Monday, July 21, 2014

Hoops for Hope David Bradner Tournament - Event Recap

The Hoops for Hope summer league wrapped up its David Bradner Tournament last week, with Prep 1 winning the tournament championship 72-67 over Pelham in double-overtime. The Kirsch brothers Max and Mitchell and former Exeter High guard Ben Swett all played major roles in the title run for 'Team Kirsch'. Max Kirsch (team-high 21 points) hit a clutch 3-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game at 65-65 and force a second overtime. He hit another 3 in the second-OT, and then his younger brother Mitchell (both from Atkinson, NH) connected on 4 big free throws to seal the victory.

Pelham deserves a lot of credit, as they played their tails off and left it all out on the floor. They beat Saint John's Prep in a hard fought battle in the semi-finals in a game that went down to the wire. And they pushed Prep 1 to double-OT, which is impressive considering they're a high school team going up against an all-star squad of prep school players.

"I think the story here is Pelham" said Prep 1 head coach Dave Kirsch, father of Max and Mitchell. "For a small town high school team to make it this far, either team could have won this game - Pelham is my new favorite team."

Leading the way for Pelham was all-state player Keith Brown, an incoming junior. He had a game-high 22 points in the finals and 12 points in the semis. He made a big time move and shot which at the time looked like it would be the biggest shot of the game. Pelham was up 51-50, with just under a minute left. Prep 1 extended their defense and was really pressuring the Pythons players hard trying to force a turnover. Pelham got the ball in Brown's hands, who was cool under pressure with the ball in his hands against tough defense. He faced up from the perimeter, then backed his man down towards the bucket, made a spin move into the lane before hitting a nice turnaround leaner. That made it 53-50 Pelham.

It looked like Pelham had the game won, but then Prep 1 hit a 3 from the right wing with 30 seconds left to tie it up 53-52. Pelham tried to re-take the lead, but a Ryan Cloutier (13 points in finals, 17 points in the semis) leaner was no good. Prep 1's last second heave was no good either and we were headed to the first overtime.

Pelham wing Dylan Silvestri played well throughout the night, but really came up big in the 1st overtime. He had an and-1 tip-in on the fast break. Then after Max Kirsch took his man off the dribble, making a strong move to the rim before drawing a foul, Silvestri answered back on the other end with yet another strong take and and-1 finish.

The Pythons were building momentum, but then Prep 1 answered right back. Swett (15 points) made an outstanding defensive play, grabbing a steal and going hard to the rim for a tough finish. Max Kirsch made it two buckets in a row for Prep 1, as he made an offensive rebound, a good spin move along the baseline and strong finish.

Brown answered back with a strong and-1 finish to put Pelham back on top 63-62. Brown continued to thrive in the clutch, hitting a pair of FTs to extend the Python's lead to 65-62 with just 12 seconds remaining in the 1st OT. That's when Max Kirsch hit the shot of the game, a 3-pointer at the buzzer from the right wing to tie it up 65-65 and send the game to a second overtime. It looked like Kirsch may have had a foot on the line, but was tough for me to tell. The Pelham bench and its fans were not happy with the call, as they seemed to think Kirsch had a foot on the line and the shot should have only counted for 2 points.

At any rate, we headed to a second OT. That's when Max Kirsch hit another clutch 3, Mitchell Kirsch (12 points) hit 4 big free throws, and Prep 1 went on to win 72-67. Silvestri had 10 points and 14 rebounds in the title game. Meanwhile, incoming senior guard David Rogers poured in 15 points in the semi-finals and 14 in the title game.

It was a hard fought 1st half in the title game as well. Brown went inside with a strong move to set the tone early. Mitchell Kirsch was left open from the perimeter, made a nice hesitation dribble-drive move before hitting a floater. Pelham was looking to get out on the break and run at every opportunity. They picked up a loose ball and then got a quick 2 points on the other end as Silvestri passed it ahead to Brown for a layup. Rogers hit a 3 from the right wing, Cloutier made a strong take from up top to the rim for a layup and then Silvestri converted another fast break layup. Pelham was the sharper team early, taking a 13-8 lead with 10:00 left in the 1st half.

Brown was going all out on the defensive boards. He was battling hard and grabbing boards over much taller players, showing a lot of heart.

Prep 1 was fighting hard to get back in the game, but then Cloutier hit a step-back 18-footer and then Rogers hit a floater to put Pelham up 17-10. Max Kirsch countered with a nice move underneath for 2 showing solid footwork and a tough finish in traffic.

Brown already showed the inside game, and now he stepped outside, banking in a 15-footer off a baseline out of bounds play then drilling a 3 off the catch. That pushed the Python's lead back up to 23-14 then Ryan Nystrom laid it in for 2 more. Austin Perry only had 4 points but he is just a tough kid who does a little bit of everything out there. Silvestri meanwhile was really crashing the offensive boards hard, showing good tenacity.

Then the Kirsch All-Stars went on a run to end the 1st half. Max Kirsch hit a pull-up 3, then they set up their full court press and he grabbed a steal. Swett converted the tip-in at the buzzer. It was 27-24 Pelham at halftime.

Swett continued to play well in the 2nd half. He made a great move with the ball on the break, killer crossover dribble, getting into the lane for a smooth finish, showing blinding quickness. Then Mitchell Kirsch connected on a 3-pointer in rhythm off the catch, showing good balance on his catch-and-release jumper.

Pelham meanwhile kept looking to get out in transition for easy baskets. Cloutier quickly got it ahead to Rogers for for a layup, and then it was Cloutier finishing on the break, off a feed from Brown. Rogers then drove into the lane, taking a tough, off balanced leaner but he somehow got the shot to fall - plus the foul! Cam DeLoreto converted a crucial tip-in, followed by a long jumper by Brown.

Pelham was getting the momentum back, but then Max Kirsch helped Prep 1 get it back on their side. He played some tough defense on the ball, and then on the other end he set his feet nicely, stepping into a 3-pointer off the catch. Swett then drilled a 3 of his own off a kick out, and now the Pelham lead was back down to 3, 43-40 with 5:00 left in regulation. Then Max Kirsch was fouled on a 3-pointer attempt, he made all 3 FTs and we were all tied up 43-43.

Ryan Rondeau (incoming transfer from Central Catholic) answered back for Pelham, making a good cut to the rim, catching it in the lane and going up strong inside to get himself to the line. Cloutier then hit an off balanced floater in the lane and Pelham was up 48-46 with 2:30 left. Swett made another nice steal and layup, and again it was tied back up, 48-48.

The Kirsch brothers and Swett are all blue collar, fundamentally sound players who play hard. Max Kirsch is an incoming junior, while Mitchell Kirsch and Swett are incoming sophomores. Phillips Exeter head coach Jay Tilton has a nice nucleus of young, local talent. Swett started for Exeter High last winter but is transferring to Phillips Exeter, reclassifying to the Class of 2017. Exeter High Head coach Jeff Holmes is probably not thrilled that another one of his players is transferring (joining the likes of Matt Barr, Quentin Bullen, Brad Holler) but it's hard to argue with a kid wanting to attend one of the top academic prep schools in the entire country.

"We've been playing well this summer" said Pelham head coach Matt Regan. "We lost to Exeter High by 4 in their tournament's championship game. We were up by 17 earlier in that game, playing without our starting point guard. Then we went to a tournament in Maine and beat 3 teams up there."


Semi-Finals

Pelham outlasted St. John's Prep 58-54 in a hard fought battle in the semis. Both teams were playing without their starting point guards. Pelham was missing incoming sophomore Kyle Frank, while St. John's Prep sharpshooting point guard Kareem Davis didn't check in until late in the 1st half.

Pelham came out sharper out of the gate, moving the ball and attacking the rim at will. Brown made a nice dish to Silvestri cutting to the rim for 2. Cloutier made a good finish on the break, followed by a put-back by Rogers, a strong and-1 finish on the break by Silvestri and a 3-pointer off the catch by Rogers. The Pythons were hitting on all cylinders, going up 15-4 early on.

Pelham continued attacking the rim, as Cloutier made a nice dish from the wing over to Rogers for a layup. Rondeau was playing a strong all-around game and tough defense for Pelham. DeLoreto came off the bench and was providing good strength, toughness and rebounding inside. Then after a quick steal for Pelham, Cloutier finished yet again on the break. That made it 23-8 Pythons. Rondeau made a tough finish inside, then Cloutier took his man off the dribble and hit a smooth floater.

Then Rogers hit an 18-footer, then Brown made a tough finish in the post. Ben Judson (Plaistow, NH) answered with a smooth pull-up jumper from the baseline. Judson is a natural 2-guard, but was playing the point with Davis missing in action. He showed the ability to see the floor and run the pick-and-roll from up top, making some good passes which lead to buckets. Not many kids who are 6-foot-5 can shoot and handle the basketball as good as Judson.

Brown went inside for a tip-in, but again it was Judson answering back, this time with a pull-up 3-pointer. Pelham kept looking to push the tempo and run, even after a SJP score. Cloutier made yet another layup, beating the SJP players down the floor. Pelham went to their bench more with the big lead, but DeLoreto, Trevor Gagnon and Collin Loring were all playing well to help maintain the lead.

St. John's Prep was slowly getting back in the game though, as Davis entered the lineup for them and immediately started hitting shots. They cut the Pelham lead to just 2, but then Gagnon hit a big mid-range jumper to extend the lead to 45-41. Rogers then made a strong take to the rim and finish.

Brown was sitting on the bench with 4 fouls, and Davis was putting on a show, drilling shots from all over the floor, off the catch or off the dribble. The incoming senior has a fluid release and gets his shot off quick. Brown went back in with the game tied up 47-47. Once he went back in Brown immediately made a big play, posting up and missing a shot inside but grabbing his own rebound and putting it back in for a clutch bucket.

Then Cloutier hit the shot of the game, a big 3-pointer to extend the Pelham lead to 54-49. Davis answered back with a clutch pull-up jumper at the foul line to cut the Python's lead to 56-53 with 1:30 remaining. Pelham hung on from there for the 58-54 win.

It was definitely an impressive showing for Pelham. They have to be considered the early favorite in NHIAA Division III next season. Heck, they'd be one of the favorites in D-I!

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