MANCHESTER — The lead never got higher than eight in the first 16 minutes for the Winnacunnet High School boys basketball team in its Division I contest Friday night at Manchester Central.
The lead got whittled down to a single point halfway through the third quarter and Winnacunnet — a team that had one starter home with a concussion, another starter on the bench with four fouls and two more on the floor with three fouls each — was on the brink of giving up the lead for the first time in the contest.
However, the short-handed Warriors stepped up defensively and didn’t allow a point for the final 3 minutes, 58 seconds of the third, taking a four-point lead into the fourth quarter. The defensive effort carried into the final 8 minutes and the Warriors did just enough to walk off the court with a 55-50 win.
“It shows our resiliency,” Winnacunnet coach Jay McKenna said. “We had senior leadership and they were in the huddles imparting their own wisdom from what they have been through. We were very resilient.”
Sophomore Lucas Schaake picked up his fourth foul with 6:21 left in the third. Senior Ben Allen picked up his third in the final minute of the first half and his fourth with 1:51 left in the game; fellow captain Jack Schaake was whistled for his third with 5:49 left in the third.
“You take a chance leaving (Allen) and (Jack Schaake) in there, and hope as seniors with a lot of experience they are going to make good decisions about when to be physical and when not to," McKenna said. "They both did a really nice job down the stretch staying on the floor.”
Winnacunnet improved to 5-0 on the season and remains one of three remaining undefeated teams in Division I, joining Salem (6-0) and Exeter (5-0).
“This is just part of a Division I season, where you are going to have to play tough teams on the road,” McKenna said. “(Central) is a great team, well coached and I was pleased with how we responded down the stretch.”
Jack Schaake scored six of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter. His baseline power move in the post gave Winnacunnet a 48-42 lead with just over 3 minutes left in the game. He scored five points in each of the first two quarters and six in each of the final two.
“That (Schaake down low) is where our advantage is and we want to take advantage of that,” McKenna said. “He’s big, he’s athletic and he’s very skilled. We want to use that to create as many scoring opportunities as possible.”
Allen scored Winnacunnet’s final five points of the night and connected on 3 of 4 free throws in the final 29.8 seconds, putting the game out of reach. He had 16 points in the game, including nine in the first quarter when the Warriors jumped out to an early seven-point lead.
“We’re an inexperienced team, not a young team,” Central coach Sudi Lett said. “The boys did an excellent job tonight, but this is just who we are right now. We’re only this good, and we’re working every day to get these guys to improve as quick as we can, but it’s a process.”
Central, trailing 50-44, caused a Winnacunnet turnover with 1:37 left. Michael Dupre came down the court and misfired on a baseline 3-pointer. Allen snared the rebound and headed back up the floor. He grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back in, giving Winnacunnet its biggest lead since the first half, 52-44, with 57 seconds left.
Jaythan Bosch, who was the lone Little Green in double figures with 12 points, drove the paint and got an easy basket with 37 seconds left, cutting the Winnacunnet lead to six, 52-46. Allen then hit on the front end of 1-and-1 before Bosch’s baseline 3-pointer off the glass cut the Central deficit to four, 53-49, with 15.5 seconds left.
Jesus Milan then fouled Allen on the inbounds pass and sent Allen to the line where hit both shots, giving the Warriors a six-point lead with 10 seconds left.
“I like good games, this was a good game,” Lett said. “It was well-played. Winnacunnet has excellent bigs, the bigs were aggressive, crashed the boards, played through fouls, played through contact, just an awesome team. My kids did a good job.”
Winnacunnet returns home Tuesday to play Timberlane, while Central is at Portsmouth on Tuesday and hosts Exeter on Friday.
“I am excited,” Lett said. “We get to see what we’re made of. It’s going to be a tough stretch, a good stretch.”
WARRIORS 55, LITTLE GREEN 50
Considine 1-0-3, Fuller 2-3-7, L.Schaake 1-0-2, O’Hara 1-0-2, J.Schaake 8-6-22, LaRosa 1-0-3, Allen 6-3-16. Totals: 20-12-55.
Williams 1-3-5, Bosch 4-2-12, Niyang 4-1-9, Dupre 1-1-4, Infante 6-2-14, Milan 2-1-6. Totals: 18-10-50.
Winnacunnet 16 12 12 15—55
Central 11 13 12 14—50
3-Point Goals—Winnacunnet 3 (Considine, LaRosa, Allen). Central 4 (Bosch 2, Dupre, Milan).