(Byfield MA) Governors Academy was playing their third game in four days…….and it showed.
“We looked like a young, tired team out there,” said Govs coach Michael Shelton afterwards.
But the Govs were able to pull themselves together enough to catch and hold off Groton, 79-71, on Saturday afternoon.
Will Batchelder led Governors (10-5) with twenty-eight points.
Nate Salander paced the Zebras (5-8) with twenty-five.
“We had two good days of practice and we executed the game plan,” said Groton coach Harold Francis. “Sometimes it doesn’t show on the scoreboard.”
Early on the scoreboard confirmed that the Zebras had come to play. They had a 27-22 lead with four minutes left in the first half after a Rami Hahami (14 points) layup.
The Govs followed with their best collection of offense in the entire game. They put twelve unanswered points in place and 2 ½ minutes later were ahead, 34-27.
Will Batchelder started the scoring streak with an end-to-end drive. Three’s by Drew Sachs (10 points) and Will followed. Holden Symonds (18 points) added a layup and John Gorgol made two free throws.
Coach Shelton mixed in a zone defense during his team’s run of nice offense.
“We thought that by changing the tempo we could force them to shoot from outside,” said Coach Shelton, “and steal a few possessions.”
The Zebras tallied the only points the rest of the half and trailed only 32-30.
In the second half the teams were tied twice early on before Governors took the lead for good.
The Govs broke from a 39-39 tie with a run of seven straight points. A jumper by Kalu Anya (10 points) started it. Drew Sachs then drained a three assisted by Will Batchelder. Prettiest play of the game may have been what happened next. A Groton drive to the hoop was blocked by 6-6 Kalu Anya. Kalu blocked the shot, secured the rebound and fed ahead to a breaking Will Batchelder for a layup.
This surge put Governors in front (46-39) with 12 ½ minutes left.
The scoring picked up for both teams, but Groton needed stops to get closer and on this afternoon they couldn’t do it.
Nate Salander had fourteen points, including two triples, during the final 12+ minutes. Caleb Coleman (13 points) added nine points including an off-balanced triple in the closing minute.
“We had to fight against adversity today,” said Will Batchelder afterwards. “We underestimated them and once they started playing good, we picked it up. At the end we all came together.”
Will made shots from long range (four 3’s) and was able to get to the basket.
“He’s a good kid,” said Coach Francis. “We knew about him and tried our best to deny him the ball. But you know what, good players find ways to make it happen and he did.”
Coach Shelton: “Will is an absolute gym rat. He’s a coach’s dream because he puts so much energy into the game of basketball. He puts in the work in the unseen hours like nobody I’ve ever seen in coaching. We’re looking for him to put the ball in the basket at a high level. When he wants to pass, he’s excellent at that as well.”
Will has scholarship offers from two D1 schools (George Mason & Brown) already with several others showing interest. Not bad for a sophomore!
Junior Nate Salander was impressive for Groton.
“We had a spy on him,” said Coach Shelton.
“Nate has been in our program for a long time,” said Coach Francis. “He has gotten better every year.”
Season so far?
Coach Francis: “It’s a season I’m proud of. Our guys play for each other. Our chemistry has been great. I do wish, however, that the wins and losses columns were a little different.”
Coach Shelton: “Our team is young and many of them are experiencing the NEPSAC for the first time. It’s a different speed and pace and the players are older and stronger. We have a ways to go to solidify ourselves for the post-season.”
Amesbury High School boys basketball had representatives in the crowd.
Groton’s Caleb Coleman has a football scholarship to Princeton.
Is it important? Who knows, but this is where a blogger has freedoms that newspaper writers don’t have. I work for Hoffman Driving School. In that capacity I have given Will Batchelder several driving lessons. We briefly discussed driving post-game because he will be taking his road test in February. “I’m a little better at this (basketball) than I am at driving,” he admitted. I won’t argue that!
Groton (71 points) Caleb Coleman 13, Rami Hahami 14, Henry Haskell 2, Matthew Kandel 10, Obinna Nwaokoro 7, Nate Salander 25.
Governors (79 points) Will Batchelder 28, Drew Sachs 10, Jason Mahoney 1, Peyton O’Leary 6, Liam Dunfree 2, Kalu Anya 10, John Gorgol 3, Holden Symonds 18.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)