Manchester goes down 81-42 in season finale –
Story and photo by Mark Carpenter –
Sometimes you just run into a buzz saw. If you need further proof of that, just have a word with head coach Joey Darnell and his Manchester Greyhounds varsity basketball squad. After upsetting Western Latham in their Division IV sectional tournament opener, the Hounds took the court at Northwest High School on Tuesday, Feb. 28, looking for their first sectional championship since 2012. Their opponent was a good one, the Portsmouth Clay Panthers, who had lost only two games the entire season and sported a starting lineup that included three 1,000 point scorers.
With three scorers that prolific in the lineup, it might be expected that the Panthers can light up the scoreboard with some pretty impressive offensive efforts and that was most definitely the case on Tuesday night. Any defense that the Greyhounds put forth turned out to be futile as the Panthers seemed to score from everywhere at will, shooting the proverbial lights out and winning their third consecutive sectional title, rolling past the Greyhounds by a final score of 81-42.
“We knew they were very good and we knew we would have to play a very good game to have a chance,” said Coach Darnell. “They came out and just punched us in the mouth and we didn’t respond after that. They shot the ball well and they are so balanced, they are going to make some noise.”
It didn’t take long in this sectional title battle for the outcome to become a “no doubter” as the Panthers dominated from the opening tip. On a night where they placed four players in double figures and fired in six three-pointers, Portsmouth Clay scored 12 of the game’s first 13 points to make an immediate statement.
The first Manchester basket of the game came at the 4:09 mark of the first quarter by senior Bryan Young, but that was followed by the Panthers scoring eight straight that included treys from Nate Hinze and Cole Gilliland, as they grabbed an early and commanding 20-3 advantage. Off the bench, the Hounds’ Gage Lucas drilled a three-pointer, but a bucket by Hinze and two more by flashy point guard Cameron King left the Panthers on top 26-6 after the first quarter.
On their first possession of the second stanza, the Hounds got a three-pointer from Kaulen Cox and a later Cox free throw plus a Young basket gave a small glimmer of hope to the blue and gold, but they still trailed 29-12. The Hounds had their opportunities to close the gap, but 10 missed shots in the paint in the first half did nothing to make that any easier. The Hounds cut the lead to 14 on a Jamie Combs three and a steal and layup from Cox, but that was as close as they were to get. Clay finished the first half, one in which they shot 55% from the field, on a 7-2 run and led 42-21 at the break.
A three-pointer by Gilliland got the Panthers off and running in the third quarter as they continued to extend their already ballooning lead. A 6-0 Clay run midway through the third made it 56-26 as the game began to turn into one where the Manchester seniors realized that the end was near and began to step up a gear as Young and fellow senior Colton Thornburg each scored a pair of baskets in the third period, but the Panthers matched everything the Hounds put on the board and led 64-34 after three quarters.
To add insult to injury, Clay scored the first eight points of the fourth period, a run stopped by a Thornburg basket with five minutes to play. Of course, after Thornburg’s score, the Panthers reeled off seven straight, another run broken by a Thornburg bucket but it was far too little, far too late for the Hounds. The Manchester season ended with baskets by Young and Tanner Utterback, but it was the Panthers cutting down the nets and celebrating a sectional crown, with the final score of 81-42.
In their final games in a Greyhound uniform, Colton Thornburg and Bryan Young were the Hounds’ only double figure scorers, getting 13 and 12 respectively. Manchester also bids goodbye to senior Kaulen Cox, who scored six, and senior Chase Darnell, who was held scoreless.
“I can’t say enough about Colton,” said Coach Darnell. “He’s a fighter and will not quit no matter what odds you may put against him. I’ve stuck with Kaulen the whole way, another great kid who has a heart of gold and he can sure shoot it when he gets hot.”
“Bryan is a workhorse and I am not sure he really ever knew his true potential. I couldn’t have been more proud of Chase after that Western game where he hit six free throws down the stretch to seal it for us. They are all special to me and I have no doubt they will all be successful no matter what path they choose.”
Clay, who moves on to district play at the Convo, was led by 21 points from Gilliland, 18 from King, 16 from Hinze, and 10 from Anthony Williams.
The Greyhounds finish their 2016-17 campaign with a final record of 12 wins and 12 losses in Coach Darnell’s first season, an improvement over the 2015-16 season.
“We played well the second half of the season after a rough start with one of the hardest schedules around,” added Coach Darnell.
6 15 13 8 –42
26 16 22 17 –81
Manchester (42): Lucas 1 0-0 3, Utterback 1 0-0 2, Darnell 0 0-2 0, Combs 2 1-2 6, Thornburg 5 3-4 13, Young 5 2-6 12, Cox 2 1-2 6, Team 16 7-16 42.
Clay (81): Cline 1 1-2 4, Riffe 3 2-2 8, Gilliland 8 3-4 21, Wellman 1 0-0 2, king 6 5-6 18, Pack 1 0-0 2, Williams 5 0-0 10, Hinze 7 0-0 16, Team 32 11-14 81.
Manchester (3): Lucas 1, Combs 1, Cox 1
Clay (6): Cline 1, Gilliland 2, King 1, Hinze 2