EXETER — As the final seconds rolled off the clock, Pembroke Academy coach Matt Alosa roamed to the end of the bench where his starters had gathered to kick-start the semifinal celebration.
“You play defense like that tomorrow, you’re going to win a state championship,” the coach assured his troops.
Who could doubt Alosa after his loaded band of top-seeded Spartans stifled No. 4 Pelham in last night’s Division 2 semis, 62-40?
Today (3 p.m.) Alosa’s crew, now 20-1, looks to avenge the only blemish on their schedule when they battle Portsmouth for the Division 2 championship at UNH.
“Physically, defensively, they gave us a lot of issues, fighting through screens and making things just really tough for us on the offensive end,” said Python coach Matt Regan, who piloted his crew to another superb season at 19-5 overall and 17-4 in the Granite State. “Honestly, things were a lot easier for us when we saw them in the regular season. They definitely amped it up.”
Trailing 16-7 after one quarter and 31-17 at the half, Pelham just never got it going.
Sophomore sensation Keith Brown, who had torn things up with 25 and 29 points in two previous playoff wins, wore a Spartan on his back all night long.
And it looked like the other four had collapsed around senior Jake Vaiknoras. With those two seeing little space, the offense sputtered.
Brown would finish with a hard-working 10 points.
Vaiknoras led all Pythons in scoring and provided a reason to cheer for the huge Pelham faithful in the fourth quarter. Needing a dozen points to reach the plateau, he got it with just over 5:30 left.
His fans/classmates knew it and saluted Vaiknoras with a rousing thank you for a dynamite career.
“Jake has kept this program at this level for the last four years,” said Regan. “There is no harder worker in practice, no harder worker in games. He’s a great student, a great kid. He’s the kind of player you don’t ever replace.”