That's the only word I can think of to describe what transpired this evening at Lundholm Gymnasium in the game between Milford and Portsmouth. Milford wins it 60-56 in overtime. Pembroke wins the other semi-final 68-46 over Oyster River. This post contains recaps from both games.
Milford vs. Portsmouth = A Classic
Tonight's Milford/Portsmouth game is going to go down as one of the best high school games many people have ever seen in this state. And deservedly so. For the thousands of fans who packed the gym tonight you got a real treat. And if you weren't there, then where the heck where you? The atmosphere was electric, the crowds were greatThis was the game of the year.
With 7:20 left in the fourth quarter, and with Portsmouth leading Milford 38-36 play was stopped. The buzzer went off in the middle of play. The smoke alarm was going off, and everyone was forced to evacuate the building. Everyone, including the the players, was left outside in the cold and the game was put on hold for about a half hour. I have never seen something like this at a high school game before. It killed the momentum of the game, too. The third quarter ended with a real flourish. Milford really started to heat up, especially Mitchell who hit a couple of threes in a row. The Spartans ended the quarter on a 9-2 run and their fans were going nuts. Having to stand around out in the cold for 15 minutes definitely had an effect, as both teams were shaky shooting the basketball when play resumed.
Holder vs. DiCesare
These two wing players really brought their "A" game tonight. At one point in the third quarter they were matching each other shot for shot, mano y mano. DiCesare had a three point play followed by a three point shot as part of the Clippers run that put them up 36-27. Then Holder took over and got Milford back in the ballgame. Holder is arguably the best slasher in our state, but he is not known as a great shooter. But tonight he was 3/5 from beyond the arc. All three of them came in the second half and were all crucial shots. DiCesare has now had the two biggest games of his still young career against Milford. He had 26 earlier this season in a Portsmouth victory, and he had 24 tonight. He is a silky smooth player with a nice jumper. He is one of the top sophomores in NH. In addition to scoring, Holder also had some big steals, including two BIG steals in overtime. On one he made the layup on the other end and on the other he got fouled on the layup attempt and made both free throws. Those were the two plays that decided the game on OT. And Holder's threes, layups and a very nice drive-and-dish play to set up Dan Desmarais for a layup led the team to a 3 point lead with 10.5 seconds left...
Big Shot for Nate Jones
That's when Portsmouth's senior point guard Nate Jones drilled a three ball from a couple feet behind the line with 5 seconds left to tie the game and send it to OT. Jones, along with fellow senior Mike Montville, are tow Clippers players who are both 3 sport athletes and both will be the first to tell you that of the 3, basketball is the sport they excel at the least. However, just from playing in so many big games, whether it is in football, baseball or even basketball, you get used to it. That's why Jones had no problem nailing that shot.
Portsmouth Under Pressure
Clearly Jones and Montville are two players aren't fazed by the bright lights. Mike Barton has been here before, he was a starter on last year's championship team. And DiCesare is so cool under pressure you would never guess he's only a sophomore. This is a very good, well coached Portsmouth team. They have nothing to hang their heads about. They left it all out on the floor this evening. And they got beat by a Milford team that was better than them JUST BARELY.
Unsung Hero for Milford
Dan Desmarais gave the Spartans some big minutes, especially in the second half. Desmarais usually doesn't get a ton of minutes, just a couple here or there. But last night he had a big steal late, as well as some big free throws and rebounds. Also, Kyle Nelson was quiet for most of the night but he had two big blocked shots in the fourth quarter.
Mitchell 2 Big 3's
Yes, Holder carried the team in the second half, and yes Desmarais gave them a lift. But one player that can't be overlooked is Mike Mitchell. When Portsmouth was up 36-27 late in the third quarter, Mitchell hit a pair of big three pointers as part of a 9-2 that Milford ended the quarter on. These shots really kept the Spartans in the game, and they re-energized the entire team as well as the fans. The rest of the team picked up their intensity as a result, and on the next play Kevin Cyr dove on the floor for a loose ball and called timeout, sending the Milford faithful into a frenzy with 11.6 seconds left in the third.
You Have to Feel For Barton
Mike Barton plays the game the right way, and he is the heart and soul of the Portsmouth basketball team. He is a good leader on the floor, is the team's best ball handler against defensive pressure and does all of the little things to help them win. That's why it was tough to see Barton get injured and have to leave the game, especially where he's a senior. He came down awkwardly on his anle with 2:15 left in overtime, had to leave the game and did not return. A tough way to end your career, you hate to see that happen to such a good kid.
Barton and DiCesare are Porrtsmouth's two best players. Barton gets inujured late in the game, and DiCesare was in foul trouble and was forced to sit on the bench at crucial parts of the game.
Pembroke Blows Out Oyster River in Other Semi
This was a very disappointing game. It wasn't disappointing for Pembroke, just in the way that you expected a much closer game. I really thought this game was a tossup. Then add in the fact that Pembroke, who is not a deep team to begin with, was playing without Dalton Cheney who has been suspended from the team and you're thinking that if anything the Bobcats would be a slight favorite. Of course that is definitely not what happened, as Pembroke dismantled Oyster River 68-46.
This game was close in the first quarter, with Oyster River actually leading after one. But it was all Pembroke from there. They were flat out a faster, more skilled basketball team on this day.
Coleton Neely led the way with 22 points, including 13/14 from the foul line. For the most part, Pembroke played the same 5 kids all game, and 2 of them are freshmen. They did not play like freshmen, however. Rene Maher, a 5'7" guard, played like a seasoned veteran and constantly attacked the basket en route to 12 points. And Matt Persons, a 5'11" guard, had 8 points including a big three pointer early in the third quarter when it looked like Oyster River might be building momentum for a possible comeback.
It was a tough game for Oyster River senior point guard Tommy McDonnell. He injured his leg early in the game and was not the same player the rest of the way. Chris Walker and Jack Nadeau made some shots to try and keep them in it. But overall the Bobcats struggled to score the basketball all game.
The problem is that when Oyster River goes on runs, when they score most of their points, it's in transition. It's when they force turnovers and push the ball. But they couldn't play that way against Pembroke, because Pembroke is a faster team. They would have got run out of the gym if they tried to make this game a track meet.
What really stood out to me about this game didn't happen during the game, it happened afterwards. I was talking with Coach Alosa, and just listening to the way the guy talks basketball, and talks strategy I was very impressed. The guy flat out knows the game of basketball, and he knows how to coach.