Liam's dream game helps NYA hand Richmond first loss

Sport: Basketball (boys)

Posted: January 30th, 2008 by Tom Nolette

Liam's dream game helps NYA hand Richmond first loss
By Michael Hoffer
Special to MBR

YARMOUTH- The Richmond Bobcats traveled south Wednesday night with a perfect record and a very big addition to their lineup in tow.

A couple hours later, they headed home with their first regular season setback since 2006.

The North Yarmouth Academy Panthers, coming off a pair of devastating losses, rose to the occasion, getting 31 points from senior Liam Anderson, including a three-point play which broke a tie with 1:50 to go, and held on for a stirring 59-51 Heal Points-rich victory.

"It's a big win," Panthers' first-year coach Ed Rogers said. "I told the kids it takes time for things to come together. We've lost a couple heartbreakers lately. We knew these guys hadn't lost a regular season game in two years. We knew where they were in Heal Points. We knew how big it was. We played team basketball. When we got behind, we'd been faltering, but tonight we didn't do that."

"They were ready to play," Richmond coach Paul Lancaster said. "They knew we're a point-worthy team. We just couldn't get it done. They're a quality program. Even though we lost tonight, I think the kids would say this was a fun game to play in."

The Bobcats entered Wednesday's contest on a roll, having downed all of their foes this season, including rival Valley last week. Even better, senior standout Marc Zaharchuk is back in action after missing a month with a broken arm.

NYA, meanwhile, was in the midst of a four-game skid, which included last-second losses at St. Dom's (42-41) and Gould (47-46).

Wednesday, the Panthers got off to a great start.

Anderson scored eight points in 50 seconds to give his team an early 8-2 lead. NYA senior Taylor Gorman then had a pair of layups, senior Pak Lul took a pass from Gorman and made a layup and junior Andrew Gendron hit a short jumper, giving the Panthers a 16-2 lead halfway through the opening period.

Richmond soon settled down, but layups from Lul and Gorman gave NYA a 20-6 lead. Bobcats' senior Brandon Lancaster made a pair of foul shots and after Gendron hit another jumper, Lancaster made a bank shot with time winding down to get Richmond within 12, 22-10, at quarter's end.

The Bobcats closed the gap in the second period.

Zaharchuk got things started by draining a 3-pointer. After the Panthers got a floater from Anderson, Lancaster scored on a rebound putback to make it 24-15. Zaharchuk followed with a three-point play and Richmond was within six, 24-18. Anderson and Lancaster then traded hoops and Anderson and Zaharchuk did the same to make it a 28-22 contest. Bobcats' senior Sam Carter made one of two foul shots with 1:45 to play in the half to make it a 28-23 game, but NYA senior Alex Pilitsis made a foul shot and Lul scored on a layup on an inbounds pass to push the lead back to eight points, 31-23. With 36.2 seconds to play in the half, Bobcats' sophomore Eric Murrin made a layup and the Panthers' lead was just six, 31-25, at the break.

Richmond went off on a 9-2 run to start the third period to take its lone lead of the game.

Senior Walter Miller got things started with a 3-pointer. After Anderson made a layup for NYA, Murrin scored on a leaner and Miller followed with another 3-ball, tying the game at 33-33. With 4:41 to play in the third, Carter made the second of two foul shots to put the Bobcats ahead, 34-33.

Considering all the bad bounces that have gone their way in recent days, no one would have been too surprised if the Panthers buckled, but instead they embarked on a 7-0 run to end the quarter.

Gendron put the hosts back on top with a jumper. Anderson followed with a layup after an offensive rebound, then converted a three-point play to make it 40-34 heading for the fourth.

A layup by Anderson 13 seconds into the final stanza pushed the lead to eight, 42-34, but a layup by Miller ended the 9-0 run and Richmond's 5 minute, 19 second drought. Lul then fed Gorman for a layup and Anderson scored on a tip to make it a 10-point game, 46-36, with 5:38 to play.

It was then the Bobcats turn to surge.

Murrin hit back-to-back 3-pointers and suddenly it was 46-42 with 4:53 to go. After Gendron made one of two free throws, Zaharchuk hit a layup and Lancaster buried a 3-ball, tying the score at 47-47 with 2:35 remaining.

Fourteen seconds later, Gendron went to the line for a one-and-one, but missed the front end. Richmond then pounded the ball in to Zaharchuk, but his short hook was just off the mark and Gorman rebounded. At the other end, Lul delivered the ball to Anderson and he made a layup while being fouled by Lancaster. Anderson then added the free throw, completing the three-point play and putting NYA ahead to stay, 50-47.

After Miller missed a 3 for the Bobcats, Anderson calmly buried one for NYA, making it 53-47 with just over a minute to go. Carter was then short on a 3-point attempt and Gendron was fouled after grabbing the rebound. He calmly sank both free throws, pushing the lead to eight, 55-47, with just 48.1 seconds left.

Murrin would score on a layup after a steal with 26 seconds left, but eight seconds later, Gendron made two more foul shots. Murrin made two free throws of his own with 9.7 seconds to play, but with 7.6 seconds left, Gendron made two more foul shots, accounting for the 59-51 final score.

"It feels really good coming off four losses," Anderson said. "It's been tough. We had buzzer-beater losses, but we pulled together. This is huge. I don't think Richmond's lost in two seasons. It says a lot about us and a lot about them. It was a tough game. It feels good to get a win.

"It was important to get off to a great start especially against this team. They started hitting some 3's, but we slowed it down and played our game."

Richmond is undefeated no more.

"We always have a tough time with NYA," coach Lancaster said. "They're well coached. Their kids play hard. We had to step it up a little more than normal. We came out a little flat and they came out fired up. We got down and dug a big hole and got all the way back, but we had to change gears. They got big rebounds. Things went their way. When we had to make big plays we didn't and they did. You have to give them credit. They played an excellent game.

"I don't know if the loss isn't better for the coach than it is for the kids. As a human being, I feel the expectations and pressure of beating undefeated more than the kids do. The kids will go home and be a little down, but tomorrow's another day. I won't sleep very much tonight, but that's coaching. The kids keep things in perspective. Adults tend to overblow things. I don't feel so bad about the loss. It was a hard fought game. We could have laid down and these kids battled back. That shows me the mark of a champion."

Richmond was paced by 14 points apiece from Lancaster and Murrin. Zaharchuk finished with 10, Miller added eight and Carter had five.

The Bobcats remain atop the Western D Heals and return to action Friday at home versus Rangeley.

For the Panthers, Anderson's 31 points easily led all scorers, but he had company. NYA also got 13 points from Gendron, eight from Gorman, six from Lul and one from Pilitsis, along with steady ball control from junior Calvin Chicoine.

"The key for Liam was he's had a lot of good halves, but we've stressed him playing intense for 32 minutes," Rogers said. "He wanted to put us on his back and he did that. He's an outstanding player."

"We knew we had to win this one," Anderson added. "I wanted the ball in my hands. Everyone played well. It was a team effort. We had great guard play, Andrew and Calvin."

NYA improved to 9-6 with the victory, but is in the midst of a brutal stretch. The Panthers (ninth in the Western C Heals) just beat the finest team in Western D. Friday, they host one of the best in Western B, crosstown rival Yarmouth, and Tuesday they go to Western C power Traip. NYA wraps up the regular season a week from Friday at Gray-New Gloucester.

"We've got Yarmouth and Traip coming up," Anderson said. "Those are tough games."

Based on Wednesday night's showing, the Panthers are up for the challenge.

"We've learned a lot," Rogers said. "We played South Portland and Thornton in the preseason and lost handily, but we learned a lot. We learned when we got beat handily by Freeport. If we can have our energy and play as hard as we can, we can compete. We feel much better tonight than we did the last four games.

"Our goal was to leave the court having worked as hard as we could. We wanted it more. We play the number one team in D, B, and C three games in a row. If we could go 3-0, that would shake the whole thing up."