WINDHAM – Consider the Pelham High boys hoop team, at 15-2, playoff ready.
“We’ve still got one more tough one left (at 12-4 Plymouth Thursday), but yeah, we’re ready,” said coach Matt Regan after his Pythons ran upset-minded Windham off its own floor with an amazing 33-10 closing barrage.
“This is a rivalry, and they played us tough, but we finally found our defense, our good, hard, up-on-you defense in the fourth quarter. The guys were held accountable, and they really dug in.”
The final seven minutes might have been the best Pelham sustained run since the Roman/Hojlo state title days.
“Like coach says, when we play our defense, we’re unstoppable,” said senior Jake Vaiknoras. “This team is explosive. We’ve got so many options, and you saw that out there tonight.”
Windham dictated nearly the entire night and held a 59-54 lead at that point.
But Pelham found two more gears and the Jags stumbled with no answer.
And on a night where Vaiknoras poured in 27 and spectacular sophomore Keith Brown led all with 32, closing the deal was a five-man job.
Vaiknoras kick-started the run with a three and Zach Conway made a pair of free throws to knot things. Brown banked home a runner, but Windham’s Cole Gill temporarily slowed the blood flow with his fourth bomb of the night.
In a blink, Joe Slattery knocked in a pull-up, a turnover led to a Vaiknoras traditional 3-point play and a ferocious Brown block led to a Conway stickback, making it 68-62 Pelham.
Maybe, the fifth Python on the floor felt a bit left out, because senior Ryan Frank got himself into the act, burying a wing-3 that pretty much put things away at 74-64 with three minutes left.
“We’re going to score points, and you just don’t know where they’re going to come from,” said Vaiknoras, who started slow with only five first-half points.
One player the Pythons can continue to count on is the amazing “Bruiser” Brown, who buried four 3-pointers and simply couldn’t be stopped on his way to the hoop.
“You know a big rivalry like this, the adrenaline was flowing, right from the start,” said Brown, who has pumped his season scoring average up to 18.3 points a game. “We like to play the game at that pace.”
Brown played over 28 minutes and Vaiknoras went the distance in this one, never leaving the floor.
“Our practices are crazy. You go all-out in practice or you run,” said Brown. “That’s how we’re so prepared to play at this pace.”
If you are looking ahead to next week’s Division 2 playoff draw, stamp the 9-7 Windham Jags as a postseason sleeper.
Again, for three-plus quarters, the Jags held Pelham under wraps and held control.
Tenacious Tucker Lippold paced Windham with 16 points, but the Jags were balanced. Gill, with four threes, and Andrew Lowman, with some blue-collar work down low, added 12 apiece.
Windham finishes the regular season this week at No. 1 Pembroke and then at home Friday vs. 10-6 Hanover.
Pelham 87, Windham 69
Pelham (87): Joe Slattery 3 3-4 9, Jake Vaiknoras 8 8-10 27, Ryan Frank 3 0-0 8, Zach Conway 2 2-4 6, Mike Pelletier 1 0-0 2, Keith Brown 11 6-7 32, Ryan Cloutier 1 0-0 3. Totals 29 19-25 87
Windham (69): David Carbonello 3 0-0 6, Tyler Masone 4 0-0 9, Joe Frake 3 0-0 6, Andrew Lowman 5 2-4 12, Tucker Lippold 6 3-6 16, Kurtis Jolicoeur 4 0-0 8, Cole Gill 4 0-0 12. Totals 29 5-10 69
3-pointers: P — Vaiknoras 3, Frank 2, Brown 4, Cloutier; W — Masone, Lippold, Gill 4
Pelham (15-2): 13 18 20 36 — 87
Windham (9-7): 18 17 20 14 — 69