Stephen Burns lit up the third quarter for Gorham on Tuesday night, Feb. 2, spearheading a comeback vs. visiting Cheverus. Burns tallied 14 of the Rams’ 17 points in the stretch, giving his team a narrow edge they would build on in the fourth. 48-40 the final.
“[Cheverus] is very dangerous,” said Gorham head coach Mark Karter. “On any given night, they can really light it up. Defensively, we kind of held them in check, for the most part.”
Gorham improves to 13-4 on the result. Cheverus slips to 9-8.
The first quarter – the entire first half, in fact – belonged to the Stags. Gorham held a meager 8-6 lead after one, and Sam Kilborn added a two at the start of the second to make it 10-6, but from there Cheverus seized control, shutting down the Rams’ attack while juicing their own. Jesse Matthews added six in the stretch and Jack Casale three. A last-second Jackson Fotter drive resulted in two more for Gorham, but the Stags still stood on top 21-15 at the break.
“We were really kind of passive in the first half,” said Karter.
Afterward, the Rams – and Burns in particular – found a powerful groove. Cheverus kicked off the third with two Matthews frees, but then Burns drained a three, followed by a two, followed by another three.
Burns next turned a great steal, though his rushing lay-up didn’t fall. Billy Ruby, tracking behind him, leapt high and latched onto the rim, and the ball soon bounced down through the net, but he hung too long on the rim for the officials’ liking (though not for the fans’). They waved off the basket, but Burns had drawn a foul on his initial approach and drained one of his two frees, so the whole spectacle kind of worked out in the Rams’ favor anyway.
Kilborn then took to the line and added a free, tying the score at 25-all. Immediately after that, on Cheverus’s ensuing possession, Fotter stole the ball back for the Rams, charged up-court and dished to Ruby for two and the lead. The Stags followed up with…an offensive foul and a timeout. The momentum was turning against them.
The Rams – meaning, mostly Burns – continued to light the proverbial lamp through the remainder of the third. By the end of the quarter, they’d cut the Stags’ lead to just two: 34-32.
“We regrouped at halftime and got our guys a little more aggressive,” said Karter. “We made a lot better decisions in the second half.”
Karter elaborated: “We played with a lot more confidence – Stephen Burns hit a couple of jump shots to get us going. He’s a very good shooter and he was a little timid in the first half. Sometimes it’s tough on senior night to come out and play a great game. Once we settled in, we played much better.”
Karter praised a handful of his other players as well.
“Billy Ruby and Sam Kilborn did a nice job; Jackson Fotter hit a couple of big shots there, too. We’re the type of a team that doesn’t really have one person that’s going to go off. We have, hopefully, a good balance.”
A Logan Drouin three-point play to begin the fourth pushed Gorham ahead, 35-34. Fotter drained a down-towner after that, and the Rams never looked back. They had to carefully guard their lead, sure, but they never gave it up.
Cheverus had no choice but to start fouling around the one-minute mark, though it availed them naught. Kilborn closed the scoring by grabbing a defensive rebound and dishing long to Burns, whose lay-up again failed to fall. Luckily, Kilborn was right behind him for another rebound, offensive this time, and the 48-40 final.
Karter described the Rams’ defensive strategy: “We tried to really limit Casale; he’s a very good shooter – they have a lot of very good shooters. And their guards are tough to match up against, because they’re so tall. Overall, defensively, we did a pretty good job. To hold a team like that to 40 points is pretty good.
“We’ve been in a lot of close games throughout the year, so we’ve had a little experience playing those tough, rock-fight games down to the end. It was nice to see us pull it out.”
Burns’s 14 in the third was actually his entire output for the game – and also the Rams’ team high. Kilborn added 11 besides, and Fotter and Drouin seven each.
Of special note: Karter recently amassed his 400th win as a high school coach.
Gorham’s last game of the season is a road matchup at Windham on Friday the 5th.
Gorham’s Stephen Burns aims for a layup, having escaped the Stags’ Tobias Ephron.Gorham’s Billy Ruby tangles in midair with a Stags opponent.Gorham’s Jackson Fotter takes off for the basket, surrounded by Stags.Stags defenders crowd big Sam Kilborn as he inches toward the net.Ram Kyle King heads for the net, splitting a pair of Stags defenders.Logan Drouin shakes off a pair of Stags defenders in pursuit of two points for the Rams.