Last-second 3-pointer in OT sends Mascoma boys to semifinal

Mascoma High's Brayden Pierce dribbles against White Mountains foe Noah Covell during the NHIAA Division III teams' playoff quarterfinal game on Feb. 16, 2024, in West Canaan, N.H. Mascoma won, 62-59, in overtime on a Pierce shot at the buzzer. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Mascoma High's Brayden Pierce dribbles against White Mountains foe Noah Covell during the NHIAA Division III teams' playoff quarterfinal game on Feb. 16, 2024, in West Canaan, N.H. Mascoma won, 62-59, in overtime on a Pierce shot at the buzzer. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes

Mascoma High's James Thomas (11) leaps for the opening jump ball against White Mountains' Avery Woodburn during the NHIAA Division III teams' playoff quarterfinal meeting on Feb. 16, 2024, in West Canaan, N.H. Mascoma won, 62-47, in overtime. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Mascoma High's James Thomas (11) leaps for the opening jump ball against White Mountains' Avery Woodburn during the NHIAA Division III teams' playoff quarterfinal meeting on Feb. 16, 2024, in West Canaan, N.H. Mascoma won, 62-47, in overtime. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes

Mascoma High's James Thomas, right, pursues White Mountains' Trevor Armstrong during the NHIAA Division III teams' playoff quarterfinal meeting on Feb. 16, 2024, in West Canaan, N.H. Mascoma won, 62-59, in overtime. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Mascoma High's James Thomas, right, pursues White Mountains' Trevor Armstrong during the NHIAA Division III teams' playoff quarterfinal meeting on Feb. 16, 2024, in West Canaan, N.H. Mascoma won, 62-59, in overtime. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes

Mascoma High's Bryce Ballou (2) guards White Mountains' Aiden Whipple during the NHIAA Division III teams' playoff quarterfinal on Feb. 16, 2024, in West Canaan, N.H. Mascoma won in overtime, 62-59. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Mascoma High's Bryce Ballou (2) guards White Mountains' Aiden Whipple during the NHIAA Division III teams' playoff quarterfinal on Feb. 16, 2024, in West Canaan, N.H. Mascoma won in overtime, 62-59. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes

Mascoma High boys basketball fans cheer after a Royals basket during an NHIAA Division III playoff quarterfinal meeting with White Mountains. Mascoma won, 62-59, in overtime. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Mascoma High boys basketball fans cheer after a Royals basket during an NHIAA Division III playoff quarterfinal meeting with White Mountains. Mascoma won, 62-59, in overtime. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes

Mascoma High's Tanner Moulton dribbles past White Mountains' Eli Beaulieu during the NHIAA Division III teams' playoff quarterfinal clash on Feb. 16, 2024, in West Canaan, N.H. Mascoma won in overtime, 62-59. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Mascoma High's Tanner Moulton dribbles past White Mountains' Eli Beaulieu during the NHIAA Division III teams' playoff quarterfinal clash on Feb. 16, 2024, in West Canaan, N.H. Mascoma won in overtime, 62-59. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes

By TRIS WYKES

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 02-17-2024 8:45 PM

Modified: 02-17-2024 9:25 PM


WEST CANAAN - The question flashed through Tyler-Jay Mardin’s mind as he hurriedly scanned the court Friday night at Mascoma High’s Edward P. Kehoe Gymnasium.

“How is our best shooter that wide open?”

There was no time to ponder. Mardin and the third-seeded Royals boys basketball team were tied with two seconds remaining in a first overtime against sixth-seeded White Mountains during an NHIAA Division III playoff quarterfinal. So Mardin heaved the ball to half court and hoped for the best.

Receiving the pass was Brayden Pierce, already the scorer of 20 points before a packed house. The sophomore caught the ball, dribbled forward once and floated a high shot towards the basket.

“There was no time and nobody farther up the court,” Pierce said, adding that he could feel his heart pounding but that his mind was blank. “The ball felt like it was moving slo-mo, but I felt like it was going in.”

In it went, creating pandemonium and leaving Pierce at the bottom of an enormous dogpile formed by Mascoma players and students in the center circle, celebrating a 62-59 win. Community members wandered the hardwood, exchanging high-fives and hugs as the Mountaineers retrieved their gear and drifted away.

“T.J.’s been hucking outlet passes like that all season,” said fifth-year Mascoma coach Silas Ayres, whose team advanced to the semifinals for the third consecutive year and reached last winter’s finals. “He found the guy we wanted to shoot the basketball, that’s for sure.”

Said Pierce: “Definitely the best moment of my life.”

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Mascoma (17-1), which won at White Mountains by 13 points during the teams’ regular-season finale, now plays second-seeded St. Thomas (17-1) at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday at Bow High.

The Royals’ lone loss came by a point to top-seeded Conant (18-1), which suffered its setback to fourth-seeded Kearsarge during its last regular-season contest. Conant and Kearsarge (17-3) get a rematch in Tuesday’s other semifinal.

Friday’s game was tight from the start, with ties after a quarter and at halftime and Mascoma up, 39-38, following the third stanza. White Mountains starting guard Trevor Armstrong, a senior, fouled out with three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter but 6-foot-5 classmate Avery Woodburn continued to carry the visitors.

Woodburn led the Mountaineers with 21 points and never became rattled despite the Royals’ close and physical attention. Comfortable in the open court as well as in the paint, he blocked several shots with emphasis and was a rebounding machine.

“He’s a big man who can draw fouls and shoot and get to the rim,” Pierce said.

It appeared White Mountains had extended the game to a second overtime when Georgie Whipple drove the lane’s right side and laid the ball in with two seconds remaining in the first extra session. Ayres thought about calling time out, but could sense the Mountaineers scrambling to find their defensive assignments and elected to stand pat.

“We rolled the dice,” the coach said. “We do drills all season where we shoot from deep to extend our range. That was such a fun high school basketball game.”

Pierce led Mascoma with 23 points while James Thomas had 12, Aidan Smith had nine and Tanner Moulton had eight.

“Games like that are what you play basketball for,” Mardin said. “They’re the ones you talk about when you point at the (championship) banners years later.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.