By: Jeremy Leveille
Bishop Brady has a first-year head coach and prior to tonight, no one on their team had played in the Final Four at UNH. You would have never guessed it judging by their performance in the D-II semi-finals vs Goffstown. Led by the 'Big 3' of the Bell brothers and Brendan Johnson, plus big man Aaron Svendsen and sharpshooter Matt Quirk the Giants showed why they have arguably the most talented starting 5 in NH.
"I believe we're the most talented team" said Johnson, who is having one of the best multi-sport years by an NHIAA athlete in recent memory. "When we put our mind to it, we make it look easy."
"We can all shoot, and we can all drive" added Joe Bell.
Brady ran a clinic on fast-break basketball, en route to a 15-2 lead. They went up 47-20 in the 3rd quarter and cruised to the 61-47 win. The Giants advance to the championship game on Saturday, back at UNH vs. Portsmouth.
Brady forced 10 Goffstown turnovers in the 1st half.
"We focused on getting in the passing lanes and getting steals" said Johnson.
Not only did they force turnovers, but the Giants also controlled the boards as they out-rebounded Goffstown 39-26 which also helped them get out and run.
"Pushing the ball, boxing out and getting rebounds" said Joe Bell. "Getting in transition and getting easy baskets."
It sounds simple. But actually topping Bishop Brady's transition game is a tall order, especially when they move the basketball as well as they did on Wednesday night. Not only that, but playing on the bigger college floor helps them. Teams can't pack their defense in to take away the Giants' dribble drive game. There's more space for their 'Big' 3 to operate. And on the big court that you take care of the basketball and get back on defense against Brady. Goffstown didn't do those 2 things well enough, and the Giants made them pay.
"I can't say the bigger court hurt us" said Bishop Brady head coach Cole Etten with a smile.
Jourdain Bell got them out of the gates with a baseline drive and finish in traffic. Svendsen made a nice block, which started the fast-break and just seconds later Quirk laid it in. Junior shooting guard Mike Bailey got the Grizzlies on the board with a pull-up jumper from the elbow.
That's when Brady really started rolling. Goffstown missed a layup and Brady made them pay, as the Giants grabbed the rebound and immediately pushed it on the break as Jourdain Bell dished it to Svendsen for an and-1 finish. Joe Bell converted a quick layup in transition and it was 11-2 Brady, forcing Goffstown to call timeout.
Out of the timeout Brady's transition game continued to thrive, as Joe Bell glided in for another layup. The Giants got a quick steal and Johnson buried the pull-up jumper from the elbow and it was 15-2 Brady. Goffstown senior point guard Marcus Haynes hit a pair of 3-pointers, and it was 17-8 Giants after 1 quarter.
"They're hungry to win" said Coach Etten. "They want this bad."
Brady continued the run, outscoring the Grizzlies 18-6 to begin the 2nd quarter. Johnson drove and made a nice dish inside to Svendsen for a layup. Haynes slipped and fell on 'D;, leaving Johnson open for a 3 from the right wing and he nailed it. Svendsen converted another transition layup, off a good look by Jourdain Bell. Svendsen converted an easy put-back, as no one on Goffstown put a body on him. Casey Gervais redeemed himself on the other end for not boxing out Svendsen, as he finished a put-back of his own.
Grizzlies junior forward Tim Comeau picked up his 3rd foul of the 1st half and had to sit. Brady kept driving and dumping it down to Svendsen, as he finished another layup off a feed by Jourdain Bell. The Giants got the ball right back, and quickly pushed it in transition as Jourdain Bell zipped it over to Matt Desmarais, over to Svendsen for another and-1 finish to make it 35-14 Brady. It was 35-16 Giants at halftime.
"Jourdain is a tremendous player, one of the best point guards in the state" said Coach Etten. "He's a great leader and passer. If he doesn't score 20 points he doesn't care. He's just as happy getting assists."
Jourdain Bell made some more highlight reel plays in the 3rd quarter, using his athletic ability and showing why he's a scholarship level prospect. He split the 2 defenders at the top of the zone, exploding to the rim before drawing a foul. Then he hustled for a steal, and all in one motion was able to tip the ball over to Johnson, starting a fast-break the other way which resulted in another easy layup. On the next trip down the floor Johnson threw up a lob pass from the right wing for Jourdain, who was somehow able to leap up, catch the ball near the rim in traffic and while still in mid-air was able to square up to the bucket and lay it in. After another transition layup by Jourdain Bell it was 43-18 Brady, and this game was now getting out of hand.
Give Goffstown credit though, as they continued fighting back. Bailey and Haynes made strong takes to the rim and finishes, as the Grizzlies ended the 3rd quarter on a 12-2 run. Haynes hit a 3 from the right wing right in Jourdain Bell's eye, and then Haynes drove, took the contact and hit a tough leaner, and-1. Gervais made a nice pass from the high post to teammate Matt Shaw who was cutting back door for a layup. It was 49-32 Brady after 3.
Comeau, now in the game with 4 fouls, finished strong inside for 2 early in the 4th quarter. Haynes drove and banked in a floater. Brady got back out on the break, as Jourdain Bell pushed it quickly up the floor, making a good dish to Quirk for a layup. Haynes drove and dished it to Comeau for an and-1, and on the next trip down it was again Haynes drive and dumping it down to Comeau for 2. Still, the Grizzlies trailed 60-42 with under 3 minutes left in regulation. Haynes drove to the rim on the break for an and-1, but the Giants cruised to the 61-47 win.
This sets up Portsmouth vs. Bishop Brady on Saturday afternoon at UNH for the D-II title. When these 2 teams met during the regular season, Clippers sophomore point guard Shon Parham hit a baseline floater at the buzzer to win it for Portsmouth in overtime in arguably the best game of the year so far.
"We want Portsmouth" said Johnson. "They have young guards. I think we can pressure them and force turnovers.
Jourdain Bell - 12 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists
Joe Bell - 10 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists
Brendan Johnson - 14 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
Aaron Svendsen - 18 points, 5 rebounds
Marcus Haynes - 21 points
Casey Gervais - 6 points, 13 rebounds