Brewster Academy beats Tilton School at Spalding Hoophall Classic

Justin Felisko | Sunday, January 15, 2012 8:38pm

In a highly anticipated prep school rematch, Brewster Academy defeats Tilton 57-53 at the Spalding Hoophall Classic.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — There was plenty of talk heading into Sunday's physical and intense rematch between prep school powerhouses Tilton School (N.H.) and Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.) at the Spalding Hoophall Classic.

But when the final buzzer rang at Blake Arena on the campus of Springfield College, it was Brewster Academy's quietest player who made the most noise and silenced the vocal Rams.
Aaron Thomas, Brewster Academy
Photo by Lonnie Webb
Aaron Thomas, Brewster Academy

Aaron Thomas was perfect from beyond the arc and scored a game-high 23 points to lead the Bobcats (14-0) to a 57-53 victory in a nationally televised game over Tilton (14-3), just more than a month after defeating the Rams 84-78 in a controversial overtime game.

"Coach showed us the article this morning about what they said and it pumped us up," Thomas said. "We felt like we had to show who the best team in the country was.

"It was a real good game. No disrespect to Tilton but we had to show that we were going to come out on top."

Thomas poked the ball away from Wayne Selden (16 points) with 13 seconds remaining and Brewster up 55-51 to seal the victory following a 6-0 Tilton run.

Yet it was the Florida State-bound senior's clutch shooting that highlighted a dominant third quarter that saw Brewster open up a 50-36 lead when Thomas buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

"He hit four threes tonight that were just huge," Brewster Academy assistant coach Josh Lee said. "The one at the end of third quarter was huge. That made a real difference, especially when we got down to the end of the game and it became a two-, three-possession game."

{VIDEO_22c4659a-aa5c-49fd-a618-306403af4125,floatRightWithBar}Brewster trailed for most of the first and second quarters until Thomas snatched the ball following a massive Nerlens Noel block. The sharpshooter then drained a triple to give the Bobcats a 25-24 lead and a 29-28 advantage at halftime.

Brewster Academy used a 12-0 run to start the third quarter, opening up a 13-point lead.

Thomas was money from downtown going a perfect 4 of 4, including one to open the game.

"When I hit the first shot it really got me going," Thomas said. "The crowd was intense and it got me going."

The nationally televised game was the most intense through four days at the Spalding Hoophall Classic, spurred by large traveling parties from both schools.

Tilton head coach Marcus O'Neil was happy with his team's energy, which created a 16-8 first-quarter lead, but said execution was poor.

"There was a collective desire to try and win the game," O'Neil said. "Brewster is kind of the top program, but for us they are a local rivalry as well."
Nerlens Noel, Tilton
Photo by Lonnie Webb
Nerlens Noel, Tilton

Noel (22 points, eight rebounds, seven blocks) was an unstoppable force for most of the first half scoring 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting and blocking four shots. However, Noel got called for his fourth foul with 2:13 remaining in the third, forcing the Tilton star out of the lineup and allowing Brewster to establish an insurmountable lead.

"It was mentally my fault. I just had to stay in front of my man and move my feet," Noel said. "That was my fault to my team and I shouldn't have been so antsy to just get a home run and I should have just stayed in the structure."

Noel was a monster down low, issuing a vicious block to 6-foot-10 Michigan-bound senior Mitch McGary in the first quarter before throwing down a vigorous follow-through jam with 4:10 remaining in the first half. Following the slam dunk the highly coveted junior pumped his chest for an ESPN camera.

Noel tried to bring his team back in the final minutes when he scored four points during a Rams run to cut the deficit to three, but the 6-10 junior also missed two free throws.

Noel struggled at the free throw line going 8 of 13 as Tilton shot just 58.8 percent from the charity stripe.

Emotions were high when Noel planted for a charge against Thomas in the first quarter. Immediately Jalen Reynolds and Goodluck Okonoboh exchanged words before being separated.

"We spent a lot of time preparing for this game mentally but we can't complain. We came out and played hard and did our best to execute," Noel said. "We shouldn't be ashamed, but use it as motivation so that when we play them next month at their place again we can come after them a little harder."

The teams meet again at Brewster Academy, Feb. 20 at 4 p.m.

"Losing is one thing, but if you lose and don't learn then you've lost twice," O'Neil said. "We can't afford to have an emotional hangover because everybody we play was probably watching this game on TV and was wondering 'Why do they get to be on TV and not us?' We have to make sure we're the ones doing the hunting and not being the hunted."

Lee believes that earning such a big win in a showcase like the Hoophall, in front of a national television audience, can actually bring more pressure to his squad.

"Every game we play is like every other team's Super Bowl because no one has beat us yet," Lee said. "I don't know if there is any less pressure now. There might be more."