Monday, March 13, 2017

Hanover Uses Defense to Down Watertown in D3 EMass Final

By Nate Weitzer (@Nweitzer7)

BOSTON – In the final games of the season on the biggest stages in the state, the difference between winning and losing can simply come down to making or missing shots.

The Division 3 South champion Hanover Indians (22-3) executed a daring gambit in a state semifinal matchup against North champion Watertown (21-3) at TD Garden. In going to a 2-3 zone late in the first quarter, they essentially dared the Raiders to beat them with shooting, and Watertown could not buy a bucket during a lengthy drought in the second half.

With their opponents struggling to score, the Indians didn’t miss their opportunity, as they went on a steady 13-0 run to snare a 37-28 lead and set up a 46-40 victory to advance to the state finals. 

“All those kids can shoot and I’ve seen them shoot well, it’s just a different venue and we were lucky enough to catch [The Raiders] on an off shooting night,” recognized Hanover head coach Nick Hannigan.

“That fourth quarter felt like it took an hour, but we got stops when we needed to and we made free throws down the stretch. It’s a simple game when you break it down: You defend, you get rebounds and you’re in good shape and we did all three today.”

Both teams struggled to find an offensive rhythm early as Watertown took an 18-15 lead on the strength of junior center John Korte’s 14 first-half points. The skilled 6-foot-5 Korte (21 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks) continued to give Hanover’s defense problems, but after falling behind 28-24 late in the third quarter, the Indians put on the defensive clamps. 

Watertown would not score over the next seven and a half minutes of game time, allowing Hanover to slowly open a nine-point lead, 37-28, five minutes into the fourth quarter.

Patriot League MVP Matt Delahunt (16 points, 9 rebounds) and point guard John Landry (14 points) led the Indians throughout the afternoon and it was Delahunt’s corner three-pointer that seemed to seal it by putting Hanover up 40-30 with just over three minutes remaining. 

“We didn’t really have a lead for much of the game, so once we got that lead we wanted to make sure we kept it,” Delahunt said. “Our defense was great in the fourth quarter and we started to find it offensively.”

Down the stretch, football standout Patrick Flynn (6 points, 14 rebounds) kept the Raiders off the offensive glass while Landry and Delahunt knocked down their free throws, yet Flynn may not have been on the floor late if the Indians had stuck to their man-to-man defense. 

“[Matt] Korte is really a tough matchup for Patrick [Flynn] and when he got an early foul we made the switch [to zone] to try and protect his second foul,” said Hannigan. “We didn’t really gamble. We have a lot of confidence in our zone for a reason and we wanted to keep [Watertown] on the perimeter taking contested threes versus lay-ups.”

For Watertown head coach Stephen Harrington, it was tough to watch his players fail to capitalize against a zone defense.

“To their credit, [The Indians] got out on us and they forced us to shoot a little quicker than some of the kids are accustomed to,” said Harrington. “[Facing a zone] is one of the things we were prepare for, but worried about, because we’re a decent shooting team but not a great shooting team.”

The Raiders also did not make a substitution until the final two minutes of play and fatigue could have played a factor in their inability to hit shots late. 

“That’s how we’ve been rolling the whole year,” Harrington asserted. “We have a good set five and if those guys get tired or in foul trouble we go to the next guy. It didn’t come up tonight, but all in all just an outstanding team we played and I think they’re going to win the next game.”

Hanover advances to face Western Mass. champion Palmer in the D3 State Final Saturday, March 18 in Springfield. 

This is the first state finals appearance for Hanover’s basketball program, but the Indians are fresh off a D3 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium and have six players that played on that team, including University of New Hampshire commit Pat Flynn. 

“They’re winners,” Hannigan said of his players. “Our senior leadership has been outstanding all year and six of these kids played at Gillette and won a Super Bowl. Now they’re taking that championship experience and putting it on the court.”

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