Sabers had a plan to slow down Spartans
Thursday, March 21, 2013
DURHAM – You don’t win a championship in the first minute and six seconds of a game, but you can start laying the groundwork.
The Souhegan boys basketball team did on Saturday when Tanner Kent took a baseline charge against Pembroke Academy junior Patrick Welch.
Welch was the leading scorer for the undefeated Spartans, the highest scorer on the highest scoring team in Division II. He’s a junior who eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in career scoring early in his junior season and averages over 25 points per game.
So naturally, you look for any way you can to get him out of the game.
“We know he likes to push off a little when you guard him closely,” Souhegan senior guard Brandon Len said. “Sure, we were hoping to get him in foul trouble.”
With three minutes left in the first quarter, Welch picked up his second foul, trying to guard Souhegan’s best player, Len, on a drive to the basket.
The Sabers saw an opportunity. They guarded Welch closely and, with seconds left in the quarter, Welch picked up his third foul and would spend the entire second quarter on the bench.
Suddenly, the division’s most explosive offense wasn’t so explosive. Pembroke would score just two points in the second quarter and trail 21-14 halftime.
Unfortunately for the Sabers, Welch knows how to play in foul trouble.
“It’s happened before,” Welch said after scoring 11 of his 14 points in the second half of a 49-41 Pembroke victory. “Once I picked up the second foul, I saw them flopping when I got near them, which was a smart move by them.”
Pembroke coach Matt Alosa said he had some advice for Welch at halftime.
“I told him don’t foul,” Alosa said. “We switched him off Len, and I told him every time someone gets near you when you have the ball, they are going to go down.”
Welch didn’t come out firing in the second half, trying to make up for lost time. He let the game come to him, hitting a layup early and a 3-pointer later in the quarter.
The pivotal point came early in the fourth quarter with Pembroke still down 36-33. Welch tied it with a 3-pointer, hit a layup to put the Spartans in front for good then found teammate Kanfani Williams for an easy basket and a 40-36 lead, the beginning of the end for Souhegan.
Pembroke, after scoring just 14 first half points, scored a more Pembroke-like 35 in the second half. Alosa tried to explain the second quarter meltdown.
“We were lopsided because we didn’t have that weapon on one side or another,” Alosa said. “Everything we run is predicated on having to run around Matt (Persons) and Pat.
“Whether they score or not, the other guys play off them.”
Did Souhegan, trailing 12-9 after one, fail to build a bigger halftime cushion with Welch out and Pembroke limited to just two second-quarter points?
“Honestly no,” Souhegan coach Mike Heaney said. “Up seven at half against an unbeaten team, I had to be happy with that.”
And happy with a season, that might have come within one more Welch foul of finishing with a bigger prize.