By Jean LeBlanc
BERLIN — Sophomore forward Roger Belanger scored 10 of his game-high 24 points in a decisive 16-2 third quarter, helping the Berlin Unified team to a 38-18 win over Gilford in the second round of the NHIAA Unified basketball tournament in Berlin on Thursday.
The No. 3 Mountaineers (7-0) advance to the quarterfinals and will host No. 6 Keene (8-1) on Monday. Keene has won the state championship all three seasons the tournament has been held. The Blackbirds beat Berlin last season in the finals.
Thursday's loss ended the season for the No. 14 Gilford Golden Eagles, which finished with a 6-3 record.
The Berlin team had not played a game since Feb. 6, and had been working hard to stay in game shape with practices and scrimmages. The locals got off to a good start with a 12-4 run in the first quarter, led by Belanger's eight points. Junior Austin White chipped in with two buckets for the Mountaineers, while the Gilford baskets were scored by James Teunessen and Riley Glover.
In the second quarter, the visitors made things interesting by outscoring the home team 6-4 to make it a 16-10 contest at halftime. Both teams had plenty of shots. The Eagles liked to shoot from the three-point line, while the Mounties took their attempts from near the paint. The Berlin shots just didn't seem to want to fall. In the second quarter, the Belanger brothers each had a basket, while Dani Lou Cote, Teunessen, and Jacob Colby had the buckets for the Golden Eagles.
Coach Karen Turgeon used all of her time at the intermission to go over what she wanted her cagers to do in the second half. That input worked as the Mountaineers came out of the locker room for the third quarter and outscored their guests 16-2 to lead 32-12. The Mounties ran their fast break to perfection, stealing passes and moving the ball down the floor. Roger Belanger netted five hoops, brother Randy had one, and Mountie sniper, Julia Gray, knocked down a couple of 10-foot jumpers that brought the home town crowd to its feet in approval. Ethan Warren had the lone hoop for the Eagles.
Things slowed down greatly in the fourth quarter with both teams, getting three hoops each to make the final score 38-18. Roger Belanger added two more hoops to his growing total before taking a break. Mountie Jerry Healey added the other bucket. Jonah Nimirowski, Andrew Nelson and Joe Sawyer had the Gilford baskets.
On Monday (5 p.m.), in the BHS gymnasium, it will be a rematch of last year's championship game.
The hard work of players Healey, Gray, Alex Poirier, the Belanger brothers, White, Christopher Trask, and Autumn Johnson all have another year of experience under their belts to try and dethrone the three-time champs. The hardworking partners of Julie Downs, Kali Thomas, Tiffany Poirier, Jordyn Prouty, and Matt and Jon Demers have helped to get the team to where it is and look ready to challenge the champions.
Berlin 12 04 16 06 38
Gilford 04 06 02 06 18