NEWPORT-The North Country Falcons finally put away visiting BFA St. Albans after halting several Bobwhite runs to take a 71-66 win at Falcon Gym. The last contest played during the 2011 calender year gave NCU their third triumph of the season, one more than they achieved all last winter.
BFA fought to the end, erasing a 16 point Falcon lead down to three with 8 seconds to go. Their attempted tying three pointer caromed off the back iron.
The Falcons came out from the opening tap with intensity, and it showed early as North Country raced to a 10-2 lead in the first quarter. Sophomore Tyler Jenne knocked down a long three from downtown and then fed teammate Taylor Prue for the off glass layup.
The Falcons, under third year head coach Brian Bonvechio, continued to play inspired defense throughout the opening quarter. NC overplayed the ball aggressively in BFA’s passing lanes and forced the Bobwhites out of any semblance of flow. That effort resulted in a 16-8 first quarter lead for the home team.
BFA got the rust off in the second and put together an 8-0 run midway through the stanza. They closed the gap behind 6’3” power forward Dylan Callen. The muscular Callen pounded the offensive glass for three low post buckets during BFA’s surge. After closing to within one, Taylor Prue stopped the run with a drop step move for the field goal. That ignited a 11-0 Falcon run .
Once NCU handled the Bobwhite press to mid court, their ball movement created two low post field goals and set up the smooth shooting Tyler Paxman for medium range jumpers. Paxman hit an off balance drive and knocked down a ten footer from the lane for two more.
Defensive pressure continued for NCU with senior Devon Martin doing a great job of hounding his man like a glove and then getting out on the 3 on 2 breaks either finishing or setting up teammates unselfishly.
The Falcons kept the home fans buzzing as Jenne unloaded a long three, just nipping the halftime buzzer. The Falcons were in charge with a 33-19 intermission lead.
NCU increased their lead to a high water mark at 37-21 midway through the third quarter.
Scorchingly hot Caleb Prue came alive with two crossover drives to the rack for buckets, and then he hit the fifteen foot fade away for good measure. He had plenty of assistance as Falcon football star Jacob Buckles showed he can contribute mightily to the hoop program as he worked the boards and boxed out hard. Senior Steve Raboin gave Coach Bonvechio good minutes, working extremely well defensively during his runs.
BFA was not done however. They attacked again with increased full court pressure. They cut the lead to ten but Devon Martin stepped up and drained a 23 foot long ball for the trifecta and the foul, creating a rare four point play.
Quiet offensively during the first half, junior guard Caleb Prue weaved his way through four BFA defenders, going coast to coast as the third quarter horn sounded leaving the Falcons up by ten at 49-39.
The contest had been a game of runs and BFA made several more in the last period. They closed the gap to 51-48, but Buckles got loose for the maroon and blue down low for the hard drive through traffic for two.
With the contest still close at 54-48, Caleb Prue hit a big three ball from the wing, extending the Falcon margin. Paxman continued to get off that sweet jumper as he drilled another twelve footer just inside the foul line.
Sophomore Tyler Jenne hit hard, working Taylor Prue inside, and with under three minutes to go NCU had a 65-53 pad.
It wasn’t over by a long shot. BFA hit two quick three pointers and after a steal and finish, the Bobwhite had closed to within three at 67-64 after an 11-2 run with 44 seconds left.
BFA made two foul shots and with 38 seconds left, it was 67-66 North Country.
The Falcons dug in defensively and forced a long attempt by BFA. They cleared the defensive rebound and the Bobwhites fouled Tyler Jenne with 14 seconds on the clock.
The calm collected sophomore hit both charity tosses for a 69-66 lead. BFA had one more chance as they attempted a long three from the right side. The Falcons boxed out and Devon Martin closed the deal with two more foul shots at the six second mark, clinching the Falcon’s third victory of the year.
Coach Bonvechio was pleased with his team’s overall performance,"With Hatin and Colton White out of the lineup, we didn’t have our usual low post presence. When we take care of the ball we’re in good shape. I thought we would end it when we were up 37-21, but I have to watch that because usually when you think it’s over, it’s not and it wasn’t tonight.
"We talk about being physically and mentally aggressive, and we were able to stop their runs each time and respond. Jenne had a great game and Tyler Paxman got off the snide offensively in a good performance. Josh Puckett gave us some good minutes. BFA is a good pressing team. We talked about beating the press and getting good shots. In the half-court we can get real good looks. We didn’t have our biggest postman tonight, but if we are patient we can get those looks. When we were patient in the fourth quarter we got open shots and that’s what we’re looking for. We played a lot of four guard sets at the end, and with good foul shooters we just want a layup or free throw off that offense late when we are ahead.”
The Falcons could easily be 5-1 with close losses to Missisquoi and BFA earlier. “We have beaten both in the rematches,” Bonvechio added. “Our kids are buying into the game plan and it’s worked for the most part.”
North Country moves to 3-0 on home turf this year. NCU was led by Caleb Prue with 20’ while Paxman added 14. Taylor Prue came up big inside for NCU. The senior blocked four shots and hauled down 11 boards for the Falcons. BFA goes to 2-3 and were led by Callen with 14 . Ben Thieckens added 13 for the BobWhites.