I think pretty much everyone in the gym tonight (except for the Pelham players and coaches) expected Milford to win the game and advance to the final. They did it, but it certainly was NOT easy.
Pelham scratched and clawed the whole way, never giving up until the final buzzer. Despite the fact that their star player Steve Spirou only scored 5 points on the game, they were right there at the end with the undefeated defending champion Milford Spartans.
But in the end they were too fast and too talented. And the Milford High boys basketball team outlasted Pelham 50-46 in the D-II semi-finals at UNH on Wednesday night.
Tough Game for Spirou
Steve Spirou scored his 1,000th career point...as a junior. He was the state's leading scorer this season. Yet he was held to just 7 points in this game.
"I wasn't at 100%" said Spirou after the game. The ankle is still a little sore, but I was ok. Anytime I drove, they collapsed on me which made it tough. Then I just tried to kick it out to our shooters who did a great job."
Part of it may have been Spirou being limited because of the ankle. But a BIG part of it was the tremendous defense played on Spirou all game long by Milford senior Mike O'Loughlin. He didn't allow Spirou to ever get in a rhythm offensively, and made all of his shots difficult. It was a fun match-up to watch, especially since the 2 players have been teammates for the last 2 years on the Granite State Jayhawks AAU team. Not only that, but they are future college teammates, as Spirou and O'Loughlin will both be playing together at Trinity College starting next winter.
Another Low-Scoring Affair
Just like in the first semi-final of the evening, points were at a premium in this one as well. At halftime it was Milford 19 Pelham 15. The only player who really had much rhythm offensively in the 1st half was Milford point guard Mike Mitchell, who scored 8 of his 12 points in the 1st half. He did a nice job all game of controlling tempo and getting his teammates in the right spots on the floor. He had 6 assists on the game.
O'Loughlin only had 4 points at halftime, but he dropped 16 in the 2nd, en route to a game-high 20, along with 5 steals. He threw it down on the break with 1 hand, which really got the crowd into it. Then late in the game Mitchell found senior wing Jamie Holder with a nice feed from just inside half court for an alley-oop layup.
Kyle Nelson was an enforcer on defense, with not 1 but 5 blocked shots. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Nelson is as good a shot blocker as there is in NH. I know the 'Trinity Tri-Towers' are pretty good, but they're all, well, towers. Nelson is only 6'4".
Good Effort for Pythons
Spirou had a tough game offensively, but they were still right there until the very end with Milford. Junior point guard Derek Defranzo had a nice game, he always plays his tail off. He played some VERY nice defense on Holder, forcing him to take some tough shots. Dean Joyce hit a couple of big threes in the 2nd half to get Pelham back in the game after Milford went up 33-22 in the 3rd quarter. Erik Nystrom and Brett Bailey were both tough, hard nosed players who never gave in. And Steve's younger brother Anthony Spirou also made some nice plays out there.
"I thought our defense was really good, shit them down in the 1st half" said Steve Spirou.