Saturday, March 21, 2015

Bell Brothers Win Title in Final HS Game as Teammates

Jourdain and Joe. The Bells are the most heralded brother duo to come out of NH in the past decade. They've played together all growing up - on school teams, AAU, at showcases and in the driveway. After all the hard work and all the games it ends today - with a state championship.

It was a standing room only crowd at UNH's Lundholm Gymnasium. For many of those fans, this was the best state title basketball game they will ever witness. For the Bishop Brady boys basketball team (and the Bell family in particular) it will be a day they'll never forget.

Portsmouth led 56-50 with 1:30 left in the 4th quarter. The game was all but over. Then Bishop Brady senior point guard Jourdain Bell (game-high 27 points) drained two 3-pointers, Clippers sophomore guard Christian Peete missed the front end of two 1-and-1's and we were tied 56-56. With 12 seconds left Portsmouth had the ball. The Giants got a deflection and stole the ball. Brady junior forward Aaaron Svendsen threw the ball ahead to Joe Bell, who laid it in with 3 seconds left. Clippers freshman shooting guard Cody Graham's last second shot from 3/4 court fell just short. Brady wins 58-56 to capture the 2014-2015 Division II state title.

"Once I saw Jojo got that layup I said it's over - we got this" said Jourdain Bell, arguably the NHIAA's best player. "I don't think I could ask for a better last game with my brother than what just happened. It's a once in a lifetime thing."

"I'm in shock" said Joe Bell, a junior guard. "I don't believe we won - it's crazy. It's very emotional right now. I prayed before the game that God would be with us. I believed in my team."

Portsmouth led by as many as 10 points. They led 15-5 late in the 1st quarter, and they led 19-9 early in the 2nd quarter. The Clippers dictated the tempo. They knew they needed to slow it down, make it a half court game, limit Brady's transition opportunities and keep Jourdain Bell out of the paint. For the most part they were successful on all of those fronts.

"We wanted to get back on defense, and play off (Matt) Quirk all game" said Jim Mulvey, who has taken Portsmouth to 6 titles games in his 9 years as head coach. "That gave us an extra guy in the paint to defend Jourdain."

"I love this group" Coach Mulvey" continued. "They gave me everything they had. Credit to them. That's why Jourdain is the best player in our division."

Jourdain Bell has scored 1,000 points. He has won back-to-back D-II Player of the Year awards. He's hit a lot of big shots, but none were bigger than those two 3's to tie it up 56-56 with under a minute left.

"One thing my Mom has always told me that even if I'm missing, to keep shooting" said Jourdain Bell. "In the heat of the moment I thought I could make those shots, so I took them."

Portsmouth ball in a tie game 56-56 with 12.4 seconds left. Right from the inbounds pass, all 5 Brady defenders were on their man like glue. The Clippers tried to pass the ball to the wing and the ball was deflected by the Giants. Brady comes up with the steal. Svendsen (scored 10 of his 13 points in 3rd quarter, also had 7 rebounds and 2 blocks) got the ball ahead to Joe Bell who had released down court. Both teams had missed a ton of layups throughout the game, but Brady made the one that mattered most, as Joe Bell put in in with 3 seconds left. That gave the Giants only their second lead of the game (only other lead was 28-27 late in 2nd quarter).

"We tried to pressure them, get a steal as quick as we could" said Joe Bell. "Aaron got the ball to me. I focused on making the layup, and I put it in."

A key play late in the game was when Portsmouth senior guard Charlie Lehoux drove to the rim, scoring inside through contact. Was it an and-1 or a charge? It's the toughest call in basketball to make. In this case it could have gone either way. But the call went against Portsmouth, as not only was Lehoux whistled for an offensive foul but it was his fifth foul so he was done. Not only did Portsmouth lose Lehoux for the game, but senior forward De'Vonn Wilson-Miles left the game around then as well.

"De'Vonn got poked in the eye" said Coach Mulvey. "He's a really good defender, and Lehoux gives us another ball handler. Losing them was big."

After that Jourdain Bell missed a 3-pointer that would have cut the Portsmouth lead to just 1 with 2:45 left in the 4th quarter. On the other end Clippers sophomore point guard Shon Parham went to the rim, got fouled and hit both FTs, making it 54-48 Portsmouth. On the next trip down Brady got a defensive rebound and looked to run, but Parham stole the ball in the back court and finished the and-1. A huge play by Parham, and it was 56-50 Clippers.

Over the final 1:30 of regulation though the Giants ended the game on an 8-0 run. Jourdain Bell buried a 3 from the right wing, cutting the PHS lead to 56-53 with 1:29 remaining. Brady had to foul, they sent Peete to the line but he missed the front end of the 1-and-1 for the second time in the closing minutes. Jourdain Bell hit another HUGE 3-pointer, again from the right wing off a dish by Brendan Johnson. We were all tied up 56-56.

Portsmouth ball, and they call timeout with 12.4 seconds remaining. You know how the rest went from there.

"They needed literally everything to go their way in the last 1:30 and it did" said Coach Mulvey.

This is Bishop Brady's first boys basketball title since 1997. Both Jourdain Bell and Brendan Johnson get to end their careers as champions. Jourdain Bell is a potential scholarship recruit in basketball. He had 27 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal with UNH head coach Bill Herrion watching the game from the sideline. Local schools like UNH and SNHU should strongly considering offering Bell a scholarship, at least a partial one. As for Johnson, he is one of the best 2-sport athletes to come out of NH in recent years. He tied the state record for touchdown passes during football season, and makes first team all-state in hoops while leading the Giants to the title. He's a college prospect in both sports.

"Stonehill has been contacting me a lot" said Jourdain Bell. "St. Joe's in Maine and UMass Amherst as well."

Johnson gets the toughness award for this game. Late in the 3rd quarter Portsmouth forward Angus Lamond grabbed a defensive rebound, turned with the ball and popped Johnson right in the face with his elbow. Johnson fell, was on the floor for a few seconds and then left the game with a bloody nose. No foul was called on the play. If it was any other kid in the state, that would have knocked them out of the lineup for a few minutes at least - Johnson was back in there literally one play later. He came back in, got the ball on the right wing, drove in, made a spin move into the lane, drew a second defender and made an outstanding dish to Svendsen for a layup. How can you not root for a kid like that?

Svendsen had 10 points in the 3rd quarter, as Brady closed to within 43-41 heading to the 4th. Jourdain Bell tied it up 43-43 early in the 4th quarter with a pair of FTs. Then Portsmouth went on a 9-0 run. Graham (team-high 17 points) ignited the run. He broke the tie score with a 3-pointer from the right wing. The Clippers got a quick steal, and Graham used a crossover dribble into a foul line pull-up jumper. Teammate Loden Formichelli then drilled a 15-footer of his own, and it was 50-43 Clippers with 5:12 left in regulation, forcing Brady to call timeout. Brady was struggling offensively, as they kept trying to drive to the basket 1-on-2 or 1-on-3 and turning it over or taking forced shots as a result. Portsmouth meanwhile was executing better in the half court and that's why they had the lead. Portsmouth the started to run the clock. They had the ball for a good 30-35 seconds without even trying to score, just working it around the perimeter - this is why NH needs a shot clock. They ended the long possession with a layup by Lehoux, capping the 9-0 run and making it 52-43 Portsmouth.

Jourdain Bell hit a 3-pointer (his first of three clutch 3's in the 4th quarter), cutting the PHS lead to 52-46 with 3:44 left. Jourdain Bell then came up with a clutch steal near half court and layup on the other end, cutting it to 52-48 and you know how the rest went.

When these 2 teams met in the regular season Portsmouth won by 2 in overtime in Concord on a baseline floater by Parham at the buzzer. The 2 games Brady and Portsmouth played against each other were 2 of the best games of the year in NH basketball. Saturday afternoon was a great game between the 2 best teams in the division. What more can you ask for? If they played each other 10 times, they would probably win 5 times each.

Brady had to battle back from a 10 point deficit in the 1st half. Graham opened the scoring in the 1st quarter with a quick move to the hole off the dribble for 2. Brady ran a fast-break off the made basket, as Johnson laid in the layup. Formichelli made a nice steal and went in for an easy layup, as 1 of the 10 turnovers the Giants had in the 1st half. Brady kept trying to drive baseline, but Portsmouth was doing a good job of closing off the baseline and forcing turnovers.

Graham made another nice dribble-drive move and finish in traffic and it was 7-2 Clippers. Jourdain Bell hit his first 3 of the game off a kick out by his brother Joe to make it 7-5 PHS.

Then the Clippers went on an 8-0 run. They continued to force Brady to turn it over, and Johnson missed a pair of layups. Formichelli hit a 3 and sophomore forward Joe Glynn hit a pair of FTs to make it 15-5 Clippers. Brady ended the run, as Quirk hit a floater and Svendsen finished inside off a dish by Jourdain Bell. Wilson-Miles was all over the place, blocking shots on back-to-back possessions for Portsmouth and also finishing inside out of the low post. It was 17-9 Portsmouth after 1.

The Clippers matched their largest lead, as Glynn scored inside early in the 2nd quarter to make it 19-9. Brady was finally able to get out in transition though, getting 2 quick buckets by Joe Bell. Graham answered for the Clippers, getting the friendly bounce on a 3-pointer. Johnson answered back for the Giants, driving and hitting an and-1 leaner. Jourdain Bell then finished 2 quick buckets in transition - finally the game was being played at their pace. Then Joe Bell picked up his third foul, and he had to sit for the last 4:30 of the 1st half.

Wilson Miles drove and hit a tough leaner inside. Then Jourdain Bell threw the ball off the back of a PHS player on a baseline out of bounds play, caught it and laid it in. After 2 FTs by Johnson the Giants took their first lead of the game, 28-27 with 1:20 left in the 2nd quarter.

Brady missed a layup on one end, and then Wilson-Miles converted a layup on the other end for the Clippers off some good ball movement and slow defensive rotation by the Giants. As a result, it was 30-28 Portsmouth at halftime.

Brady had to be feeling good only trailing by 2 at halftime considering Joe Bell had to sit the last few minutes with 3 fouls, the majority of the 1st half was played at Portsmouth's pace, Brady was down by as many as 10 and the Giants turned it over 10 times.

Early in the 3rd quarter Parham hit a 3 - the second time a PHS guard got the friendly bounce on a 3. Jourdain got WAY up high to grab a rebound, and then made a tough drive and athletic finish for 2. After a put-back by Formichelli it was 37-31 Portsmouth with 5:21 left in the 3rd quarter.

Both teams were missing a lot of layups. Portsmouth was getting a lot of offensive rebounds in the 3rd quarter, helping them to maintain the lead. Brady then had a long possession. They were looking to score the whole time, but Portsmouth was playing suffocating 'D'. Finally Jourdain Bell drove and dished it to Svendsen for a layup. On the other end Lehoux converted a put-back on his own miss. Just seconds later Jourdain Bell again drove and dished it to Svendsen for a layup. The fast and furious scoring continued, as Glynn finished inside for 2 and on the other end Svendsen made a tip-in for 2 more.

It was a hard fought, well played game. A great story for Bell brothers to win a title in their last high school game as teammates. Cole Etten wins a title in his first year as coach. A thrilling comeback win for the Giants, and a heart-breaking loss for the Clippers. Portsmouth has a lot of returning talent, and will likely be the favorites next year.

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