January 23. 2014 10:16PM

Roger Brown's High School Hoopla: Crane can relate

New Hampshire Union Leader

Marshall Crane was part of the best recruiting class the Bishop Brady High School boys’ basketball program ever put together. At least that’s what he heard throughout his high school career.

Crane, who grew up in Concord, said he chose to attend Bishop Brady (located in Concord) for a mix of athletic and academic reasons. His thoughts about not attending Concord High School grew stronger when he was told he would not be allowed to try out for Concord’s varsity team until his sophomore year. Back then, freshmen attended Rundlett Middle School.

Bishop Brady reached the Class I championship game three times during Crane’s time there. At one point In 1998, Crane’s senior year, NESN ranked the Green Giants as the No. 1 team in New England.

“There was a time when Bishop Brady was a pretty average Class M program,” Crane said. “Then they moved to Class I. Then they became a good Class I team. Then they became a contender in Class I. Then we were the No. 1 team in New England. People were asking, ’How did that happen?’”

There were recruiting accusations, but Crane insists there were no envelopes filled with cash or coaches whispering in his ear, telling him or anybody else where they should be playing high school basketball.

“There were rumblings around the city of Concord,” Crane recalled. “Every player on our roster, one through 12, was pointed at. On the road my junior and senior year we were constantly harassed. Other schools felt that Bishop Brady was recruiting when that wasn’t the case.”

Crane also played for the Granite State Raiders, a Concord-based AAU program that was in the news last week when Pembroke Academy made it clear that it was appealing the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association’s ruling that made two of its students ineligible to play basketball this season. Neither side was specific about why the players were ruled ineligible, but the NHIAA does not allow students to transfer for primarily athletic reasons.

Both ineligible players transferred to Pembroke from other NHIAA schools before the start of the current school year. Like Crane, both players also played for the Granite State Raiders, a program run and coached by Frank Alosa. Frank’s son, Matt, is Pembroke Academy’s head coach, and led the Spartans to a 22-0 record and the Division II championship last season.

Because he also played for Frank Alosa and was labeled “a recruit” while in high school, Crane can offer a unique perspective on the Pembroke situation. He isn’t taking a side in the issue — at least not publicly — but said he sympathizes with the players who, as it currently stands, have lost out on a year of high school basketball.

“That’s a year they won’t get back,” Crane said. “You only go to the prom once. You only play high school basketball once. There are no redos.

“It’s not hurting Pembroke Academy, It’s not hurting the NHIAA. It’s not hurting the players’ parents. It’s hurting the boys.

“The whole thing hit home with me when I was reading about it because I was one of those kids who was accused of being recruited (Crane was never ruled ineligible), and I remember how tough that was. It has to be a lot worse today with social media. At the end of the day these are just kids.”

Crane, who played college basketball at Boston University, said he took two things from recent articles on the Pembroke situation:

1) Frank and Matt Alosa have each become an easy target for those who are jealous of Pembroke’s recent success.

2) The players who have been ruled ineligible are paying for someone else’s mistake. Either the transfers were improper, or the NHIAA made an incorrect ruling.

“I don’t know all the facts, but I think accusing Matt Alosa and Frank Alosa is unfair,” Crane said. “I think what they do is nothing but positive.

“There was a mistake made by someone, and it may have even been an honest mistake. How many parents know the ins and outs of the NHIAA transfer rules?

“I can’t blame someone who transfers within the rules because they want to better themselves, and I understand the NHIAA rules and I respect that. If there were no NHIAA, it would be madness.

“There’s something that happened, and the ones paying the price are those kids. It’s heartbreaking to see that.”

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TWO of the three unbeaten girls’ teams in Division IV will meet tonight when Nute of Milton travels to Hinsdale. Both teams are 7-0 and trail only Groveton (9-0) in the Division IV standings.

Hinsdale hasn’t allowed more than 36 points in a game this season.

The only unbeaten girls’ teams in Division III will clash on Feb. 3, when Bishop Brady will face Campbell of Litchfield. Bishop Brady is currently 9-0, and Campbell is 7-0.

Bedford (6-0), Londonderry (6-0), Pinkerton Academy of Derry (6-0) and Hanover (6-0) are the only other unbeaten girls’ teams in the state.

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STINGY defense is one of the reasons the Merrimack boys are off to a 6-0 start. Entering tonight’s game against Concord, the Tomahawks are allowing an average of 43 points per contest.

“Defense is a big part of our game,” Merrimack guard Eric Gendron said. “Ever since Day 1 we knew we were a blue-collar team and in order to win a lot of games like we’re doing right now we were going to have to play team defense. Everybody has to play defense together. It’s not about one person.”

Merrimack held Dover to 17 points in a 40-point victory earlier this month. The only time the Tomahawks have surrendered 60 or more points this season came in a 63-60 triumph over Alvirne of Hudson, and that game went to overtime.

“After (the Queen City Invitational) we had a streak where we really worked on (defense),” Merrimack coach Tim Goodridge said. “Our goal is to keep improving and see where we are in another six or eight weeks.”

Roger Brown covers high school basketball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He can be reached at rbrown@unionleader.com. Follow him on Twitter: @603SportsMedia.