By Matt Jenkins
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Even though Newburyport’s Ian Michaels had played a relatively quiet game last night against Hamilton-Wenham, both coaches knew the basketball would be in his hands for the final play.
Just seconds after the Generals took the lead on a Henry Eagar runner, Michaels maneuvered around two screens and drilled an off-the-dribble three-pointer from the left wing with only 2.2 seconds remaining. Hamilton-Wenham’s desperation attempt at the buzzer came up short, and Newburyport advanced with a 43-42 victory in the first round of the Division 3 North boys basketball tournament.
The Clippers will play the winner of tomorrow’s Whittier-Amesbury game (time and place TBA) in the quarterfinals.
“We made a play at the end and looked like we had them,” Hamilton-Wenham (10-9) coach Doug Hoak said. “They made the last play of the game to win. I just don’t know how he got such an open look.”
Before the game-winning three Michaels had converted only two field goals and had five points. He took the final three with the confidence of a player who hadn’t missed a shot all game.
“I grabbed Michaels at the 4:43 mark and just hugged him. He came over to me and I just said, ‘Keep your composure; you’re trying to do too much,’” Newburyport (14-7) coach Tom L’Italien said. “Then, our season’s on the line and that’s the guy we’re going to right there. He hit the huge shot and it doesn’t surprise me. He likes the big moment.”
L’Italien gave Michaels the option to create during their final timeout. Michaels could use the picks to get to the hoop, get space for a jumper, or kick to freshman three-point specialist Dan Baribeault on the wing. He got space and took care of the rest.
“We left it up to him,” L’Italien said. “We set up a couple staggered screens for him and you know what, basketball is important to him and that’s the guy we’re going to.”
James Foye was the guy Hamilton-Wenham was going to, and Newburyport knew it when the Generals forced a turnover with 38 seconds left in a tie game.
The Clippers forced the ball out of Foye’s hands, but Eagar (8 points) came through by slicing through the lane and hitting contested runner.
That possession was one of only a few where Newburyport prevented Foye from scoring. Hamilton-Wenham’s sophomore guard had 23 points in the game, including 13 of the Generals’ 17 second half points.
“He’s a special player,” L’Italien said about Foye. “That team started 1-5, and with Jimmy Campbell being out there was a lot of pressure on him and he allowed his teammates to come along over the course of the season. We’ve got two difficult years ahead to prepare for him.”
The Generals fell behind 8-2 early, but had separate 9-0 and 10-0 runs to take a 25-16 lead into the half. They pushed the lead to 13 early in the third quarter.
“We have battles like that every time we play. We both defend and usually the games are low scoring,” Hoak said. “I think we had a chance in the first half to kind of put them away and they made enough plays to hang in.”
Newburyport, which got a team-high 15 points from Colton Fontaine, hit Hamilton-Wenham with a 12-0 run that turned a 33-26 deficit into a 38-33 lead.
Foye made a three, finished a drive and hit a jumper with 52 seconds left to tie the game at 40-40.
“James is a player, and we just didn’t have enough plays from other kids,” Hoak said.
Hamilton-Wenham did get an emotional boost from the return of Campbell. The sophomore forward had missed every game this season after suffering a broken leg during the football season. He had just received clearance and played a couple of minutes in the fourth quarter.
“Unfortunately, he got cleared this afternoon. He had one practice with any contact,” Hoak said. “I couldn’t use him that much. I was hoping not to use him at all, or maybe run him at the end if we had a lead just to get his feet wet a little. It was a tough spot to come into; he just hasn’t had the practice. If we had gotten to the next round he would have got two or three practices under his belt and we probably would have been a different team next game.”
agateHed:Newburyport 43, Hamilton-Wenham 42
agate_lineQuarters:Hamilton-Wenham@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: Fusco 0-0-0, Kozlowski 1-0-3, Foye 9-2-23, Eagar 2-4-8, Lara 1-0-2, Campbell 0-0-0, Loeper 0-0-0, Kotch 3-0-6. @SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:Totals@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters: 16-6-42@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:.
agate_lineQuarters:Newburyport@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: Fontaine 6-3-15, Michaels 3-0-8, Canning 2-0-5, Guthro 4-1-9, Baribeault 2-0-6. @SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:Totals@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters: 17-4-43@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:.
agate_lineQuarters:Halftime@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: HW, 25-16,
agate_lineQuarters:3-pointers@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: HW, Foye 3, Kozlowski; N, Baribeault 3, Canning, Michaels.
agate_lineQuarters:Records@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: Hw, 10-9; N, 14-7