BARRE — Clamping down on senior center Drew Drageset was a prime directive for Mount St. Joseph in preparing for its state title game against Lake Region.
The Mounties might not have counted on it being such a collaborative effort but it all worked out in their 49-44 victory in Saturday’s Division II finale at Barre Auditorium.
Five players chipped in to hold Drageset to two field goals and four of them saved the Mounties’ momentum while Leo Carranza, who came out guarding Drageset, spent more than nine minutes of the first half on the bench. MSJ fans might have held their breath when the resourceful senior went to the pine with his second foul in the first period but while he was on the bench MSJ expanded its 10-9 lead to 21-17, then built it to 37-22 when he returned.
Seniors Keaton Wright-Chapman and Claude Thebaud, sophomore Chance Passmore and freshman Jake Williams bodied up on the Rangers’ pivot man, who wound up getting the bulk of his 19 points on 15-of-20 free throw shooting.
“I was so proud of them; you can’t be anything else but happy for them honestly because it shows how much pride they have playing defense,” said Carranza, who has been a factor in MSJ fortunes since his days as a sixth man two years ago. “You can’t ask for anything more.”
Before drawing his second foul Carranza was the reason MSJ got out to a good start. His 3 from the right corner jump-started the offense and but for a left toe on the line would have had another. At the other end he had a solo steal of an interior pass and tipped another that Logan Starling picked off. Those were two of MSJ’s four steals in the first half while the Lakers were trying to feed their agile, athletic big man.
“I was so proud of Keegan Chadburn, Keaton Wright-Chapman, Claude Thebaud and especially Jacob Williams,” said MSJ coach Chris Charbonneau. “Jacob has come so far from Day One. And that’s the reason we put in this extra time is so we can cut down this net.
“We really focused on stopping Drageset; we basically we won’t want to give him anything easy. I thought we did a great job on him even though he went to the foul line.”
Logan Montilla led the way with 20 points as MSJ (19-5) won its first crown since 2012 and denied the No. 3, 16-6 Rangers their first D-II title.
In addition to denying Drageset touches inside, the Mounties got a blocked shot apiece from Carranza, Williams and Chadburn and two from Montilla, a 5-foot-10 guard. One of his blocks put the ball about 12 feet up the wall behind the basket.
While the Rangers did a good job preventing MSJ from breaking free with its running game MSJ made the Rangers try to beat them from the outside. They were 1-for-10 from 3-point range where the Mounties were 7-for-15.
A big reason for MSJ’s success was sophomore Maddox Traynor, who made his first three 3-point attempts and finished with a big 17 points. He gave MSJ three straight baskets bridging the first and second periods to pump up the lead to 19-11.
“I never question that kid showing up for big games because he always shows up for big games,” said Charbonneau. “He carried us for awhile and he’s a sophomore so he’s got two more years left here.”
MSJ played the Rangers to stalemate in interior scoring at 12-12 while the Rangers made 19 free throws to MSJ’s 14.
Parker Perron was second in scoring for Lake Region with 10 points.
MSJ led 13-11 after a period, 23-17 at the half and 34-22 through three periods. The lead topped out at 37-22 when Chadburn struck for a trey. Drageset’s six free throws were the Rangers’ only scoring in the second period.
The Rangers showed plenty of grit in the fourth period to slice a 37-22 deficit to 43-41, with Isaiah Braithwaite’s trey making it a one-possession game. At one point they had a 10-0 run going. But the fourth period was Montilla’s time to shine at the line and his 11-for-14 shooting in that period sustained MSJ through some anxious final minutes.
Montilla, Carranza, Wright-Chapman Thebaud are MSJ’s only seniors so they return three starters and plenty of bench for next season.
“I’m so excited for our sophomore group and our juniors and our freshmen,” said the 24-year-old Charbonneau after leading MSJ to the title in his first year.
“I think we’re going to have a good few years here.”