Friday, December 21, 2012

Pioneers Blaze Trail Through Blue Devil Defense

By: Ross Laorenza
The Pioneers from Trinity are now 3-0 on the young Division I basketball season after an impressive offensive showing at rival Salem High School. I spoke with Liam Quinn a sophomore for Trinity throughout the contest. Mr. Quinn is the center for Trinity’s football program and considers himself a player manager for Trinity basketball. Quinn missed only three basketball games all of last season as a freshmen; and with the help of his friends Thursday night they made sure their voices were heard.

Vocal Gymnastics in the Stands, High Flying Acrobatics on the Court
“Salem always plays us tough,” said head Coach Dave Keefe, prior to tip off. He added, “We always seem to have trouble here…Salem never quits.” His statements proved true in the first quarter.

Mabor Gabriel is tall and he is extremely talented. The senior forward for Trinity won the opening tip with ease and from there the game was on. Salem got an early basket from Jack Hartman, which was then countered by a three from #2 Brad Rhoades. Rhoades is one of four juniors starting for the Pioneers. He was joined by teammates Pat Keefe, Ryan Otis, and Carmen Giampetruzzi at tip off. Giampetruzzi (#32) is one of the captains for Trinity.

The Student section for the Blue Devils was quieted early when Trinity fed Mabor Gabriel down low for an easy 2. “All day….All day…” chanted the traveling Pioneer cheering squad. Followed quickly by, “You can’t stop him…::clap, clap, Clap-clap-clap::”

Salem Never Quits
As Coach Keefe mentioned Salem “never quits”. Junior, Mike Felix led the charge on the court while the Salem Blue cheerleaders lead the rallying cry from the sidelines. More on their two captains later…

With 3:17 left in the 1st quarter Steven Nugent, senior guard for SHS hit a long two that knotted the game at 9. After the teams exchanged baskets, a new player emerged from the Salem bench. Anthony Lopez is just a sophomore, but he is one incredible basketball specimen. Trinity tried to lob an inbound to the 6’8" Gabriel, but Lopez leaped high in the air and wrestled the ball away. He fed the ball to Felix who took the ball for an easy 2 points. Salem leads 15-13.

Tasting the hardwood
I always take notice of hustle plays and Steve Nugent with help from Hartman made a huge one that led to a 17-13 Salem lead. While the ball was up high to Hartman, it got knocked away, with less than a minute to play. Hartman swiped at it, but the ball was out of his reach and he couldn't control. Nugent came out of nowhere and flew head long to poke the ball to a Salem teammate. Salem stole the ensuing inbound and scored or the loose ball was picked up in the corner for a long two. When all was said and done the Blue Devils were up 4 points.

“Cull-A-Three” -Students
Then, Jon Cullity took charge. One of three captains for Trinity, the senior, Cullity hit a three ball as time expired to cut the deficit to one. Trinity fans: loud. Salem fans: Silenced….

Carmen Giampetruzzi scored the first Trinity basket of the second quarter. Immediately after that Mike Felix was racing up the floor for Salem and scored easy, going around two defenders. Salem lead 21-18.

Bench Players Come up Big
Ryan Otis then scored 3 of his 11 points with a long ball from behind the arc that tied the game 21-21. With 5:08 left in the half Salem subbed in junior guard, Trevor Couture (#21) and with him back came Anthony Lopez (#10).

Coach Keefe countered bringing in (#1) Wenyin Gabriel. Wenyin is the brother of captain Mabor. The boys must practice at home too, because the young sophomore scored 8 points on the night, splitting a tough Salem zone.

It was fun to watch Coaches Keefe and Rob McLaughlin play chess on the sideline. Trinity’s offense started getting into rhythm as the second quarter continued.

With 3:30 remaining in the half Ryan Otis went up for a lei-up and got fouled hard. He hit the free throw to complete the hoop and harm 3-point play.

Closing minutes
Back and forth they went…Free throws and jumpers. Inside moves and long three balls. Good defense and poor ball handling. The most controversial play of the game took place in these last few minutes as the clock slowly waned itself to zero. While fighting for a rebound Jeff LaRosa for Salem accidentally undercut one of the Gabriel brothers and both players went down hard. LaRosa was underneath and attempted to get the ball. The foul was given to Trinity and the fans were downright angry. If you the reader has any input, please comment.

With time literally melting off the clock Mike Felix attempted a long three and was fouled. Three free throws! He missed the first, but some kid “Meowed.” I don’t know why, but his own friends hit him and told him to cut it out. Felix hit the next two and Salem went into the half only trailing by 4 points. Trinity: 32, Blue Devils: 28.

Cheerleaders Stood by Their Team
Salem’s cheerleaders were really doing their best to encourage the boys in Blue and White. Jen DeLucia and Julia Iascone were the team captains. They have face paint and pom-poms for every Varsity home game. “We’re a team,” the girls said almost in perfect unison.

DeLucia and Iascone participate in weekly leadership meetings at SHS. They, along other student athletes, talk about ways to better improve the learning experience on-and-off the field at Salem High. I asked what they would do if they were on the court last night, trying to lead the basketball team.“Stay positive!” said Ms. DeLucia.

It’s good to see that the Blue Devil spirit is alive in well in all aspects of the student body. Mike Felix proved to me Tuesday he doesn't quit. Coach Keefe for Trinity even said it, “Salem never quits…” Now two Varsity cheerleaders added to the list of people who can attest that Blue Devil Pride is one of the strongest in Division I.

Now…. back to the court; for the second half; from the Davis Gymnasium.

Second Half Start
John Hartman scored quickly for Salem to cut the Trinity lead to 32-30. Brad Rhoades countered with a basket of his own. After a few possessions Hartman answered back. This time, with a looooong three-pointer: 33-34. Giampetruzzi hit two free throws, Nugent scored for Salem and then the Big Man wearing #15 started getting the ball down low.

“All Day….All Day…” -Students
Mabor Gabriel was a man on fire to start the second half. At 6'8", Gabriel controlled the game whenever he was on the court. Just his presence alone, in the paint drew two Salem defenders. If he could make the shot, which he almost always did, he’d take it. If the D was too heavy he simply passed the ball with ease to one of his outside shooters, who continually reined three’s over the Blue Devil’s zone. With the score 42-35 in favor of the visitors, Salem’s coach Rob McLaughlin called for a full time-out.

“It’s right here!” I heard him say to his Varsity squad in the sideline huddle. The coach is very positive in his approach. He may come off stern, but I can tell he cares about this program. I arrived at the school early enough to watch the entire Junior Varsity game (which Salem won 70-60). All three Salem coaches maintain a positive message. From Coach Mclaughin and his assistant Nate Stanton, down to the JV coach Mike LaRosa, the message is clear, “We can do this!”

Salem fought valiantly again last night. It was tough for the Blue and White lose twice in one week, but they’re going to get better. The coaches believe them. They have the support of a wonderful community; they’re going to catch fire and “boy, when they do..” Watch out!

Wrap up, Go Home, Read On
The Pioneers imposed their will all second half and won running away 66-46. They outscored Salem 34-18 in the 2nd half. Mabor Gabriel gets my nod for player of the game, with 16 points and 10 rebounds; both game highs. He was followed in scoring by Jack Hartmann of Salem with 15 points. Mike Felix (Salem) and Ryan Otis (Trinity) scored 11 points each. Steven Nugent (Salem) and Brad Rhoades (Trinity) finished with 9 points each.

Trinity has a few days off before they play in a three day holiday tournament at Memorial High School in Manchester on the 24th, 25th and 26th. Salem will try to start their winning ways tonight at Central Catholic.

From the Davis Gymnasium in Salem, New Hampshire; Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook.



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