In their opening round Division IV state tournament game, Derryfield battled taller and more experienced Holy Family into the game’s final seconds before falling 59-53. “We had a good game plan, and kept the pressure on the whole game,” noted Coach Ed Meade who was disappointed by the loss, but pleased by the progress his young Cougars had made over the course of the season.
On the AWC hardwood, the Griffins scored first and took a 3-0 lead from the foul line. Thomas Ferdinando’s 3-pointer from the right wing tied the score, and apparently reminded the Griffin coach of the many other treys Thomas had scored in the teams’ two regular season games. So he adjusted the Griffins’ zone into a box-and-one defense, assigning his best defender to shadow Thomas.
On the other side, the Cougars were applying their pressure out of a tight man-to-man defense. And on offense, the Cougars were working the ball inside and scoring even against their taller opponents. Kaven Fitch caught the ball in the left corner, passed over to Jack Krasnof cutting up to the foul line from the right side. Jack faced the hoop, drew the Griffin defender, and bounce-passed to Griff Johnson on the low left box. Griff banked home a short jumper to tie it at 5-5 in the middle of the first quarter. Later Kaven hit a 3, and Griff scored again inside to set the score at 10-10 at the end of the period.
In the second, Griff scored twice more inside, and Jaxon Snyder hit a pair of foul shots, the visitors answered each score by the home team to stay even at 16-16, the sixth tie of the game. But then Holy Family pulled away by converting offensive rebounds and hitting their foul shots for a 28-18 lead at halftime.
Despite some strong driving scores by Jaxon, a 3-pointer from the top by Marshall Reilly and Janai Cruz’s deft pass inside to Charles Renvyle in the third quarter, Holy Family added a point to its halftime lead for a 44-33 advantage going into the fourth.
And the Griffins boosted that lead to 51-36 with 4:48 to play. Then the Cougars went on a 17-5 run in four minutes to pull within a 3-pointer of the Griffins. “We kept the pressure on, and forced some turnovers,” observed Coach Meade.
Jack started the run with a layup. Jaxon followed with another. Jack netted a jumper for the foul line, and Kaven swished a 3 from the left corner. Jack stole a Griffin pass and took it to the basket, and then Janai netted a 3 from the right wing. Jaxon’s driving layup cut the Griffin lead to 65-53 with 48 seconds to play. But in the frantic final seconds, Holy Family hit 3 of 4 foul shots to secure the win.
And the foul line difference was one of the factors that Coach Meade identified as enabling the Griffins to advance in the tournament. Holy Family made 17 or 28 foul shots, and Derryfield hit only 4 of 16.
Senior co-captain Jaxon led the Cougar scores with 12, and Jack added 10. Kaven hit 9, all from outside the arc. Griff worked hard inside for his 9. Janai, Thomas, Charles, Marshall and John McDevitt also scored illustrating a balance that had developed only late this season.
The Derryfield hoop future is bright, and Coach Meade is “absolutely” optimistic. He pointed out that the team only loses seniors Jaxon and Charles. And this year’s leading scorers were eighth-grader Thomas and freshman Jack. Coach Meade was also pleased at the way the team handled early season adversity. “We didn’t give up,” he explained, “and we established our identity as a team that plays with intensity and heart.” Those attributes were evident in late season wins over Bishop Brady and Epping, and two tough losses to a solid Holy Family five.