PLYMOUTH, N.H. — Ed Tenney liked his team’s chances before its Division IV semifinal against top-ranked Derryfield on March 10.
Mostly, because few else agreed.
The Sunapee boys basketball team endured two regular-season losses at the hands of the oversized and highly-touted Cougars (19-2), but its third-year coach always insisted the outcome would be different if his speedy group could get another shot on the big floor at Plymouth State University.
Tenney’s fourth-ranked Lakers (18-3) got that shot in their first semifinal since 2002, and made the most of it as they held off a charging Derryfield squad to clinch a nine-point victory. Sunapee will take on third-ranked Epping in the championship game March 15 at noon.
“In talking to guys around the league, people respect our team a lot — but they respect Derryfield more,” said Tenney, after his team’s 32-point victory over No. 12 Wilton-Lyndeborough in the quarterfinals. “There’s not a single person I’ve heard that’s picking us in that game. I think that’s a good position for us to be in.”
Sunapee led by 14 points heading into the fourth quarter, but the Cougars clawed their way back to within 64-61 with less than one minute remaining. Derryfield big man Roger Larrivee led his team’s late charge, scoring 13 of his game-high 17 points over the game’s final eight minutes.
The Lakers didn’t let things get any closer, however, capitalizing on free throws from Jesse Stiffler and Brandon Fleming down the stretch to clinch their first trip to the title game since 1963. Matt Tenney led Sunapee scorers with 16 points, followed by Alex Gioldassis (13 points), Stiffler (12 points), Issaiah Chappell (12 points) and James Fitzgerald (nine points).
Up next for Sunapee will be an Epping team it faced twice during the regular season. The Lakers fell by five points on the road in their season opener Dec. 18, and won by 23 points at home Feb. 6 when Epping was without All-State forward Jimmy Stanley due to a suspension. Stanley returned to the team after the loss, and the Blue Devils have won eight straight including its 67-56 victory over No. 2 Littleton in its semifinal matchup.