Sunday, March 13, 2016

Pelham Wins Back-to-Back D-III Titles

By: Jeremy Leveille
After leading his team to a semi-final win over Hopkinton Wednesday night, Pelham senior guard Keith Brown said how focused he was on winning another championship, that it was “the only thing on my mind”. Mission accomplished.

Brown poured in a game-high 22 points to go with 13 rebounds and 4 steals. The Pythons also got huge 3-pointer by senior guard Trevor Gagnon (11 points) and a charge taken by junior forward Joey Pantaleo.

Runners-up Kearsarge put up a valiant effort. They were right there with Pelham for 32 minutes and had a shot to win it at the end, but Pelham just made 1 or 2 more plays in crunch time. The Pythons win it 43-39 in front of a packed house at SNHU in Manchester. Pelham is now 43-1 and has 2 state titles in the last 2 years.

“I knew we were going to be really good last year” said Pelham head coach Matt Regan. “This year we had THE guy (Brown), but only two other guys played here last year besides him. So I wasn’t sure how the role players would do. But this is a credit to all of their hard work.”

Two of those role players (Gagnon and Pantaleo) really came through in the clutch. With the game tied 36-36 and less than 2 minutes left in regulation. Gagnon drained a huge 3-pointer from the left wing to put Pelham ahead 39-36 with 1:40 left in regulation. On the other end Kearsarge tried to answer back – big 6-foot-8 Zach Mattos took it to the bucket, but was met by Pantaleo who took the charge – Pelham ball.

“Regan does a great job in practice – we do many drills where we work on our outside shot” said Gagnon. “With 2 and a half minutes left Regan drew up a play for a fade route to Keith and had Cam (Deloretto) underneath. Kyle was going to catch and shoot, but #5 (Tayler Mattos) was there so he up-faked and passed it to me. I took the shot and let it flow.”

That turned out to be the biggest shot of the game, and of Pelham’s season. It was Gagnon’s third 3 of the game. He also hit a clutch floater earlier in the 4th quarter.

“I was more excited when more Joe took that charge” explained Gagnon. “It could have been an and-1 for them, but he stepped in and took it like a man. It was a great play.”

Kearsarge was then forced to foul, sending Brown to the line where Brown hit 2 free throws, extending the Python’s lead to 41-36. With suck little time left that essentially iced the win, and the championship for Pelham.

Give the Cougars credit though, as they kept fighting. Senior guard Trent Noordsij drilled a 3-pointer with 7 seconds left to cut the Pelham lead to 41-39. Kearsarge was again forced to foul, Pelham missed the front end of a 1-and-1 so the Cougars had the ball with 5 seconds left, trailing 41-39 – they still had a chance. Kearsarge tried to quickly push the ball up the floor, but their pass was stolen by Brown. Brown hits 2 more free throws, and the Pythons win it 43-39.

Kearsarge made a good run at it. They played hard, and this was the best team they’ve had in a long time. Head coach Nate Camp does a great job, especially considering they start 3 sophomores.

The SNHU Fieldhouse was really rockin’ for this one. It was a packed house, standing room only and both fan sections were loud – especially Keasarge’s. Brown made a steal on the game’s first possession and took it all the way in for a layup. The Cougars answered back, as Zach Mattos missed a shot inside but got his own rebound and put it in.

Zach Mattos followed that up with a nice block on a shot attempt by Deloretto. Then Kearsarge sophomore guard Tom Johnson (team-high 12 points) took it to the rim for an and-1. Brown took it inside, scoring over both Mattos brothers (Zach is 6-foot-8 and Tayler is 6-foot-7). Gagnon connected on a 3-pointer from the right wing, off a kick-out by Brown, as Pelham went up 7-4. They extended their lead to 10-4, as they used some good ball movement to get it to Ryan Nystrom for a 3-pointer.

Brown took a charge on a drive by Tayler Mattos. On the other end Zach Mattos made another blocked shot. Tayler Mattos drove and banked in a runner, through contact. It was 10-6 Pythons after a low scoring 1st quarter.

Kearsarge senior wing Nicholas Ippedico made a great play early in the 2nd quarter, making a steal at ¾ court and taking it all the way to the rim for a strong finish, over Brown. Then Johnson stole the ball at ¾ court and he took it all the way in for 2. Then Noordsij made a good move to the rim off the dribble, finishing inside, tying it up 12-12.

Then Gagnon came through again. With Kearsarge playing a box and one on Brown, Gagnon was left open from beyond the arc and he hit another one, putting Pelham back on top 15-12. Brown got fouled while shooting a 3, he hit all 3 FTs. Johnson converted a put-back, and then on the other end hustled for a nice steal. It was `18-14 Pelham at halftime.

Kearsarge out-rebounded Pelham 18-11 in the 1st half, which is not surprising with their size advantage. However, what was hurting the Cougars was that the big Mattos brothers only had 2 points apiece and as a team they turned the ball over 10 times in the 1st half, compared to just 3 turnovers for the Pythons.

Deloretto took a charge on a drive by Johnson early in the 3rd quarter. Zach Mattos ripped down a strong defensive rebound and on the other end Tayler Mattos finished strong inside for 2. Overall though, Pelham was doing a good job of fronting the post and not letting the Cougars get the ball inside to their bigs.

Zach Mattos scored inside off a baseline out of bounds play. Kyle Frank hit a big shot, a 3-pointer from the left corner off the catch, extending the Pelham lead to 24-18. Kearsarge sophomore guard Joseph Storozuk countered with a big 3-pointer of his own, off the catch from the left corner to cut the Pythons’ lead to 24-21.

Then came the play that brought the house down! Noordsij took it strong to the rim on the break. His shot inside was no good, but Zach Mattas was trailing the play and he leaped up, grabbed the ball after it went off the rim and slammed down a thunderous 2 handed dunk with authority. The Kearsarge fans went nuts, and the SNHU Field was really rockin’ now! Pelham’s lead was just 24-23 headed to the 4th quarter.

Storozuk hit another 3-pointer early in the 4th quarter, which sent the Kearsarge fans into a frenzy again. The Cougars were now on top 26-24. But then Keith Brown did what Keith Brown does. He hit a couple of huge shots to put his team back on top. First Brown hit an 18-footer, mere seconds after Storozuk’s shot. Pelham got the ball back, and in the blink of an eye Brown drained a 3, making it 29-26 Pelham.

Then Brown picked up his 4th foul with 6:00 left in the 4th quarter. One of the keys that decided the outcome of this game was the fact that Brown was able to go those remaining 6 minutes without picking up another foul.

“Keith did a good job of making it so I didn’t have to take him out” said Pelham head coach Matt Regan.
Gagnon drove baseline and hit a clutch floater to extend the Pelham lead to 31-28.

“Trevor won us the basketball game today” said Coach Regan. “We talked in practice about using floaters and he hit a beautiful one.”

Kearsarge kept fighting. Noordsij scored in the low post, over the smaller defender (Frank). Then Johnson drove the lane and hit a floater, putting the Cougars back on top 32-31 with 4:20 remaining. Again, the Kearsarge fans were going nuts!
Johnson drove and hit another floater, tying it up 34-34. Pelham called a timeout, with possession in a tie game, 34-34. They got the ball inside to Deloretto, who scored on Zach Mattos. On the other end Johnson delivered once again, driving baseline and hitting another floater to tie it back up 36-36. Then on defense Johnson showed some nice hustle, diving on the floor for a loose ball.

That’s when Gagnon hit what would turn out to be the game-winning 3, Pantaleo took a charge and Pelham went on to win it 43-39. The end to a great career for Brown. He is Pelham’s all-time leading scorer, he goes 43-1 with 2 titles in his last 2 seasons. He won D-III Player of the Year last year and if he doesn’t win it again this year then I will shut down this website. Brown hasn’t decided on where he’ll play his college ball, but he’ll be a heck of a player at which ever school he chooses.

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