Saturday, January 5, 2013

Spartans Escape With Win Over Grizzlies

By: Ross Laorenza
Entering the day, Pembroke Academy was 4-0 on the season and had just come off winning the NHTI Holiday Tournament where they were 3-0. With seven wins under their belt, most thought the game would be a rout.

“They’re very talented. That kid, Welch is nasty,” said a Goffstown fan. Pat Welch, the leader for Pembroke, proved how “nasty” he was to the tune of 21 first half points, with shots from all around the floor. It was a dominant performance from a dominant player. Welch is arguably the best in the state at his position, right now, and still has another year to develop.

Pembroke started Matt Persons, Rene Maher, Kafani Williams and Dom Timbas along with Welch. The Spartans showed great ball movement while running the floor. And they capitalized off some key turnovers. They needed to come from behind early, after a slow start offensively.

Freshman Michael Bailey started the game 3/3 from beyond the arch and was leading the charge for the Grizzlies early. Goffstown was leading 14-9 when Bailey got scratched in the face and had to be removed briefly, to attend to the wound. After a missed basket Tim Riehl sank another 3-pointer and the Grizzlies were up 17-9 with five minutes gone by in the first quarter. You could see the confidence in senior Jacob Mount’s face. He wanted this game BAD.

“Guys, we’re actually winning,” said a surprised Tyler Gagnon to his friends in the stands. I gave Gagnon the honor of “Fan of the Game” for his unwavering support of the home town Grizzlies.

Leading the Way Back
Down 8 points it was time for Welch to pull Pembroke back into the game. First with a layup and then with a monstrous alley-oop to 6’4" Kafani Williams, Welch brought his team closer. Those two plays were part of a 7-0 run by the Spartans in one minute of elapsed time.

The scoring continued for Pembroke, who went on to lead 26-20 after one quarter.But Goffstown wasn’t done battling it out. Tim Riehl opened the next quarter with a three, Pat Kelsey hit for 2, Bobby White hit a three and Jacob Mount knotted the game at 29-29 with 5:55 remaining in the half. All of that was part of a 9-3 run by Goffstown to stay in the game.

Grizzlies 'Bear' their Teeth
There is definitely some fight in this Goffstown team. They refused to accept defeat. All game long their effort was at a maximum. Even freshman Tim Comeau contributed defensively, helping change the angle on a number of shots down low in the second half. He’s got a nice split lip to prove his toughness - he got jabbed hard under the basket by a loose Pembroke hand and had to be pulled for the final few possession of the first half.

Fast Paced First Half Leads to High Scoring Affair
The points kept on coming for both teams at the half continued. Welch and Matt Persons seemed near perfect from 3-point range; only missing when the angle was heavily obstructed or if they got fouled. Michael Bailey hit his fourth three for the Grizzlies and made the score 43-40 with just under a minute to go. He finished with 12 points after starting 4/5 from beyond the arc.

Goffstown had a chance to tie at the end of the half, but could not capitalize on the final possession. They exhibited great ball movement, trying to find an open passing lane through the tough defense of Pembroke. Often an errant pass lead to two points the other way for the Spartans, so rightfully the Goffstown players were a little cautious. Halftime score; Pemborke: 43, Goffstown: 40.

Shooting to Win in the 2nd Half
“If you’re gonna try and shoot over us, you’d better make your shots.” said Coach Matt Alosa, post-game.

Trying and almost succeeding, best describes the second half for Goffstown who pulled ahead early 46-43 after back-to-back spot up three’s by senior Bobby White. This Division-II clash had all the components needed for a great game in the first half: Battles down low in the paint (Kelsey and Hoffman vs. Timbas and Williams), ample scoring by a dominant player (Welch), a gritty veteran who won’t quit (Jacob Mount) and even freshmen scoring (Bailey). All we need now is the winner but that would take all 16 minutes to decide.

Over the next 5 minutes the team raced up and down the court. It was like a track meet at times, seeing players on both sides cruise by one-another for a basket. Pembroke went on a 12-9 run that knotted the game back at 55 with 2:44 remaining.

Marcus Haynes caused a turnover for Goffstown with less than two minutes left in the 3rd and Jacob Mount raced away for an attempted lay-in that just rolled off the rim. An altercation occurred behind a play in those closing moments and Kafani Williams fouled out for Pembroke. His Spartans led 57-55 after a nice put-back by Cameron Taylor.

Goffstown countered again with a three by Bobby White to open the 4th, putting his team ahead 58-57. Then Rene Maher scored on a nice leaner that put the Spartans back up by one. Pat Welch converted an and-1 to push the lead to 4 points with 5:44 to go in the game.

Over a minute later Tim Riehl hit a 3-pointer for Goffstown, which made the score 61-62 PA. Then came some clutch free throw shooting by Dominic Timbas and Pat Welch. Welch hit two, to make the score 64-61 right before Bobby White drilled another three. Game tied 64-64.

“I can’t believe we’re still in this. It’s like our offense 2 years ago,” said “Fan of the Game” Tyler Gagnon.

Tim Riehl, who was wearing #4 to start the game, had to switch jerseys shortly after the tie due to an official ruling. He finished the game wearing #14.

With less than three minutes to go Cameron Taylor sank two free throws for Pembroke that got both student sections excited for the close finish to come.

“D-Fense! D-Fense!’ sounded from both sides of the Goffstown gym. As the ball exchanged hands late. Pembroke had an impressive fan presence on the road and Goffstown's home crowd has enormous.

With just over a minute remaining Dominic Timbas hit a clutch basket down low and got fouled, but he missed the ensuing foul shot. Score now 68-64. Pat Kelsey countered with a basket of his own to pull Goffstown within 2 points, 68-66. Timbas got fouled again for a 1-and-1 opportunity. After making the first basket he composed himself at the line, but the shot missed and Goffstown controlled down 3 points with just over 30 seconds to play.

Nate Hoffman had a chance to tie the game with 13.5 to play as he set up in the corner. He feet were set and the motion was fluid all the way through the shot, but it bounced out and Pembroke ran up the floor. Matt Persons was fouled for Pembroke and was at the line. He missed the front half of the 1-and-1 and Tim Riehl launched a desperation 3-pointer for the Grizzlies as time expired. Too strong - the ball hit high off the glass, and bounced back onto the court.

Final 69-66; Spartans win a tough game on the road. Pat Welch finished with 29 points and was 9/9 from the free throw line. Matt Person scored 16 points for Pembroke. As a team they were 15/20 from the stripe.

Bobby White led his team in scoring with 16 points. Jacob Mount finished with 11. Tim Riehl had 9. And freshmen Michael Bailey had a quiet second half, still finishing with 12 points (all 3’s).

Pembroke is now 5-0. Goffstown drops to 2-2. But the season is still at its infancy. We can all look forward to more great match-ups in Division-II. I trust both teams will continue to grow as the season carrier forward into the New Year. Hope everyone had a phenomenal holiday break.

From Goffstown, New Hampshire; Ross Laorenza, New Hampshire Notebook

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