BOW – The packed house was on its feet as the home team was clawing back in the final minutes. That’s when Pembroke Academy’s Jack Lehoullier found Jake Sherman open behind the 3-point arc.
“I definitely look forward to that shot and I think my teammates believe I can make that shot, too,” Sherman said. “I love taking that, it always gets me hyped up and it gets the team going.”
The Spartans got going as Sherman released it, and they bounced off their bench as the 3-ball splashed in. The make quieted the crowd, stopped Bow’s roll and led to a 61-51 win for Pembroke (8-3) on Friday night.
“That was the dagger,” PA coach Rich Otis said.
Sherman (game-high 22 points) may have sunk the dagger, but Pembroke’s defense was the difference. The Spartans used a 2-2-1 half-court trap to take Bow (4-6) out of its rhythm and force 24 turnovers.
“We preach defense in practice every day, and tonight we got a lot of stops with that 2-2-1, and they really struggled with it,” Otis said.
The Falcons couldn’t disagree.
“It’s experience,” Bow coach Frank Moreno said. “The game is still fast for us and you can see the game slows down for some of the guys on the other team. They’re used to handling pressure and our guys aren’t quite there yet. I think as the game slows down they’re going to feel more comfortable in these kinds of environments.”
The environment was a win for the Falcons. The bleachers on both sides of the Bow High gym were pulled out (which hasn’t happened for a regular-season game in probably 10 years) and bubbling with fans for both schools.
“It was a goal we had all season to get to the point where we were having people fill the gym,” Moreno said. “They haven’t opened up that other side of the gym for a while, so it was cool. I think we’re slowly turning things around.”
After opening the season 1-4, the young Falcons (two sophomores and a freshman in the starting lineup) had won three of four heading into Friday night’s game. Bow carried that momentum in the first quarter against PA, staying tight with the Spartans for most of the frame by crashing the glass and getting six points each from their two starting sophomores – Ben Harris (10 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks) and Steven Guerrette (12 points, six rebuonds).
“(Harris) has been a huge surprise. He’s a great baseball player and I think he’s growing into a great basketball player,” Moreno said. “He and Steven Guerrette are probably the two hardest working kids in the program.”
A layup from Guerrette with 1:52 left in the first quarter pulled Bow to within one, 14-13, but the Spartans scored the last four points of the frame to take an 18-13 lead after one.
Sherman kept that run going to start the second as he drained a pull-up jumper and a 3 in the first minute of the quarter, pushing Pembroke’s lead to 10. The Falcons cut it to five, 25-20, on a Harris layup with 3:30 left in the second, but again PA owned the final minutes of the quarter and brought a 30-22 lead into halftime.
After scoring 15 in the first half, Sherman was quiet in the third, but Noah Cummings took over the scoring duties in spectacular fashion. The junior point guard showed off his handles and finishing touch on a pair of highlight drives and converted a conventional fast-break layup to score six of his 15 points in the third and help the Spartans carry a 42-34 lead into the fourth.
Sean Menard (nine points) stepped into the scoring role to start the final quarter and upped Pembroke’s lead to 46-34 before Bow made its late push. The Falcons went on a 10-4 run highlighted by five points from senior Ryan Andrews (17 points) and the full house was roaring when a driving layup from Ben Guertin pulled Bow to within 50-44 with 2:54 left.
The Falcons had a chance to get even closer, but a deep 3 from Andrews rimmed out and Cummings converted a tough layup on the other end for a little more breathing room. And then Sherman delivered the 3-point dagger to seal the deal.
It was the fourth straight win for the Spartans, who have carved out a place for themselves at the top of the Division II standings.
“I think the guys are buying in,” Otis said. “It isn’t always about scoring, we preach every day about doing all the little things it takes to win games, and they’re doing it. But we’ve also got some guys who can play a little bit, and that always helps.”