Roger Brown's High School Basketball: Perfection became goal for Central
THERE ARE teams interested only in winning a state championship. Those teams would quickly brush aside a slipup during the regular season and refocus on the bigger picture.
Then there's the 2013-14 Manchester Central boys' basketball team, a greedy and talented bunch that not only aimed to win this year's Division I title, but wanted to go undefeated in the process.
Central did just that when it punctuated its season with a 70-61 triumph over Merrimack in Saturday's Division I championship game. The Little Green finished 25-0 overall, and 22-0 in Division I.
"We worked so hard in the offseason," said Central guard Jon Martin, who scored 18 points Saturday. "To win 25 — that's quite a win streak. This team is incredibly poised. You have to give us credit for preparation. We were ready for this one."
Central coach Doc Wheeler said the possibility of finishing unbeaten motivated his team.
"Two-thirds of the way through the season I started to get nervous before every game," Wheeler said following Saturday's contest. "I just didn't want the guys to be disappointed.
"A lot of people say you lose a regular-season game, no big deal. It was to us. That type of motivation kept us focused in practice."
JOHN FAGULA'S illustrious coaching career ended on a high note when he guided the second-seeded Londonderry girls to a 57-56 upset over previously unbeaten Bedford in Sunday's Division I championship game.
It was career victory No. 624 and state championship No. 12 for Fagula, who announced last year that this would be his final season as Londonderry's head coach. Fagula won 11 state championships when he was the head coach at Nashua High School.
FOLLOWING Pembroke Academy's 49-40 triumph over Portsmouth in Saturday's Division II boys' championship game, Pembroke coach Matt Alosa and Portsmouth coach Jim Mulvey both said either Pembroke guard Pat Welch or Pembroke forward Kafini Williams deserved to be the Division II Player of the Year.
Welch averaged 24 points per game during the regular season. Williams entered the title game averaging 19 points and 13 rebounds per game.
Williams led all scorers (22 points) and rebounders (11) in Saturday's victory. Welch finished with 15 points.
"The Player of the Year, in my eyes, is either (Williams) or Welch," Mulvey said. "You could put them either way. They're both tremendous basketball players."
Sunday's Division II girls' championship game featured teams that could contend for next year's title as well. Merrimack Valley of Penacook, which won the championship by beating Coe-Brown of Northwood 55-49, will return two starters, including sophomore forward Mayson Kimball. Kimball had 18 points, 13 rebounds, two blocked shots and one steal in Sunday's victory.
Coe-Brown didn't have a senior on this year's roster. The Bears started four juniors and a sophomore.
"They're all coming back," Coe-Brown coach David Hartnett said. "We'll see what happens."
DEFENSE played a big role in the Conant of Jaffrey boys' basketball team's success this season. Conant won this year's Division III championship by beating Campbell of Litchfield 40-36 Sunday.
Conant didn't allow more than 38 points in its four tournament games. The Orioles surrendered a total of 139 points (34 ppg) in those four victories.
"It's defense first here," said Conant's Robert O'Brien. "The goal is always to keep our opponent under 40."
AFTER picking up three fouls in the first quarter and sitting out the rest of the first half, Epping guard Jimmy Stanley scored 20 second-half points to help the Blue Devils erase a 17-point deficit and win the Division IV title with a 74-70 triumph over Sunapee on Saturday.
Stanley made 8 of 14 shots from the field in the second half, and finished the game with 26 points.
Roger Brown covers high school basketball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @603SportsMedia.