MANCHESTER, NH – The third installment of the Queen City’s newest rivalry ended up being much like the first two, competitive to the end … and a Holy Family victory.
The Griffins, in taking their third game of the season over cross-town foe Derryfield School, also earned their first playoff victory in this, their first season competing on the NHIAA hardwood.
The 2-11 Cougars didn’t make it easy, however, clawing back back from a double-digit second half deficit to draw within three in the final minute of the game before Holy Family (11-2) clamped down to earn the 59-53 triumph at Derryfield’s Dennis Holland Court Monday night.
“I think their intensity was up even more than the last time,” said Holy Cross head coach Keith LaCasse of Derryfield’s effort. “They wanted to win. They were on their home court, and they just came out here and, you know, nobody wants their season to end, and you could see it in the way they played.”
That intensity, said Derryfield head coach Ed Meade, was by design.
“We definitely pressured them from start to finish,” he said. “Last game (a 61-55 setback on Feb. 15), it was kind of off and on we pressured them, and tonight it was the entire game, and I think it paid off for us late, just getting the game going at a faster pace.”
Still, despite Derryfield chipping away at a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to draw to within one possession in the final minute, Holy Family had enough left in the tank to hold off the aggressive hosts.
“We’ve been practicing a lot over the last few days and we tried some new plays that we were hoping Derryfield hadn’t seen to try to catch them off guard a little bit,” said LaCasse. “I think it might have worked a couple times, and maybe those two or three times was just enough to get us over the top where we needed to be.”
Junior guard Karl Yonkeu led the Griffins with 20 points, while his brother, center Yann Yonkeu netted 12 points and senior captain Tom Gillis contributed 12 to the final score.
“Even though we could have done better, our teammates … even our bench players, we did great and fought hard,” said Karl Yonkeu.
Holy Family now moves on to face Hinsdale Wednesday night.
“I expect us to fight really hard, because we’ve got a pretty solid team,” said Yonkeu. “We have great players. We’ve got height. And we’ve got lots of talent.”
LaCasse said he won’t set expectations for the rest of the playoffs, but acknowledged that win or lose, he and his players will continue to lean into the faith they share.
“All the glory is God’s, and if He wants us to be successful and He wants our team to win, then great, we’ll praise Him when we win, and if not, and we get knocked out, then we’ll praise Him when we don’t and we’ll wish the best to the team that does,” said LaCasse.
Derryfield’s season may be over, but Meade said the playoff experience was invaluable for his young crew.
“One of our goals this year was to establish our identity as far as what type of team we’re going to be,” he said. “And the type of team we want to be is a team that doesn’t give up, that keeps fighting, that has a lot of heart, and I think we’ve established that. I really do.”
With the in-city rivalry now firmly established following three tight games, LaCasse and Meade both said they look forward to future editions of the fledgling rivalry.
“I think they’re going to be one of our common opponents going forward, and we’ve played them in three very exciting games,” said Meade. “I’d like to win one every once in a awhile, but they’re a good team, and I wish them luck.”
Game notes: Derryfield senior Jaxon Snyder led the Cougars with 15 points, while freshman Jack Krasnof and sophomore Griffin Johnson, two of the team’s up-and-coming standouts, dropped 10 and nine, respectively. Juniors Kaven Fitch and Janai Cruz each contributed six points in the losing effort.
Holy Family’s Paul Lamontagne scored seven markers and Jack Vicinanzo provided six points to cap the scoring for the victors.