HB suffers setback to Milford

HOLLIS – Hollis Brookline hosted a boys basketball game on Friday night. But perhaps more accurately, it hosted a statement being made by the Milford Spartans to the rest of Division II.

Despite their proximity near the top of the standings, the Spartans dominated HB, easily earning a 71-50 victory.

The Cavaliers got out to an early lead, but the Spartans erased that advantage just before the end of the first quarter. From that point, there was no looking back.

By halftime, Milford’s advantage had grown to 18 points, and it continued near that level for the rest of the evening.

Although the game’s tempo slowed in the second half, it didn’t really make any impact on the Spartans’ momentum. Then again, it wasn’t clear that anything truly could.

Throughout the game, Milford’s offense varied its approach and continually found success. The Spartans recorded 10 3-pointers, including five from Ryan Banuskevich and three from Nick Gutterson in the second quarter alone, most of which came from clean looks after multiple passes around the perimeter.

When the Cavaliers tried to shut down the Spartans’ long-range attack, Milford responded with repeated scores in the paint, most notably Shane Winnett’s floating jumper while driving to the hoop that closed out the first half.

Plus, the Spartans found several baskets in transition after turnovers, with Banuskevich alone recording five steals.

If there’s any silver lining for potential Spartan opponents later in the season, it’s that they came into this contest with a particular focus based on geographic rivalry, the teams’ records, and statements from various experts expecting Milford to finally lose its first game this season.

“We knew from the beginning of the season that this was going to be our biggest game. We were preparing for this, practicing,” Banuskevich said. “All of our shots were falling, it was huge for us.”

With the continuation of their perfect record, there is no question that the 2016-17 Milford Spartans are an excellent team. It’s also a question whether any team in the state can beat them when they have a night like the one they had on Friday.

“Oh yeah, (other teams can beat us), because they can have on nights too,” Milford head coach Dan Murray said. “But it’s tough because we have a variety of scorers.”

Hollis Brookline will get another chance to take down the Spartans on the road to close out the season on March 2. But for now, Hollis Brookline head coach Mike Soucy is focused on dissecting this moment.

“They’re better than us right now,” Soucy said. “It’s a case where they came out really hard and we didn’t match that and that was the game. We have to do a lot of things a lot better. From a coaching standpoint, from a playing standpoint, we have to do a better job.”

Banuskevich led the Spartans with 26 points, Evan Ryan added 18 and Winnett added 12. Stephen Giaconia recorded 17 points for the Cavaliers, followed by Scott VanCoughnett’s 10.

With the win, Milford climbs to 10-0 on the season, with contests against Bishop Brady (6-2), Goffstown (6-4) and Timberlane (6-5) next week. Hollis Brookline falls to 8-2 and will host Souhegan (2-8) on Tuesday, followed by a trip to Windham (3-6) on Friday.