WLC headed back to final

PLYMOUTH – The
Wilton-Lyndeborough High School boys basketball team is picking the right time to perfect certain skills.

Take the Warriors defense, for example. In Monday’s 56-42 semifinal win over No. 1 Littleton at Plymouth State University, fourth-seeded WLC held the Crusaders to just five points over the final 11 minutes of the first half.

And then there’s the Warriors’ free throw shooting. When the offense went cold in the second half, going over six minutes without a field goal, WLC (17-4) was able to hold off Littleton (19-2) thanks to its free throw shooting.

In a close game, it proved to be key, as WLC made 11 of 13 free throws down the stretch and turned a five-point game into another double-digit win over a team that had double digit victories.

The win sends the Warriors to the Division IV championship game, which will be held at noon Saturday at PSU, for the first time since 2008. There, WLC will face the defending champion, No. 3 Epping, which knocked off No. 2 Derryfield in the other semifinal, and former head coach Sean Young.

“Once again, our defense saved us,” WLC coach Ken Garnham said. “Ragged offense with a lot of turnovers, but defense saved us. We ran delay very nicely and forced them to foul. You’ve got to make big foul shots when it counts and we did. We converted. They fouled us and we made shots.”

Jordan Litts led the Warriors with 28 points despite just 9 of 22 shooting from the field. The senior was 8 of 9 at the line and added nine rebounds and seven steals. Ty Carrier chipped in with nine points and Trey Carrier added eight as WLC went 19 of 23 from the line, outscoring the Crusaders by 14 points (5 of 11).

“The last few games, the team we’ve been playing comes out and hits some shots and I think our nervousness lets them get those shots in the very beginning,” Litts said. “We just get motivated to stop them. Every single game, it’s been the same stretch and its pure motivation to win, I think.”

WLC found itself down 12-8 with 3:02 left in the opening quarter, but forced Littleton into four turnovers in the final three minutes to help turn that deficit into a 13-12 lead.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Casey Lane and Ty Carrier gave WLC a 21-14 lead and forced Littleton to take a timeout with 7:06 left in the half. The Crusaders got a basket out of the timeout, but scored just one point in the rest second and trailed WLC 25-17 at halftime.

The Warriors went up 10 points, 30-20, on a 3-pointer by Duncan Rae early in the third, but the Crusaders went on a 9-0 run to pull within a point with 4:02 to go until the end of the quarter. Trey Carrier and Rae made 3 of 4 free throws to keep WLC ahead before Litts hit two 3s, including a buzzer beater, to give the Warriors a 39-33 lead going into the fourth.

Those 3s were part of a 7-for-21 shooting performance for WLC in the second half, but the Warriors made up for it from the foul line.

“Every once in a while, you’re going to have a bad shooting game, and coach said that in four games in the playoffs, there’s going to be a bad shooting game,” Litts said. “We practice free throws in between every running drill we do. That was a big thing there.”

Littleton got within five points on a layup by Ethan Ellingwood (team-high 11 points) with 4:27 to play, but couldn’t get any closer.

“We managed to hang and at the end, made some big shots,” Garnham said. “We showed poise and character.”