(Hamilton) “I don’t think we could play any better,” was what I overheard afterwards from the Pingree School coaching staff.
And who on hand at Pingree School could conclude otherwise.
The Highlanders (19-7) did everything right to decisively defeat Winchendon, 75-49, on a rainy Wednesday afternoon at Pingree in front of a noisy crowd.
The victory moves Pingree on to the New England Class C semifinals on Friday. They’ll face either Wheeler or Kent’s Hill.
The home team was missing starter Alonzo Jackson because the freshman had the misfortune of tearing his ACL in practice the day before. With a teammate down, the rest of the Pingree team seemed determined to step up. Their passing, shooting, rebounding, and defending were exceptional all game long.
Winchendon (12-7) hung around for the first ten minutes, trailing only 22-20, thanks to fifteen points by Malcolm Smith. The Pingree scoring, however, never let up and they led by twelve (38-26) at the half.
The Highlanders started the second half with an 11-2 segment, covering 3 ½ minutes, to stretch their advantage to, 49-28. Winch did well the rest of the way just to keep a rolling Pingree squad from only adding five points to their lead by game‘s end.
Justin Assad (26), Kyle Lentini (17), Connor Reardon (12), and Johnny Spears (12) all reached double figures for the Highlanders.
Malcolm Smith (22) and Mustafa Ozgumus (10) reached double figures for the visitors.
Anyone on hand for the first ten minutes wouldn’t have dreamed that Pingree would win by twenty-six points.
Blame Malcolm Smith. The 6-3 junior had fifteen points in those first ten minutes including a jam and a three long ones and Winchendon was definitely in contention (22-20).
But the rest of the way? Pingree just kept on putting up points but the tightened Highlander defense kept Winchendon from doing the same. Switching freshman Justin Assad to cover Malcolm Smith limited the Winch star to seven points over the last twenty-two minutes.
Justin had fifteen points in the first half and Kyle Lentini had eleven. The Pingree lead was twelve (38-26) at the half.
The Highlanders put the game out of reach quickly in the second half. Two Johnny Spears’ free throws, a Reese Fulmer three, a Justin Assad jump shot, and two Connor Reardon layups were the points in an 11-2 run. This collection of offense gave Pingree a twenty-one point spread (49-28) and the suspense about the winner ended.
I have seen Pingree play a few times and seen them look good on occasion. They were collectively “good” in this one, in my opinion.
The reason? The team put out a little extra effort in all areas to make up for the loss of freshman Alonzo Jackson. Pingree was also helped by having plenty of student support in the stands.
Justin Assad had an eye-catching twenty-six points. In Pingree’s half-court offense he could get any shot he wanted. He was also quick enough in the open floor to fill a passing lane on Highlander fastbreaks. The freshman had crowd-pleasing jams in both halves.
This was the best game I’ve seen Connor Reardon play. The junior had plenty of rebounds and didn’t hesitate to take the ball to the basket.
Best player? Had to be Johnny Spears. The blazing speed and the in-your-face defense on the other team’s ball handler are to be seen in every game he plays. The difference today? He played more like Rajon Rondo. How? He seemed determined to set up teammates rather than looking for his own scoring chances. He set up teammates off the dribble, on the fly, as well as long-range and nearby. It was pretty to watch and a big reason why the Pingree offense looked so good all game long.
Pingree’s defense tightened considerably after the first ten minutes. Winchendon settled into perimeter offense and on this day the long ones weren’t falling.
Reese Fulmer took over as 5th starter and hit two three’s.
I knew that I was at a private school game when the student section was allowed to have noisemakers. Believe me, those noisemakers were hard to miss!
(All of the pictures above and below enlarge considerably if you click on them.)