Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Trinity Over Memorial in Queen City Showdown

By Jeremy Leveille

End of game play-by-play:
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Post-game wrap up:
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Post-game interview with Trinity head coach Dave Keefe:
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The starting lineups for Trinity and Memorial played the vast majority of the game on Tuesday night in their Queen City Showdown. And on this night, Trinity's starters were just a little bit better.

All five starters scored in double figures for Trinity, who improves to 8-0 in regular season play with a 65-54 win over the visiting Memorial Crusaders. 6-foot-7 senior forward Mabor Gabriel had 16 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks, Carmen Giampetruzzi (who gave a verbal commitment to Boston College for baseball) had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Meanwhile the back court trio of Patrick Keefe (11 points), Brad Rhoades (11 points) and Ryan Otis (10 points) also played well.

Memorial put up a valiant effort, but they were playing from behind all game. They trailed by as much as 13 points, after a 3-pointer by Otis made it 27-14 Trinity with 5:30 left in the 3rd quarter. Keefe then hit a 3 of his own, and the Pioneers led 38-26 at halftime. That turned out to be too big of a deficit for Memorial to come back from, as the Crusaders fall to 6-2 on the season in Division I.

Memorial stormed back in the 3rd quarter, led by Kabongo Ngalakulondi (game-high 22 points), Oumaru Kante (14 points) and Tong Akot (9 points). Akot hit a 3-pointer, then Ngalakulondi hit a pair of free throws to cut the Trinity lead to 44-38.

Keefe answered back with a strong drive and finish inside to push the leaqd back to 8 at 46-38. But then Ngalakulondi once again got to the line, made 1 free throw and then Akot rebounded the next miss and converted the put-back. Just like that Memorial was now down just 46-41 and they were right back in the game.

The 6-foot-2 Ngalakulondi then drove to the rim and while falling away from the hoop and with a hand in his face he hit a very tough leaner off the glass and in. That hit the Trinity lead to 52-48 early in the 4th quarter.

Then came the most crucial series of the game. Memorial got a stop, giving them possession and a chance to cut the Pioneers' lead to just 2 (or 1 with a 3-pointer). The Crusaders got not one but three shot attemps in close to the basket, but missed all three. Finally Trinity came away with the rebound, quickly pushed the ball up the floor to Keefe, who then scored in transition on two defenders. So after Memorial came THIS close to cutting the lead to 2, it was now back to a 6 point lead for Trinity at 54-48. With just 5:02 left in the game the Pioneers had the momentum back on their side, and their student section was going bonkers.

The game that started to really get physical. Memorial senior guard oel Mayola was forced to leave the floor as he was bleeding near his left eye. He would soon return to the lineup. Then Ngalakulondi drilled a 3-pointer off a nice drive-and-kickout by Kante. Again, the Trinity lead was down to 4 at 56-52 with 2:27 left.

Again, Memorial had the ball and a chance to make it a 1 possession game, but again they came up empty and Trinity scored on the other end. The Pioneers added some free throws at the end for the 65-54 final.

Trinity is a team that would definitely have depth issues if not for the two guards who transferred in to the school over the summer. They couldn't even get enough kids together this summer to play in a summer league. But then Otis transferred from Merrimack Valley, and Rhoades transferred from Pembroke (both are juniors).

"Me and Ryan are best friends" Rhoades told the NH Notebook". "We both decided to come here around the same time. We grew up playing together in Epsom, along with Pat Welch. And this summer we both played AAU together for the Raiders. I also wanted to come here to play football. Ryan doesn't play football, but I'm focusing on both sports."

Both Otis and Rhoades hit clutch 3-pointers in the 1st half, and big FT's in the 2nd. Defensively they had the tough assignent of guarding Kante, who excels at creating offense off the dribble.

Kante had a nifty reverse layup in the 1st half, a great drive and dish to Ngalakulondi for a layup in the 2nd quarter and a big 3-pointer in the 3rd quarter during the Crusaders' comeback.

The star of the game for Memorial though was Ngalakulondi, who also pulled down 9 rebounds and had 2 steals in addition to his 22 points. He would have had even more points, but had a number of shots (jumpers and inside shots) just barely rim out on him.

It also hurt Memorial that Akot was in foul trouble for much of the game. Akot had the assignment of guarding Gabriel. Although Akot is a wider, stronger kid, Gabriel is four inches taller, longer and more nimble around the bucket. Gabriel was very active in the paint on both ends of the floor and he was a tough match up all game for Memorial. Kabongo's younger brother Tshief Ngalakulondi is only a freshman and did a solid job filling in for Akot when called upon.

While Rhoades and Otis both play for the GS Raiders AAU program, the majority of the kids on the floor tonight play for the Bishop Elite. Gabriel and Akot battled each other inside all game, but they have been teammates over the years with the Bishop. Memorial 6-foot-3 senior wing Zoubel Iradakunda (7 points tonight) played on the same team with Gabriel and Akot, as has Mayola. Mabor's younger brother Wenyin Gabriel (a 6-foot-5 sophomore) played solid minutes off the bench. Wenyin has played on the same Bishop Elite AAU team alongside Kabongo Ngalakulondi and Kante (as has Wade Gop, who came off the bench late for Memorial).

Mabor smiled when I asked him what it's like to play against all of his AAU buddies out there.

"It's fun playing against those guys" he said. I got Tong in foul trouble with my length. I just tried to keep the ball up and wait for the help side defender to come over and usually I got fouled."

Giampetruzzi meanwhile played for the NH Titans AAU program this past year. The Titans recently made news when they merged together with the Bishop Elite and the GS Gladiators to create one program - the NH Basketball Family.

"I gave a verbal commitment to Boston College for baseball around Christmas" Giampetruzzi told the NH Notebook. "I took a visit to the school, but I can't officially commit until I'm a senior. The recruited me to be a putcher. I throw a fastball in the mid-80's, a curveball and a changeup. I'm also working on a slider."

Giampetruzzi is one of the best 3-sport athletes to come out of NH in awhile, as he is an all-state player at baseball, basketball and football.

There's still a lot of basketball left to be played in the 2012-2013 season, but there's no question that both Trinity and Memorial are legitimate title contenders in boys D-I. Manchester Central, Nashua South and Spaulding are also contenders. Trinity has to feel pretty good about the way they're playing, since they have now beaten South, Spaulding and Memorial just in the last couple weeks.

One last note - props to the Trinity student section, as they really came out in full force for this one. Lots of kids, they were loud, rowdy and definitely added to the atmosphere at McHigh Gymnasium. It's always a fun evening when two 'city teams' battle it out, especially when they're 2 of the top teams in the state.

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