Nashoba Holds Off Fitchburg in a Thriller
BOLTON -- In a game that featured the return of former Nashoba Regional head coach Danny Ortiz, both teams played with intensity and passion in front of a raucous crowd.
In the end, it was the hosts who made the homecoming not a welcoming one for Ortiz as the Nashoba Regional boys’ basketball team held off a determined Fitchburg High squad by posting a hard-fought 49-46 Mid-Wach B league victory over Ortiz’ Red Raiders.
With the win, the Chieftains ran their record to 6-5 overall and 1-2 in league action, while Fitchburg fell to 2-8 overall and 1-2 in Mid-Wach B action.
“This is the second game in a row that we have played hard and competed for all four quarters,” Ortiz said. “It came down to a last-second shot for us to take the lead, but it wasn’t meant to be. We knew this was a tough place to play, so I am extremely proud of our guys. We have come a long way since the beginning of the year, and we are going to continue to compete for the rest of the season.”
With junior captain Jack Richard in foul trouble most of the night and only scoring four points, classmate Mitch Scanlon stepped up and poured in a game-high 15 points. Scanlon broke a 46-46 tie with 48 seconds left when he connected on a free throw. Scanlon added two more free throws with three seconds left to extend the Nashoba lead to three.
Fitchburg’s Cairo Jimenez (13 points) attempted a half-court shot at the buzzer that was short, sending the Nashoba faithful into celebration mode.
“Mitch (Scanlon) has really come along the last few games,” said Nashoba head coach Bryan Riley. “He has not only done it with his offense, but he has done it with his defense, as well.”
Things didn’t start out too hot for the hosts as the Chieftains didn’t connect on their first field goal until Scanlon knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:12 left in the first quarter. The Red Raiders held a 10-7 lead after eight minutes of action.
Nashoba took its first lead when John Duros (11 points) recorded a steal and turned it into a layup giving his team its first lead of the night at 22-21 with 1:50 left in the half. Nashoba had a 25-24 halftime lead.
Down the stretch, Fitchburg struggled to score as the Raiders scored just three points over the final four minutes with two of them coming from the charity stripe.
With Richard in foul trouble all night, it was Scanlon’s game-high 15 that paced Nashoba with Duros adding 11. Junior captain Andrew Ahlquist added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Chieftains.
“It was the next-man-up tonight,” Riley said. “Jack (Richard) had a tough night tonight and got in some foul trouble, but you must fight through adversity if you want to win games especially against a good team like Fitchburg. That was a big win for us in an emotional game.”