By: Tuesday and Friday
The defensive minded Clippers held Pembroke to 21 second half points to hand Pembroke their first loss of the season. Defense and in particular defending Patrick Welch was the number one goal for Portsmouth tonight. This game was dripping with playoff atmosphere from the last verse of the National Anthem
The tone was set from the opening tap. Portsmouth got in Welch's grill in the first second after Pembroke controlled the tap. Welch went to cut towards the FT line and was being mugged, mauled and held. He un-characteristically kneed the Portsmouth defender in his mid-body area. The whistle was blown and a technical was given to Welch and a personal foul to the Portsmouth defender.
11 seconds into the game.
OK, pardon me for a slight editorial comment. We are getting to the half-way point of the season. It's been cold. The schedule has been quirky. Teams are starting to jostle for seeds. Coaches are really getting on ref's cases. Ref's are getting frayed mentally with the same ol same ol. Players are starting to REALLY dislike their opponents. There's ice outside that people are slipping on. When the oil tank gets filled it costs a lot of $$$$$.......... Shooters are getting technical fouls BETWEEN FREE THROWS. Players are getting ejected.
....... So on and so forth. The mid-winter "let all the emotions out" on a basketball court time. Hearing me? This seems to happen every season right around late Jan to early Feb.
There was physicality, chippy play and general ornery emotions from the outset in this game. An extra word here or there. An extra push here or there. An extra stare here or there. You get the point. This game had this from start to finish. It was not a game for the faint of heart. You had to be physically and mentally ready to go in this game.
Portsmouth did a great job defending Welch. They threw 3 different players at Welch and each made him work at the offensive end. It was a lot of work for Welch to get open tonight. Portsmouth was physical with him and it took a toll as the game wore on. Welch did have a sequence where he hit a couple of 3's in a row in the 3rd to give Pembroke their best spacing of the night. This only gave the Clippers more resolve to figure Welch out defensively.
Portsmouth left too many FTs at the line in the last 1:30 of the game. It didn't come back to haunt them as Pembroke couldn't capitalize. Curran and Welch tried to make some 3's to bring Pembroke back in the last minute, but they came up short.
Is this the blueprint to beat Pembroke?....... Perhaps. If you're a Spartan fan maybe you say to yourself it's good to slip off the ladder because next time we'll have a firmer grip when we start climbing again. Good in theory, but Pembroke still has a depth issue and a guard issue. Welch still has to do a lot of things that he didn't do last year. He has to bring the ball up against pressure. This weakens his legs for his Quick Draw McGraw 3 launching. This can't be disputed. He was a tired player in the 4th quarter.
Pembroke needs to develop another guard and develop fast if they want to repeat. Boucher does a nice job and is getting better, but the Spartans need another person to help the backcourt out. We'll really learn something about the Spartans in their next 5 games. They have their toughest stretch of the season. They will be playing in order: Hanover, Lebanon, Plymouth, Oyster River and Bishop Brady. 4 of those 5 teams have a combined record of 27 – 7. We'll know exactly where Pembroke stands on Valentine's night.
Portsmouth has their signature win. They have a nice blend of size, athleticism, just enough scoring and the defensive mind of Coach Mulvey. The Clippers are for real and will make a lot of noise in D2. You don't want to have them in your bracket when the seeds are finalized.