Slow start dooms Cavaliers in loss

The Hollis Brookline High School boys basketball team was doing the things coach Mike Soucy wanted Monday night against Pelham.

The Cavaliers were getting inside looks at the basket, but they weren’t finishing enough of those shots. Defensively, they were forcing the Pythons to settle for shots from the outside, but Pelham was making them, including seven 3-pointers in the first half.

The result was a game that quickly got away from HB in the first quarter, and again in the fourth, as Pelham picked up a 69-53 win on the road.

Jake Vaiknoras led all scorers with 25 points for the Pythons (9-2 in Division II), shooting 7 of 9 from the free throw line, and Keith Brown added 23 points, including 12 of 14 at the line and three 3-pointers.

“They are a good shooting team and the made shots,” Soucy said. “I think they probably shot a higher percentage than we did, and we got most of our stuff inside and they got most of theirs from the perimeter. That’s the story of the game. We couldn’t finish.”

Shea Whalen led the Cavs (7-3) with 16 points, 12 of which came in the second quarter, while Logan Blake added 13 points and Daniel Bentall had 12.

HB fell behind early, as Pelham opened the game with a couple of 3s to take an 8-2 lead.

The Cavs cut the lead down to one, but the Pythons answered with a 10-0 run, taking their first double-digit lead on a 3 by Vaiknoras.

Pelham led 25-13 going into the second quarter when the Cavs started to consistently get the ball inside to Whalen. The HB center scored 10 straight points for the Cavs as part of a 12-4 run that got the lead down to seven, 36-29.

“(Whalen) is a beast,” Pelham coach Matt Regan said. “He’s definitely the best big kid we’ve seen all year.”

A 3-pointer by Brown in the final seconds gave Pelham a 10-point lead, 42-32, at halftime, and the Pythons worked on defense to keep Whalen away from the basket. It worked, as he had just two points in the second before fouling out.

“We had a long conversation about what we wanted to do and needed to, and I thought we did a good job in the second half of forcing him to take further shots,” Regan said. “Any time you can keep a guy further away who is that size, it’s always good.”

HB was able to keep the deficit around 10 points for most of the third quarter, but Pelham led 53-41 going into the fourth and opened the final quarter with an 6-1 run to lead by 17.

“They moved the ball really well and we were a little slow on our rotations and they got some open looks,” Soucy said. “We had plenty of chances to make a bit of a run at them, but just missed some opportunities. We got caught up on a couple of defensive rotations and you can’t do that when you’re trying to battle back against a good team that is playing at a high level.”