NASHUA – The adjustment was a simple one for Steve Lane to make.
All he had to tell his Nashua High School North boys basketball team to do was go to the basket, and during Tuesday’s game against Souhegan, the Titans did it.
North got 26 points from Javon Williams, including a 10-of-12 performance from the free throw line, while Ryan Gauthier had 18 points and Anthony Farmer added 12 as the Titans beat the Sabers 71-61 in the Chick-fil-A Holiday Tournament at Nashua South.
The win puts North in the winner’s bracket, where it will face Alvirne at 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
Williams had 17 of his points in the second half, going to the basket repeatedly, as North pulled away in the fourth quarter and held on for the win.
“That’s the strength of Javon’s game,” Lane said. “He’s not a great shooter, but I’ll tell you what, he’s as strong of a 5-11 or 6-foot guy you are going to meet. He’s athletic. If he gets to the rim consistently, he is going to score.”
And it wasn’t by accident that Williams was going to the rim.
“He was told to go to the basket,” Lane said. “It wasn’t anything he mysteriously figured out. In the first quarter, I think we took eight or nine 3s and at that point, I’d had it. The kids knew it.
“If we’re going to win, against a zone, we’re going to beat a team penetrating gaps and getting layups. We did. We made the adjustment of splitting gaps. We’re going to see a lot of zone this year because we’re not a great shooting team. We’re going to have to learn how to attack against it.”
Souhegan coach Mike Heaney thought the Titans had success because of their patience against his team’s zone, and their ability to get second and third opportunities.
“They were patient against our zone,” Heaney said. “They were quicker to those second and third shots. That’s supposed to be one of the strengths of a two-three zone, is limiting those second and third chances. We did a poor job blocking out. They were poised and ran their stuff. Defensively, they’re so quick to the ball and can take chances.”
Brandon Len led the Sabers, scoring 19 of his 25 points in the second half, and Zack Simmonds added 15 points for Souhegan, which trailed by two points heading into the fourth quarter.
But after a three-point play by Williams – he had six in the game – and a layup by Jake Mellin, North led by seven. Souhegan cut the lead to five, but Farmer hit back-to-back layups to put North up 53-44.
North increased the lead to 11 points with 5:07 left, but Souhegan hung around, thanks in part to a five-point play by Len. After hitting a 3, Len was fouled on the floor by Mellin, and since the Sabers were in the double bonus, the Souhegan point guard got two free throws, making them both. That made it a seven-point game, but the Sabers could get no closer.
“It’s a work in progress,” Lane said. “It’s maddening sometimes because I want things done perfectly. We are so close to putting all the things I want in together. We blow assignments, we don’t box out at times, we don’t know time and score and situation, but it’s coming. That’s the great thing about this Christmas tournament – we play three days in a row and I get to yell and scream like a lunatic. Come next Friday, when we play Timberlane, we’re ready to go.”
Souhegan moves into the loser’s bracket, where it will face rival Milford at 3 p.m. on Wednesday.