Jim Fennell's High School Basketball: Things have changed
High school basketball teams can change drastically over the course of six weeks. Games played in January can sometimes be meaningless when two teams meet again now, in tournament time.
Case in point: The championship game of the Division II boys' basketball tournament Saturday in Durham at the University of New Hampshire's Lundholm Gymnasium.
Top-seeded Pembroke Academy (22-0) faces seventh-seeded Souhegan of Amherst (14-7) at noon. The Spartans beat the Sabers in a defensive game, 44-40, back on Jan. 15 in Amherst. Both teams look drastically different from that game.
Sometimes, however, things don't change. Sometimes the same result seems inevitable.
In that vein, we present the Division I championship game between top-seeded Trinity of Manchester (20-1) and seventh-seeded Bishop Guertin of Nashua (16-5). Game time at Lundholm Gym is 3 p.m.
Trinity rolled to a 74-60 road win over BG when the two teams met back on Jan. 29 and both teams have not changed much.
Here's a closer look at each game:
Bishop Guertin vs. Trinity
The Pioneers were up as many as 20 points in the third quarter when they first played the Cardinals. Trinity center Mabor Gabriel was having an inconsistent season, but he went off in that game for 22 points and 17 rebounds and it seemed to turn his season around.
"He was incredible that night," BG coach Jim Migneault said. "You have to keep him off the low block. If he gets too low, you can't stop him."
Gabriel had 26 points and 14 rebounds in Tuesday's semifinal win over Nashua South.
The seventh-seeded Cardinals should be a different team because junior point guard C.J. Boykin missed that first meeting with a shoulder injury. But Boykin was suspended earlier this week for an off-court incident and will not play Saturday.
Would Boykin have made a difference? The answer seems obvious when you consider he had a game-high 22 points in BG's quarterfinal win at Manchester Central.
The good news for the Cardinals is senior Steven Toscano had to start playing more point guard when Boykin was injured right before BG played Trinity in January. Now, he seems comfortable in that role and was a real key in Tuesday's 55-53 comeback win over Spaulding of Rochester in the semifinals with a game-high 19 points.
"He's playing with the utmost confidence," Trinity coach Dave Keefe said. "He's running the show."
Don't be surprised to see Trinity junior Brad Rhoades matched up with Toscano at some point. Rhoades, in his first year at Trinity after playing his first two seasons at Pembroke, helped slow down Nashua South point guard Tim Preston in the final minutes of Tuesday's game.
Migneault also said freshman guard Jack Zimmerman has elevated his game after being forced to play more minutes.
Still, the key for BG will be its ability to stop Gabriel and junior forward Carmen Giampetruzzi. BG counters with senior center Jeff Lunn, a top player in his own right. However, Lunn has been in foul trouble the past two games and will need to stay on the floor Saturday.
Keefe said he challenged Gabriel to match Lunn the first time the teams met and he certainly did that.
This is also a rematch of the 2011 championship game that BG won, 54-46.
While any current BG players who were in the program at the time were on the junior varsity, Trinity starters Gabriel, Giampetruzzi, and Pat Keefe were all with the Pioneers for that game and are making their third trip to Durham.
"I don't know if it means points on the board," Dave Keefe said, "but being comfortable means something and they are comfortable in that setting."
Souhegan vs. Pembroke
Pat Welch was nursing a back injury when the Spartans played the Sabers the first time. Matt Persons scored 23. Meanwhile, Souhegan was 3-3, had it own injuries and was still waiting for some players - notably Jake Kennedy and Tyler Ford - to fully make the transition from football to basketball.
That has all changed.
Welch is healthy and red-hot. He had 21 points on 9-for-10 shooting in Wednesday's semifinal win over Coe-Brown, while Kennedy - a Union Leader All-State football player who will be playing on the gridiron for UNH next year - and Ford are helping complement Souhegan leading scorer Brandon Len.
"He's a load," Pembroke coach Matt Alosa said of Kennedy, who had 12 points and 11 rebounds in Wednesday's semifinal win over Lebanon. "He's strong, physical and pretty smart."
While Pembroke will counter with Kafani Williams and Dominic Timbas up front, Souhegan could try to contain Welch with a combination of Len and senior Tanner Kent, who did a standout job Wednesday against Lebanon's David Hampton.
The difference could be Pembroke's other guards, senior captains Persons and Rene Maher.
"They're calm, cool and collected," Alosa said. "They are going to do their jobs night and night out."