BOXFORD — Kellen Furse’s second half performance on Tuesday night against Masconomet was phenomenal. The senior captain scored 13 of Manchester Essex’s 15 third-quarter points to bring the Hornets within one as the game entered the fourth quarter.
Furse then proceeded to drop another 10 points in the final frame, bringing his point total to 36, and helping seal an eight-point road victory, 63-55, for his squad.
Much of Furse’s production came from hard-nosed drives to the rack that resulted in layups or free-throw opportunities and that physicality is what defines the senior’s game.
“[Playing physical] is my game,” said Furse emphatically. “I get all my points from driving down the lane. I hit the weight room every day and in a league where size isn’t as big of a factor, it’s a lot easier to drive and attack the rim.”
The victory was a big one for the visiting Hornets, as it got them back to their winning ways after suffering their first loss of the season to Hamilton-Wenham, 76-75 in OT, in the game prior. According to Furse, the team attributed that loss to a lack of focus on defense. Despite all of his individual offensive prowess being put on display in this win, he emphasized how important defense was to him, his coaches, and his teammates.
“Defense is supposed to be a huge part of our game and we kind of let that slack in our last game against Hamilton-Wenham and we lost because of our defense,” explained Furse. “[Coach St. Laurent] really got on us about it and so the last two practices have been on the line, defensive slides, and all that. Tonight, [defense] was huge.”
Furse was correct when he said that defense was a huge part of Manchester Essex’s victory over Masco. It was early in the fourth quarter when the Chieftains went up three on the Hornets, holding a 46-43 lead. Yet, that’s when the visitors dug in and focused on their defensive efforts. The result was a 16-3 run in which Masco only managed to score on one layup and a single free-throw. Sophomore guard AJ Pallazola converted two different and-1’s for Manchester and Furse nailed seven free-throws down the stretch to separate from Masco and firmly take control of a game that had been a back-and-forth affair up until that point.
At the end of the first quarter, Manchester Essex held a four-point (14-10) lead over the hosts. By the time halftime rolled around, Masco had retaken the lead with the score sitting at 31-28. The third quarter was much of the same, as the Hornets whittled down their three-point deficit to a one-point margin and setting the stage for their game-sealing fourth quarter.
After the game, Manchester-Essex coach, Tim St. Laurent, talked about the undeniable effort that his team gives each game and which drove their defensive stands in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s victory.
“The one thing that everyone who watches us can see is that our effort is there,” said St. Laurent. “It wasn’t pretty, but sometimes good teams win ugly games and that’s what we did tonight.”
To their credit, Masco turned in a great team effort of their own. The scoring was balanced; junior Harry Osgood finished with 11 points, junior Spencer Butterworth turned in 10 points of his own, and both Michael Lepore, a junior, and Ben Dillon, a sophomore, scored eight points each. The defense, too, was gritty with Lepore, Osgood, and junior Alex Gillespie, among others, spearheading a 3-2 zone that forced Manchester Essex into taking more long-range twos and threes than they were probably comfortable with.
In the end, however, it was a combination of missed shots, too many fouls, and Furse’s heroic scoring efforts that sank Masco’s chance at winning. Manchester Essex played much of the second and fourth quarter in the bonus as Masco tallied their seventh fouls with 5:59 and 7:03, respectively, left in each quarter. It’s tough to build upon a lead or come back from a deficit when each foul you give results in the opportunity for points for the opposing team.
Manchester Essex 63, Masconomet 55
at Masconomet Regional High School
Masconomet 10 21 12 9 — 55
Manchester Essex 14 14 15 20 — 63
Masconomet: Lepore 3-1-8; Swenson 0-0-0; Weismann 2-0-5; Butterworth 3-4-10; Ben Dillon 4-0-8; Brian Dillon 2-0-5; Osgood 5-0-11; Gallagher 2-0-4; Walker 2-0-4; Gillespie 0-0-0.
Manchester Essex: Pallazola 4-3-11; Arntsen 0-0-0; Paccone 2-0-4; Shaw 1-3-6; K. Furse 11-12-36; Taliaferro 0-0-0; A. Furse 0-0-0; Wood 2-2-6.
3-pointers: Weismann, Brian Dillon, Osgood; K. Furse 2, Shaw.