CLIPPERS 71, TOMAHAWKS 32: PHS drains 16 threes in rompPortsmouth Herald, N.H. — Mike Zhe Portsmouth Herald, N.H.
Feb. 14--PORTSMOUTH -- There's a way to move into sole first place in Division I, and there's a way to move into that spot with some flair.
The Portsmouth High School boys basketball team dropped 16 pieces of flair on Merrimack on Tuesday.
Alex Tavares scored 19 points, and the Clippers made 16 baskets from 3-point range as they won in a rout, 71-32, to take first place in the league alone with four games left in the regular season.
"A lot of fun," said forward Max Lincoln, whose 13 points included three 3-pointers. "That's how we usually shoot in practice and it just hasn't been happening lately. But tonight, something clicked."
Combined with losses Tuesday by local rivals Winnacunnet (to Nashua South) and Exeter (at Manchester Central), the Clippers (12-2) are now the only two-loss team in the league, with a one-game lead headed into the home stretch.
The Tomahawks, after challenging Winnacunnet deep into the fourth quarter on Friday, dropped to 6-8, allowing the most points they have all season and 22 more than their season average of 49.
Ian Cummings scored 15 points but didn't get much help after the first quarter. The 32 points they scored was their second-lowest total of the season.
"(Merrimack) is a lot better than they showed tonight," said Portsmouth coach Jim Mulvey. "They just beat Londonderry. They took (Winnacunnet) to the end.
"Our kids were really good tonight, defensively. I think after the first quarter, we put a little pressure on them and that resulted in some open, easy shots."
Down by six early and by four early in the second quarter after a basket by Jared Dyer, the Clippers flipped the game in a hurry. Mike Sanborn (12 points) hit the second of his four threes to open a 13-0 run that got a growing margin into double-digits.
"I think we all really connected," said Tavares. "Momentum-wise, we all picked it up as soon as we started making some shots. It was a team effort."
The Clippers closed the half with four 3-pointers from three different shooters -- Tavares, Lincoln, Sanborn and then Tavares again. Against a team known for its defensive toughness, they owned a 38-18 lead at the break.
The last three in a the sequence was a shot from Tavares that hit the back of the rim, bounced up and dropped through.
One of those nights.
"They were all in the flow, I thought," said Mulvey. "Our kids were sharing the ball, making the extra pass. They really were pretty wide-open threes.
"That's what, at the beginning of the year, we thought we would be. Then we just got cold."
On a team still struggling with depth, Mulvey played his five starters the entire first half, not turning to his bench until Lance Rizkalla (nine points) checked in with 5:39 left in the third quarter. Point guard Cody Graham scored 11 points, with a pair of threes.
"Everything was going really good and nobody seemed really tired, because the first quarter was so slow," said Mulvey. "I thought when we did play (the bench), their confidence is getting higher and maybe we can play more players."
The defending champion Clippers have a gauntlet to run if they want to remain in first place. They play at statement-making Nashua South on Friday, then face Salem (8-5) and Winnacunnet (11-3) at home before closing at Alvirne (9-5).
Tuesday's win reminded them how good they can be when everything clicks.
"Coach really wants us to just play," said Tavares. "Today, we didn't really run that many sets. We just got a lot of open looks."
And knocked most of them down.
CLIPPERS 71, TOMAHAWKS 32
Ellis 1-0-3, Cummings 5-3-15, Dyer 2-0-4, Eckert 1-0-3, Korsak 1-0-2, Mainey 2-0-5. Totals: 12-3-32.
Hewett 0-2-2, Tavares 7-2-19, Graham 4-1-11, Lincoln 5-0-13, Sanborn 4-0-12, Degnan 1-0-3, Rizkalla 3-0-9, Russo 1-0-2. Totals: 25-5-71.
Merrimack 11 7 9 5--32
Portsmouth 9 29 22 11--71
3-Point Goals--Merrimack 5 (Cummings 2, Eckert, Ellis, Mainey), Portsmouth 16 (Sanborn 4, Tavares 3, Lincoln 3, Rizkalla 3, Graham 2, Degnan). Prelim--Portsmouth JVs, 61-35.
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