PORTLAND—Zack Pomerleau and Hunter Colby knocked down 12 apiece to lead the No. 5 Patriots easily past the No. 4 Phoenix at the Expo on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 17. Pomerleau proved an x-factor for the team, whose usual heavy-hitters attracted more defense, and Colby – unsurprisingly – provided power inside. 57-34 the final.
“[Spruce has] three guards that can shoot really, really well,” said G-NG head coach Ryan Deschenes. “So we keyed on that all week, against their offense, what they like to do – we just tried to take away what they like to do. And that’s what [the boys] did; they prepared really well.”
“We planned a lot for their offense,” Pomerleau said. “We knew they’re a high-tempo team; they ran their half-court offense good. So we just practiced their half-court offense, and watched film, and we had our swingers run the offense through practice, and we knew what was coming when they were doing it…We played probably our best defensive game of the year.”
Zac Brady won the tip for G-NG, though both teams wasted their first possession. The Patriots then got on the scoreboard – and stylishly too: Standout John Martin shoveled from one low angle out to Josiah Rottari, at the top of the arc; Rottari relayed over to Nick Pelletier, at the other low angle. Pelletier ducked a couple steps forward, into the paint, and nailed a pretty jumper for 2-0.
Off and running, G-NG piled up points and more points, all while defending Spruce like champs. Brady added one from the line, Colby and Martin grabbed defensive rebounds – the Patriots plied their interior size to rebound strongly all afternoon – and Colby turned a huge stuff on Phoenix Kayle Stewart, a stuff that shortly led to another bucket.
“We knew we were bigger than them,” Deschenes said of G-NG’s rebounding efforts. “Size in the program is no secret. With Hunter and Ryan Lachance, they’ve got strength, and Zac’s got length, so we wanted to make sure it was always one shot and out with [Spruce], and try to get some rhythm inside. We did a nice job with that.”
Spruce never found the inside of the hoop until nigh upon six minutes had elapsed; by that time G-NG were up 7-0. Martin and Pomerleau next drained back-to-back threes for 13-2. Tate Walton responded with a Spruce three to end the quarter, but the Patriots remained unfazed.
“We’ve preached all year about the inside-out balance and the extra pass,” Deschenes said. “And John’s our guy – he’s definitely our best player – but we always have a fifth person that can make an open shot…It was good to see that balance today, in this setting.”
“Everyone knows John Martin,” Pomerleau said, asked about the Patriots’ offensive spread. “All the teams will gameplan for him, and they’ll gameplan for our big men, because we have good big men. But [Coach] tells us that, ‘Work the ball around, get these extra passes, get other people shots,’ because we know other people can score. That’s what happened today: John was giving the ball around, he wasn’t looking to score; he was getting the ball to his teammates and we were hitting down shots.”
“We don’t play selfish basketball,” Pomerleau said. “No one really cares about points on this team; we just care about winning.”
G-NG remained unfazed even when Spruce’s Mason Shunk kicked off the second with a three. The Patriots responded with a spectacular run, holding the Phoenix to just two more before the break arrived, all while adding 13 of their own. Lachance assisted Colby on a beneath-the-basket two, Oliver Grant and Josiah Rottari nailed threes, Rottari added two more from the line and Pomerleau dropped in another three.
G-NG enjoy shooting the three, and they’re mighty good at it. But it’s hardly their only skill, and know better than to rely on it.
“Coach said, in all of our practices, if we get the ball in the paint, get it to our big men and kick it out, then we’ll have threes all day,” Pomerleau said. “He tells us not to live and die by the three, but our team likes to shoot threes.”
The Phoenix performed better in the third than they had in either the first or the second – but the Patriots still managed to increase their lead, if only by one. Pelletier began the push with a pair of frees; Colby followed him with two more. Colby then added a two and Rottari a three before the team slipped into a bit of a sloppy stretch, committing several unforced turnovers.
“We came out of the half, we were too content,” Pomerleau said. “We had a lead, and we were playing the scoreboard. And coach called timeout and got on us, ‘Don’t play the scoreboard; keep playing hard.’ We had our Captains get us in our huddle, and let us roll through.”
G-NG slipped back into their groove soon enough. Pomerleau assisted Brady on a two and Lachance hashed two more, and the Patriots closed out the third on top 39-22.
“The more we score, the more we get them out of the flow of what they want to do,” Deschenes said. “We keyed on that transition, just tried to deny that outlet so they can’t get that easy pass up ahead, and deny that reversal. They caught a few open looks, and when they were open, they made them, because they’re really good shooters, but for the most part, we made them work extremely hard to run their offense.”
“We’ve been working out a lot,” Pomerleau said. “We’ve been trying to get our athleticism up, because we struggled with that at the beginning of the year, struggled playing against athletic teams. And we’ve been focused a lot on getting back on defense, because when we play teams like Cape – they love to run.”
G-NG logged their biggest output in the fourth. Pomerleau opened the stretch with his third three – G-NG finished with seven threes, all told – and soon enough contributed a two, following an inbounds pass by Pelletier. Pomerleau, Colby and Martin, all tallied further points as the remainder of the game unfolded, leading to a runaway, 57-34 triumph.
“We knew they were going to bring pressure the whole second half,” Pomerleau said, “because that’s what they had to do to get back in this game. But we planned for that pressure and we kept running our stuff perfectly, and we were getting looks down at the other end.”
Beyond Pomerleau’s 12 and Colby’s 12, Martin finished with 11. Rottari had eight, Pelletier six, Grant and Brady three each and Lachance two.
No. 5 G-NG, now 12-7, matches up with No. 1 Wells in the semifinals on Thursday the 22nd.
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.
Nick Pelletier clashes midair with a pair of Spruce defenders.
Zack Pomerleau hashed 12 for the Patriots in their huge win over the Phoenix.
Ryan Lachance battles a handful of Spruce opponents.
Oliver Grant shovels a pass around a Spruce opponent.
Hunter Colby lofts a ball up, underneath for G-NG.
John Martin added 11 for the Patriots on Saturday.
Zac Brady zips up-court, on the attack for G-NG.
Wyatt Edwards volleys a shot, vying in close.