Honestly, Pelham High boys hoop coach Matt Regan was looking to land a warning shot in the season finale at Portsmouth.
Instead, he and the Pythons will have to make their noise when it matters for real as the New Hampshire Division 1 and 2 State Tournament pairings were announced yesterday.
“We’ve got a lot of guys with little experience in the tournament who have to show up for us,” said Regan, whose No. 8 Pythons host No. 9 Plymouth in the Division 2 opener tomorrow night. “But hey, the best thing you can do is go out and play well your first time around.”
To earn the Cinderella tag, Pelham will need its top guns, junior Jake Vaiknoras and freshmen Keith Brown to compete at top levels. They could also use a break or two, as an opening round win would yield a quarterfinal trip to undefeated top seed Pembroke.
Pembroke features Pat Welch, who is a junior on pace to score 2,000 career points. But, he is one of three first team All-state Division 2 first-teamers on the squad.
“First things first, though. We have to deal with Plymouth,” said Regan, whose club pummeled the Bobcats, 56-22, in the regular season finale Thursday night. “They were in foul trouble, and we played an absolute complete game. This one is not going to be a walk in the park.”
The Pythons are the only area team in Divisions 1 or 2 to open at home, as Salem, Londonderry and Pinkerton are giant underdogs on the road in Division 1, while Windham High is in tough at Oyster River.
The Jags dropped both regular season meetings between the two, by a hoop at home and 10 in Durham.
Here’s an inside look at the two tourneys:
Top Seeds: 1. Trinity, 2. Manchester Central, 3. Spaulding, 4. Nashua South
Power Players: Jack Preston, South, 18.4 ppg.; Troy Pelletier, Manchester Central, 17.7; Dominic Paradis, Spaulding, 17.2 ppg.; Tyler Livingston, Alvirne, 16.6; Tim Preston, South, 16.2; Mabor Gabriel, Trinity, 16.1; Carmen Giampetruzzi, Trinity, 15.8; Tong Akot, Memorial, 15.1; Billy Carroll, Dover, 13.7
Bracket Breakdown: For a while, it looked as if the title had to go through the Queen City, but Manchester Central tumbled hard with three losses late. Nashua South couldn’t handle the big guys at Spaulding, but that advantage might be leveled in the postseason, where things tend to tighten up. Tough season in Division 1 for the area teams. Salem might be hungry to atone for last year’s disappointment as the No. 2 seed, but the Blues are in tough, seeing South then the Dover/Memorial winner.
Longo’s selections: 1. Nashua South – Preston might be my selection for Player of the Year.; 2. Trinity – Pioneers get after the basketball on the backboard.; 3. Spaulding – One more shooter, and you were my pick to win it.
Sectional Sleeper: Bishop Guertin – Love the explosive C.J. Boykins in the backcourt, and I like the Cardinals’ draw.
No. 13 Salem (8-10)
Prime time players: Andrew Ruffen, Sr., 11.9; Michael Felix, Jr., 10.2; Jack Hartman, Sr., 7.8; Steve Nugent, Sr., 8.8
The road ahead: South offers a severe challenge, and the reward for the shocker there is a quarterfinal with either Dover or Memorial, each of whom took out the Devils in the regular season.
No. 15 Londonderry (5-13)
Prime time players: Max Coleman, Jr., 8.8; Taylor Simpson, Sr., 9.5; Cody Balll, Soph., 7.7
The road ahead: The good news is that Manchester Central is one of the coldest teams in the state headed into the tourney, having dropped three straight coming into the postseason.
No. 16 Pinkerton (5-13)
Prime time players: Cam Welch, Sr., 12.4 ppg.; Scott Bradley, Sr., 12.3; Luke Testa, Soph., 8.7 ppg.; Like Rosinski, Frosh., 9.4
The road ahead: Pinkerton opens with top-seeded Trinity, a team that the Astros did not see in the regular season. Pull off the ultimate shocker and a matchup with Bedford or Winnacunnet, both of whom had their way with the Astros in the regular season.
Top Seeds: 1. Pembroke, 2. Portsmouth, 3. Lebanon, 4. Hollis/Brookline
Power Players: Brandon Len, Souhegan, 22.1; Pat Welch, Pembroke, 20.9 ppg.; Nick Lazar, Oyster River, 18.1; Ben Landry, Portsmouth, 15.6; Matt Person, Pembroke, 15.4; Travis MacDonald, Portsmouth,14.6; Cyrus Rothwell-Ferraris, Hanover, 18.2
Bracket Breakdown: Can Pembroke Academy live up to the hype? That has been the story line for Pat Welch and Co. each of the last three years. In the first two, they failed at home in the quarterfinals as the top seed. That is, of course, Pelham would see them.
Longo’s selections: 1. Pembroke – Finally gets it done; 2. Portsmouth – Athletic and dangerous on the wide-open floor at UNH; 3. Hollis-Brookline – Dictates pace and makes the opposition play its style.
Sectional Sleeper: Pelham – Why not? Vaiknoras is immune to the precious situations, and Brown is still a freshman. He doesn’t know any better yet. If the kid handles the heat, maybe Pelham could be the one.
No. 8 Pelham (10-8)
Prime time players: Jake Vaiknoras, Jr., 16.6; Keith Brown, Frosh., 15.6
The road ahead: Tough draw, facing a team that’s better than it obviously showed in the regular season finale, which will mean Plymouth will have something to prove. Beat the Bobs, and the unbeaten top seeds from Pembroke Academy will most likely be the reward.
No. 12 Windham (9-9)
Prime time players: Andrew Lowman, Jr., 14.9; Joe Lorenz, Sr., 9.9
The road ahead: Will the third time against Oyster River be the charm for the Jags? We will see in the opener. Two straight wins to close the season, including one over No. 4 Hollis-Brookline, have to have the Jaguar spirits sky high. Beat OR, and H-B is the reward with a trip to UNH on the line.