Boys’ basketball: By the skin of its teeth, Hopkinton hangs on to beat Gilford to extend win streak to six

Hopkinton forward Kristof Cauley gets fouled by Gilford forward Cooper Perkins as he goes up for a shot during the first half on Wednesday.

Hopkinton forward Kristof Cauley gets fouled by Gilford forward Cooper Perkins as he goes up for a shot during the first half on Wednesday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Gilford players surround Hopkinton center Abram Standefer during the first half on Wednesday, January 17, 2024.

Gilford players surround Hopkinton center Abram Standefer during the first half on Wednesday, January 17, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Hopkinton players surround Gilford forward Cooper Perkins as he goes up for a shot during the first half on Wednesday, January 17, 2024.

Hopkinton players surround Gilford forward Cooper Perkins as he goes up for a shot during the first half on Wednesday, January 17, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Hopkinton guard Colby Boissy goes up for a shot against Gilford forward Ben Normand during the first half on Wednesday, January 17, 2024.

Hopkinton guard Colby Boissy goes up for a shot against Gilford forward Ben Normand during the first half on Wednesday, January 17, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 01-18-2024 12:05 AM

Modified: 01-18-2024 11:14 AM


CONTOOCOOK – There was a point on Wednesday night where it looked like Hopkinton boys’ basketball was in deep trouble. Then it looked like the Hawks were in cruise control. And then they nearly blew it.

Hopkinton trailed defending champions Gilford, 7-2, with 5:07 remaining in the first quarter when Hawks’ head coach Matt Miller called a timeout. They proceeded to hold the Golden Eagles scoreless over the next 6:28 of game time, carving out a 26-13 lead by halftime and then a 40-25 lead entering the fourth quarter. But with 2:10 remaining in the game, Gilford (6-3) had stormed back to cut the Hopkinton advantage to just 46-41. 

The Hawks (7-3) held on, thanks in part to a big 3-pointer from sophomore Kristof Cauley with 1:20 remaining, but still made Miller sweat just a little in their 51-46 win.

“I thought we were brilliant for three-and-a-half quarters,” he said. “We had a game plan coming in defensively, and I think we executed that for four quarters. Offensively, we mostly executed it for four quarters, but self-inflicted wounds against a team of that caliber that knows how to do that and take care of business took advantage of that, and what could’ve been a 20-point game … turned into a five-point game.”

The win was Hopkinton’s sixth in a row after a 1-3 start to the season. 

Senior Abram Standefer guided the Hawks offense with 20 points, the only player to hit double figures. The 6-7 do-it-all center knocked down key shots and was immensely disruptive around the rim defensively.

“As far as high school basketball goes, he’s almost like that unicorn-type player,” Miller said. “And then you add in that he’s unselfish. He’s that type of guy that, he’s willing to make the team play.

“Tonight he had 20 points, and he was scoring when he needed to, but he’s also the first guy to recognize the right time to kick out. We had a game a week ago where he had four points, but he had like eight assists because it was just not his time to be the guy. He brings that perfect leader for us and that perfect energy all the time. We go as he goes and how he plays and wants to play, the team follows.”

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It wasn’t all perfect on Wednesday, though, as the near-collapse would suggest. Hopkinton allowed a number of offensive rebounds and struggled mightily from the free throw line, shooting just 5-for-19 (26%). 

Still, the Hawks have dug themselves out of a hole after the 1-3 start to position themselves well in the Division III standings. Hopkinton now sits in fourth with the win.

The biggest key to the turnaround, Miller said, has been the team figuring out its identity after losing six players from last year’s team.

“We found our identity defensively and made that our emphasis and our drive,” he said. “Everything that happens on the offensive end is because the defense does the work, and that’s kind of been our staple — make the play down here so we can get going in the other end. Finding our identity has really allowed us to catapult and figure ourselves out and hold on in close games against good teams.”

On the season, the Hawks are allowing just over 38 points per game.

“We’re doing a good job of putting ourselves back into the conversation that we kind of drifted out of,” Miller added. “I’m excited to see what the rest of the division has because I think it’s wide open, and I like the direction we’re trending right now.”