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More Runs Than Errors: Sabers pull away from slumping Spartans

By Tom King - Staff Writer | Feb 1, 2023

Souhegan's Matt Canavan drives past Milford's Will O'Connell and Will White (24) during Tuesday night's game in Amherst. (Telegraph photo by TOM KING)

AMHERST – Souhegan vs. Milford High School used to be a big deal, but it meant two different things for the boys basketball teams on the floor Tuesday night.

For the Sabers, it was a game they had to get through, after a schedule mish-mash due to makeup games, etc. For the Spartans, it was a chance to steal one and snap out of a slump with a couple of games just as tough ahead.

Advantage Sabers, 63-54, in a game that didn’t really have that rivalry feel. The Spartans hung around, hung around, but Souhegan finally pulled away to improve to 11-1, handing the Spartans their fifth straight loss.

“They’re scrappy,” Souhegan coach Peter Pierce said. “It’s always a good game with Milford, doesn’t matter what the records are. … We had a height advantage. We’ve got a couple of guys that maybe play a little bit more, but Don’s doing a great job with them.”

Milford was actually 5-1 in Division II just 20 days ago. But the schedule turned and the Spartans have hit an extended dry spell.

“We’re a little thin,” Milford coach Don Gutterson said. “We’re working on trying to develop depth. The effort’s been there, if we can keep working to get better.

“It’s a tough stretch. The biggest thing is we’ve got tougher teams.”

The Spartans had some hope last night. They trailed 20-14 after one and just 31-27 at the half, but never could get closer. The Sabers took a 48-41 lead into the final period thanks to a Carter Hayes jumper with a second left.

“I want the last shot every quarter,” Pierce said. “If I have to burn 30 seconds to get it, that’s OK. I want that possession.”

An 8-2 Souhegan run made it a 56-43 game with 3:29 left, and that was that.

“If you get two 8-0 runs in a game, you’ll likely get a win, it’s (the chance) really high,” Pierce said. “If you take that down to a microcosm, get two six point runs at the right time, it gives you some breathing space where you can make a couple of mistakes, which we’re no stranger to.”

And they’re no stranger to good games from senior scorer Matt Canavan, who had a game-high 23 points. Nick Nowak added 13. As Pierce said, “Matt did what Matt does.”

The Spartans got 16 from Will O’Connell and 11 from Brady Hansen.

Now we’re into February, and the Sabers have six games left, beginning with a road trip to Kennett on Friday.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us, we’ve got some really good teams we’ve got to play,” Pierce said. “I kind of thought (last night) would be a little ragged, and it was.”

Same with the Spartans, having to face Pelham tonight and Laconia on Friday, two losses between the two of them – both to Souhegan. Milford is starving for a win.

“It’ll test our character,” Gutterson said. “Hopefully we’ll bounce back.”


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