn’t get our rhythm back,” Harris said.

Salem may have had something to do with that.

“When we play our defense first, that’s really what got us there, because (the Titans) can come back,” Poulin said.

We talk about our defense all year, and that’s kind of been our staple. … When we’ve needed that defense to make a play or make a stop, they’ve been able to come through with it.”

In shutting off the Titans’ dribble penetration, Salem averted disaster as it had gone into the penalty late in the third quarter, which could have given North a fighting chance at the line. But in the fourth quarter, they only got to the line six times. Salem hit eight of 11 freebies down the stretch.

Brenden Choated added 11 and Connor Dunning 12 for North. Salem had four in double figures, as Trevor DeMinico added 10 and Michael Ference with 12.

Lane said overall this North team exceeded his expectations, but he certainly was pleased seeing a team with one senior (Chris Inzerillo) not pack it in down 15-2 early on the road in front of a loud packed house.

“I’m going to give our kids some credit,” he said, “for hanging in there being down 15-2, making a run, getting to (down) five at the half, four after three, gave themselves a fighting chance. I’m proud of this group, proud of their effort.

“That’s a good (Salem) team. They’ve got a chance, got a chance to make a run.”

Yes, even in March, it’s all about runs.