Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pembroke Boys Earn Hard Fought Win Over Hanover


When they took a 14-0 1st quarter lead you would have never thought that they would end up having to work as hard for this win as they did.

"Hanover is a physical team" said Pembroke head coach Matt Alosa. "We're a young team and some trouble at times with their physicality."

Hanover came back from a 14 point 1st quarter deficit, and actually led 41-36 late in the game. But in the end, the "Big 3" for Pembroke of Matt Persons (23 points), Patrick Welch (20 points) and Rene Maher (17 points) was just too much to handle. And on a Saturday afternoon in Pembroke, the Pembroke Academy boys basketball team clinched the #2 seed in the Division II tournament with a 67-61 victory over a tough Hanover team.

Hot Start for Welch, Spoartans
Initially this one looked like it was going to be a route for Pembroke. They went up 14-0 just 3 minutes into the game, including 3 consecutive three-pointers by freshman two-guard Patrick Welch which capped the run.

"Their initial burst hurt us" said Hanover head coach Tim Winslow. "But even though we were down, we were getting the shots that we wanted."

Give Hanover credit though. Once they went down 14-0 Winslow called timeout to get his team settled down - and they did. The Marauders ended the quarter on an 8-2 run, and were only down 16-8 after 1. They missed about 6 layups early on, but they started to convert those, and also played better defense.


Strong 2nd Quarter for Hanover
Not only were the Marauders able to get back in the game after going down 14 points early, but they were even able to take a lead on Pembroke in the 2nd quarter.

"We had a terrible 2nd quarter" said Coach Alosa.

Hanover was not only a more physical team, but they are also an older, more experienced team as well as a more disciplined one. Roland Herrmann-Stanzel hit a three to cut the Pembroke lead to 18-13. Junior forward Daniel Gorman then then grabbed a nice offensive rebound and put it back in after having a quiet game until that point. Senior guard Hayden Pressey-Murray then drilled a three and just like that we were all tied up 25-25.

Both times I have seen Hanover this season I have been impressed by Pressey-Murray. Sam Carney gets more of the hype (and deservedly so), but Pressey-Murray gives this team a strong senior back court. Both players have the ability to play tough defense, handle the basketball against defensive pressure and are also capable of scoring 20 points in a game. In this game, Pressey-Murray led the way for Hanover with 19 points, while Carney was held to 11.

"Hayden's a great kid" said Coach Winslow. "He's a fun kid to coach. He also hit 2 big threes for us to keep us in it."

Carney had a solid game, but he usually does score more than 11. If you ask Coach Alosa though, he'll tell you it was due to the strong defense of his sophomore point guard Rene Maher.

"Rene always guards the other team's best player" said Alosa. "He held David Hampton from Lebanon to just 8 points and now this today."

Right after hitting a three to tie the game up, Pressey-Murray made a steal around half court and went to the basket. He was fouled hard by Maher and made both free throws. Hanover would then take a 29-25 lead, completing a 29-11 run for the Marauders. Hanover led 31-29 at the half.


Pembroke Outlasts Hanover in Hard Fought 2nd Half
To begin the 2nd half, Pembroke came out in a 2-3 zone. Thy were trying to get Hanover to fire up threes and neutralize the size advantage that the Marauders had. Instead, Hanover just kept patiently running their sets and getting inside looks. Carney made a terrific play, to drive, get into the lane, then made a spin move and when a second defender came over to help out, Carney dished the ball down to Gorman, who then laid it in for 2. Gorman would finish with 14 points and 10 rebounds. The Marauders had their largest of the game, 41-36.

Carney made that play with Maher guarding him, and that may have been the play that woke Maher up. After having a quiet 1st half offensively, the 5'8" sophomore really started to take control of the game in the 3rd quarter. In the span of about 2 minutes, Maher made not 1, not 2 but 3 VERY nice drives to the basket, finishing at the rim on all 3. Maher is VERY quick off the dribble, he can handle the basketball well in traffic and he is fearless when going to the rim against bigger defenders. His last slash to the rim gave Pembroke a 42-41 lead after 3 quarters.


Fun-to-Watch 4th
In the 4th quarter both teams got hot from long range. Matt Persons hit a three right at the beginning of the 4th, as the Hanover defender got caught under a screen leaving Persons wide open. Persons gave the Spartans a 45-41 lead, completing a 9-0 run for the Spartans. Immediately after that though, Carney answered right back for Hanover with a LONG three-pointer of his own to cut the Pembroke lead to 45-44. A free throw by Carney knotted the game at 45-45.

That's when the Pembroke "Big 3" of Welch, Maher and Persons all started to make plays at the same time. Maher and Welch converted back-to-back layups and just like that it was 49-45 Pembroke. Maher than made yet another nice drive and finish. This one was the most difficult of all though, as he had a tough angle and was barely looking at the hoop!

After a nice drive and finish with the left hand by Persons it was 56-49 Pembroke (their largest lead since early in the 2nd quarter). The pace of the game was very fast, which heavily favors the Spartans who have a quick strike offense.

Hanover wasn't giving up though. After 2 straight nice baskets inside by Gorman, the Pembroke lead was just 56-53 late in the game. Then this game really started to get fun. Pressy-Murray hit a three-pointer for Hanover to cut the Pembroke lead to 59-56. Persons came right back for Pembroke with a three of his own to make it 62-56 Spartans. Just seconds late, Pressey-Murray did it again for the Marauders, who just refused to go away. He hit another trey and once again it was a 1 possession game, 62-59 with 40 seconds left in the game. In the span of about 15 seconds, there were 3 three-pointers made!

Maher and Carney both made 1 free throw apiece, and it was 64-61 Pembroke with 21.1 seconds remaining. Maher then made 1 of 2 free throws to make it 65-61, then Hanover tried to rush back and score but they missed a shot inside. Pembroke came back down, and Welch found Persons for an alley-oop at the buzzer for the 67-61 final.

"Matt has been doing this for is consistently all year" said Alosa, speaking about Persons.

Also playing well for Hanover was junior forward Alex Krass. Krass chipped in with 11 points and 7 rebounds, giving the Marauders 4 players in double figures in scoring. Krass is a tough, scrappy player who was physical inside and on the boards.


Bottom Line
These are 2 of the top teams in D-II no question about it. Pembroke clinches the #2 seed in the tournament with this win, as they now have a 15-2 record. Do they have what it takes to make a run at it and challenge Milford? Well luckily they won't have to play Milford until the final. But yes, I do think that with their speed, skill and coaching they could possible give Milford a run for their money. They are very young, though. They have just 1 returning starter (Maher) and only 1 other player (Persons) who was in the rotation last year in the playoffs. Those guys are only sophomores, these guys have no seniors and 2 freshmen in the rotation (Welch and Kafani Williams). Milford is all seniors and they've been there and done that. Can such a young Pembroke team keep up with them, even in front of the bright lights at UNH? Time will tell. Pembroke will have to beat some pretty good teams just in order to make it that far.

As for Hanover they're jut trying to make it to Durham. They're a solid team, but I'm not sure if I see that happening. I see the top 4 seeds moving on to UNH, those teams being Milford, Pembroke, Portsmouth and Pelham. If someone outside of those 4 makes it my money is that team being Souhegan. Again, Hanover is a nice team but I'm not sure they have enough players who can put the ball in the basket or the quickness to keep up with some of these other teams. They have a shot, though. They showed in this game vs. Pembroke that they can play with the top teams. And hey, if the Marauders didn't miss all of those layups early in the game they could have EASILY pulled off the upset over Pembroke on Saturday afternoon. And if that happened this would be a very different conversation.

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