Saturday, March 15, 2014

Pembroke Wins Back-to-Back D-II Titles

By: Jeremy Leveille
It was too much Kafani 'Jordan' Williams and too much Pat Welch and as a result the Pembroke Spartans have won 2 Division II championships in a row. Williams was an absolute beast today, with a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds to lead the way, as Pembroke defeated Portsmouth 49-40 on Saturday afternoon at UNH.

The Spartans have a remarkable 44-1 record over the past 2 years and 2 titles. Portsmouth senior guard Donovan Phanor played outstanding defense on Welch, but he was still able to hit some key shots en route to 15 points on the game. Pembroke was able to avenge their only loss of the season, which came earlier in the year to Portsmouth.

"We came out with a lot of heart" said Welch, who ends his career as Pembroke's second all-time leading scorer with over 2,000 points, only behind head coach Matt Alosa. "Last year we went undefeated so there was more pressure. This year we lost to them during the regular season so we wanted to get them back."

Pembroke led by as many as 14, when it was 25-11 in the 2nd quarter. What was so different this time than in the regular season when Portsmouth won?

"The first time our box-and-one was more effective" said Portsmouth High head coach Jim Mulvey. "But this time Coach Alosa ran some nice sets against it so we had to come out of it. They also hurt us on the boards early today."

Pembroke went up 10-2 early, and led 20-11 after 1 quarter. Williams had 9 of those 20 points. All game long he attacked the rim with a series of strong inside finishes. With Phanor sticking to Welch like glue Williams stepped his game up to another level.

"Pat's a great player, everyone knows he's a great scorer" explained Williams, who is looking into a possible post-grad year at a prep school for next year. "But it's a team game, you can't rely on just one player. Every summer since I was in 8th grade I have worked hard" "The difference this year is I calmed down and relaxed more out there."

Williams played varsity all 4 years but up until this year he was moore of a role player, someone who would grab rebounds, defend and make put-backs. Guys like Welch, Matt Persons and Rene Maher did more of the scoring. He was always extremely strong and athletic, but this season Williams became more aggressive offensively, refined his drive moves and became a better finisher.

"Pat averaged 24 points and 5 rebounds, Jordan averaged 19 points and 13 rebounds" pointed out Pembroke head coach Matt Alosa. "One of them should win Player of the Year."

Williams finished strong for 2, Cameron Taylor hit a 3 and Williams hit a 15-footer and it was 7-0 Pembroke. Williams had an and-1 and it was 10-2. Max Curran and Welch hit 3-pointers and it was 16-4 Spartans. Portsmouth was having trouble scoring on the Pembroke 2-3 zone. Phanor hit a 3, but then Welch pulled up and hit a 15-footer to make it 18-9.

"The first game we played them Kafani didn't score that much, it was 100% a different game" said Pat Glynn.

Glynn drew a charge on Curran early in the 2nd quarter, and then Williams leaped about 20 feet in the air (exaggerating but not by much) to grab a rebound. That rebound started a fast break, and then Welch drained a 3 to give Pembroke a 25-11 lead, their largest of the game.

Pembroke junior guard Connor Boucher hit a 15-footer and-1, but then Portsmouth senior guard Nick Mackey hit a 3 at the buzzer to cut the Spartan's lead to 28-19 at halftime.

Early in the third there was an offensive flurry, with Pembroke forward Dominic Timbas, Welch and Portsmouth junior guard Charlie Lehoux all hitting shots in the span of about 20 seconds. Williams had a nice tip-in, and Phanor answered with a 3. Williams had yet another strong finish inside and it was 37-27 Pembroke after 3 quarters.

Williams again took in strong to the rim for 2 more, and it was 39-27 Spartans early in the 4th. That's when Portsmouth battled back, going on a 7-0 run. Phanor hit another 3, and then the Glynn brothers Pat and Joey both scored inside to cut the lead to 39-34. Williams again scored inside, but Portsmouth again cut the lead back down to 5, 41-36.

The Clippers had the ball down 41-36 with a chance to score and make it a one possession game. They got some good looks inside but couldn't hit them. Then Welch and Williams both hit layups and it was 45-36 PA.

"We knew they were going to make a run" Williams said. "We just focused on slow it down and defending them."

Portsmouth didn't give up though, as Lehoux hit a 3 to cut the lead to 45-39 with 1:13 left in regulation. Portsmouth needed to foul, but Welch took it to the rim. Portsmouth fouled him, but he scored the basket at the same time for an and-1. That made it 49-39 Pembroke, icing the win and the championship.

"We had four shots at it down 5" lamented Coach Mulvey. "The ball just wasn't going in for us. This was a good group, with unbelievable senior leadership."

It was a tough way for Portsmouth seniors Phanor, Mackey and Pat Glynn to end their careers. Phanor and Glynn also play football, and the Clippers football team also lost in the title game this year.

"It hurts losing in both championship games senior year" said Phanor. "This game was the biggest stage I've ever played on, so this one really hurts. But a lot of kids never get to play in a championship game."

Phanor really made Welch work all game.

"The less times he has the ball in his hands the less times he can score" Phanor explained. "Welch is a great scorer, and I wish him the best of luck. He's the quickest player I've ever played against."

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