The Astros beat Merrimack by 20 last Tuesday, and tonight they beat #1 ranked Trinity 66-55. Zach Mathieu, Ben Proulx, Alex Patrikis and Chad Park all played excellent basketball for Pinkerton. This was the game of the night in NH. According to my latest Class L Power Rankings, this was a match-up between #1 Trinity and #3 Pinkerton.
How it Went Down
Pinkerton dominated this game for the most part all four quarters. Madol kept the Pioneers in it in the first quarter. The 6'6" junior forward scored all 15 of Trinity's points in the game's opening frame. One might think that with that kind of stat he must have been forcing shots, especially considering only 2 other Pioneers even took a shot in the quarter. But all of Madol's shots came in the flow of the offense. He was able to go off the dribble and run off screens so that all of his looks were open ones.
As good as Madol was early, you can't win with just one player putting up numbers. While Trinity had Madol, Pinkerton had Mathieu, Patrikis and Proulx. Mathieu scored 6 of the Astro's first 8 points. 14 of Pinkerton's 16 first quarter points either came from in the paint or at the foul line. The only other bucket came on a 15 foot jumper from sophomore swingman Chris Light.
And in the 3rd quarter Trinity actually took the lead at a couple different points. Their third quarter production was thanks to senior forward Gordon Duffley and sophomore guard Jake Hamel. In a span of less than 3 minutes, these two players combined to hit 5 three pointers. Duffley hit 3 in a row and then Hamel hit back to back treys, the second of which gave Trinity a 37-43 lead with 1:59 left in the third quarter.
The action continued to really pick up late 3rd quarter and early fourth. Hayden hit a layup on a nice drive to put Coach Keefe's squad up 41-39. Immediately thereafter, Proulx hits a three and the Astros retake the lead 42-41. Pinkerton adds 2 more points and it's 44-41 Pinkerton after 3. As soon as the fourth quarter starts, Trinity sophomore guard Hunter Viscarello hits a three of his own (he finished with 4 three's for 12 points) to tie it up at 44.
Unfortunately for the Pioneers though, that's where their fun would end. It was tied at 44 early in the fourth quarter, but then Pinkerton scored the game's next 12 points in a row and it was 56-44 Astros with 3:41 left. Park and Proulx were the two major players in the run for Pinkerton. Right after Viscarello tied the game Park answered right back with a long ball of his own to start the Astro rally. Immediately after that the 5'7" spark plug park took a charge on the baseline. Proulx drills another three to double the lead at 50-44. Then Park pulls up off the dribble and sticks a gorgeous 18 footer from the right elbow. Pinkerton had all the momentum on their side, their fans were going nuts and at that moment they looked like a team that is very capable of winning the Class L title.
The story was the inside play of Pinkerton. Mathieu, Proulx and Patrikis were just too much for Trinity to handle in the paint. Mathieu with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks. Proulx with 13 points and 7 boards. Patrikis with 16 points and 8 rebounds. Staggering numbers. When those 3 play that well all at the same time Pinkerton is VERY tough to beat.
Park also played well. He had a couple of turnovers. But overall he went toe-to-toe with one of the state's best and most savvy point guards in Trinity's Phil Hayden and played well. If anything, Park got the better of that match-up tonight, finishing with 14 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals.
The three Pinkerton big guys were just too much for Madol, Andrew Lauderdale and Gordon Duffley to defend. They also did a very good job of looking for each other, setting each other up with nice lob passes and high-low passes that lead to layups and "And-1" plays.
Pinkerton would have won be even more than 11, but they went just 11/21 from the free throw line.
Of course on the other side of that coin you could also say that Pinkerton wouldn't have won by that much if Stevens didn't miss more than half the game with the knee injury.
Mathieu for POY?
Senior center Zach Mathieu had 17 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks.
"Zach Mathieu is the Player of the Year if you ask me" said Pinkerton coach Pete Rosinski. "He's the most underrated player in our league."
Mathieu did an excellent job of setting the tone in this game by scoring 6 of the team's first 8 points and 8 points total in the first quarter. He was a beast on the boards all game. The case for him as Player of the Year is that he is the top player on a team that is quite possibly #1 in the state and that he impacts the game as much on defense as he does on offense. The case against him as that he has the benefit of playing alongside another Player of the Year candidate, Ben Proulx. And at times tonight, Proulx was the team's MVP. There is a chance that the two stars will split votes and neither will get the award. However if you look at players like LaRosa, Madol and Burt those players are without question the top player on their team. Those 3 players won't be splitting votes with their teammates.
Stevens Done for the Year?
Scary moment for Trinity fans came about halfway through the second quarter. Zach Stevens went to the basket on the break and was fouled hard by the Astro's Ben Proulx. Stevens hit his knee and went down hard. He had to leave the game and did not return. The status of his knee is uncertain going forward.
"I'll get it x-rayed in the next couple days. I'll have to wait until the swelling goes down before I know how serious it is" Stevens commented after the game.
Zach is a good kid, I hope he makes a swift recovery. One thing is for certain, though. Trinity needs Stevens in the lineup. Just like they were a much different team with Hayden out of the lineup, they will also miss Stevens for however long he is out. This season he has become more than just a three point shooter. He's become an improved defender, is very good in clutch situations and can also score driving to the bucket now. There is a chance that Stevens is done for the year. If that happens it is obvious that Trinity's chances at winning the title just went down significantly.
"I just know that nothing is going to stop me from playing in the tournament" he said. "I'll do whatever it takes."
Special Senior Night at Hackler
Not only was this a huge win for Pinkerton to beat the #1 ranked team in Class L, but it was extra special for them to do it on Senior Night. Pinkerton honored 4 seniors this evening: Proulx, Mathieu, Steven Curry and Brent Batchelder. Proulx and Mathieu both played superb basketball games. Mathieu was more of a factor in the first half, while Proulx did most of his damage in the second half. But overall, both played very well tonight. All four seniors will no doubt have very fond memories of their senior night.
As always, I got to the game tonight plenty early so I could also watch the JV game. Of course, I rank players in all 4 classes and there are some pretty good players that play JV.
I didn't keep track of stats for the JV game, but I know that there were 2 particular players who scored at least 15 points. Logan Kesty had at least 15 for Trinity and Mark Piechowiak had at least 19 or 20 for Pinkerton. Both players are 6'1" wings and will be asked to contribute on the varsity level in the future. Piechowiak's game reminds me a lot of Portsmouth's Mike Barton. That's good praise considering Barton is likely to be a first team all-state player this year in Class I.
There was also a nice match-up at the point guard spot between Trinity's 5'6" sophomore Dylan Lafond and Pinkerton's 5'8" freshman Justin Sandburg. Lafond got the better of the match-up forcing a couple of turnovers and really playing some tough defense which made it tough for Sandburg to get in a rhythm. But Sandburg also played solid defense on Lafond, and most of Lafond's success on offense came when Sandburg was out of the game.
Trinity's "Twin Towers" were also in action. I'm referring to 6'9" sophomore Sylvere Aluko and 6'5" freshman Mabor Gabriel. Both players showed plenty of promise, especially rebounding the basketball. But both players still have a lot of work to do on the offensive end and also hitting the weight room and getting bigger. Aluko has seen varsity action in many games this year. But I don't blame Keefe for holding him back from playing varsity tonight. He's skinny, and Mathieu is built like a lumberjack. It would have been a big mismatch. Lauderdale has much more bulk, so he saw more plenty time tonight in the varsity game. Although Lauderdale also has seen playing time on JV this year.