BEVERLY, Mass. --- After sinking five clutch overtime free throws in Friday’s semi-final win over No. 1 seed Brewster Academy, it was only fitting that Northfield-Mt. Hermon point guard Spike Albrecht be on the line when it mattered most in Sunday’s Class AAA Championship game at Endicott College.
After a back-and-forth battle that saw both teams exchange leads in the second half Albrecht put the finishing touches on a tournament MVP run as he calmly sank both free throws with 2.9 seconds on the clock to help lift NMH (29-5) to a 74-70 victory over St. Thomas More (Conn.). The win earned NMH their first NEPSAC Class AAA Championship.
“As soon as I missed the first one my teammates all said to get it back to him and he will make them,” said Albrecht, a native of Crown Point, Ind. “I was fortunate enough to get that second chance and make both of them.”
NMH led by as many as seven points, 67-60, with 4:23 remaining in the second half but the Chancellors would not give in as guards Torin Childs-Harris and Barrington Stevens both sank late 3-pointers to help cut the NMH lead to one possession with under a minute to go.
After an NMH turnover under their own basket Stevens had a chance to tie it with less than 10 seconds remaining in the game but his shot rimmed out resulting in a forced foul and Albrecht’s made free throws that sealed the victory for the Hoggers.
“They went on a nice second half run that was similar to Brewster the other night,” said Albrecht. “We needed to make plays, fight through, battle and we did.”
NMH received strong first half efforts from post players Ethan O'Day (eight points, six rebounds in first half) and Evan Cummins (nine points, four rebounds in first half) as they took a narrow 36-35 lead to the half.
Guard Rodney Sanders was the main weapon for St. Thomas More on the evening, as he scored 14 of his team-high 23 points in the first half with four made 3-pointers on the evening.
With O’Day in early second half foul trouble and Cummins contained to one second half point NMH relied on their guard play to carry the bulk of the offensive work load. After being held scoreless in the first half NMH guard Sam Donahue hit three late second half 3-pointers and fellow guard Anthony Dallier (9 points) also provided strong defense and rebounding from the guard position.
Stevens scored 16 points for St. Thomas More and Denzel Gregg also added eight points and four rebounds for the runners-up.
“This is a record breaking team in many ways,” said Carroll. “This is a group of guys who decided early on that they could make a run at this and the chemistry that this group had made them such a special group.”
Bench productivity: With O’Day in early second half foul trouble NMH received a lift from their bench, in particular forward Peter Miller, who scored seven points on the evening and provided strong post defense in the second half.
“We talked about it before the game that nobody is alone today,” said Carroll. “There is always somebody there to have your back and we talked about somebody being in foul trouble and somebody having to step up. It was not a surprise that they stepped up and responded and each guy has a very valuable piece of this win today.”
Albrecht’s MVP run: It was quite the week for the post graduate from Indiana. Albrecht scored a team-high 23 points to go along with six assists and two steals en route to being named tournament MVP.
“We knew we deserved this one but we had to go out there and earn it,” said Albrecht. “I am glad for my teammates, my classmates and all of our coaches.”
Albrecht also had a huge game in the semi-final upset win over Brewster as he scored 16 points and five of his team’s nine points in overtime.
Up Next: NMH and St. Thomas More will both take part in the eight team National Prep Championships beginning Tuesday at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Conn.
NMH will take on Hargrave Military Academy (Va) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday night, while St. Thomas More will take on Notre Dame Prep in another quarterfinal matchup at 2 p.m. on the same day.
“Tonight is a big win for us and it will give us a big lift of confidence heading into next week’s National Championships,” said Albrecht.