Milford boys hoop sees bright future

HOLLIS – If sports are supposed to be educational, Milford High boys hoop coach Dan Murray had a major lesson unfold for his team over the final couple weeks of the season into the playoffs.

Milford was eliminated Friday by top-seeded Hollis Brookline, 46-33, in the Division II state quarterfinals.

Hollis dominated that one, building a lead as big as 21 points. It hardly resembled the two regular-season matchups between the clubs, in which the Cavaliers and Spartans fought into the final minute.

Time for the lesson. There is a major difference between regular and postseason.

“It wasn’t the playoffs,” explained Murray. “A game like this will make a big difference for next year. It has to get them more inspired over the summer (and the entire offseason).”

Milford finished the season at 11-9, a year after making the state semis at UNH.

Murray says the future could be pretty bright at Milford, because of the experience gained and the lessons learned by what is an extremely young crew.

“This season, we grew quite a bit,” said Murray. “We’re pretty young, We have four of our top six coming back. And we have some good kids coming back off the bench. We’ll be solid next year.”

Of course, replacing the two graduating captains will be the top priority. Seniors Jamie Pare and Zach King were extremely special cogs in the Milford hoop wheel.

“Jamie has just been an incredible leader for us,” said Murray back in January. “He’s made so many big plays for us. And he’s smart out there, too. Just a great kid.”

Pare’s scoring prowess helped guide Milford through both the rough times, losing 5 of 6 at midseason, and the good ones, winning 5 of 6 down the stretch.

And King, the two-sport leader and football quarterback, might go down as one of the most inspirational athletes in school history, overcoming the loss of his mom during his junior football season and hardly letting it affect his performance.

“Zach is an amazing kid,” said sophomore Gavin Urda back in January. “He’s a great friend and someone I’ve looked up to as a leader for as long as I can remember.”

King played his senior campaign by sacrificing offensive for his defense and rebounding, often forced to play opposing teams’ other top big men. It was a typical King team move.

What Murray will have to build around is the quartet of the sophomores Urda and Jason Greska and juniors Sam Santaniello and Max Fortin, all of whom had big games throughout the winter.

Urda, who will most likely replace King at QB in the fall as well, showed off a propensity to make the key play all winter. The smooth-shooting Greska will be asked to take a larger role next year, especially behind the arc.

Both Santaniello and Fortin will have to take charge in the leadership roles, a fact that Murray sees as pivotal, beginning today.

“I don’t think this team understood the time they had to put in over the summer to be good in the winter where as last year’s kids did so well at it,” said Murray. “We were behind the eight-ball all year because we just didn’t commit to it.”

Committing to it in the warm months will be the first step in Milford attempting to make the return to UNH and the State Final Four.

JUST TOO MUCH HOLLIS BROOKLINE

Hollis Brookline looked angry and played like it, annihilating Milford, 46-33, in a game that just wasn’t that close.

The top-seeded Cavs went on to beat Merrimack Valley, 46-43, in the semis on Monday night and will now face No. 7 Oyster River for the state Division II title Saturday (3 p.m.) at UNH’s Lundholm Gym.

“We just made a lot of adjustments,” said HB senior Scott VanCoughnett, noting the difference between the regular season and playoffs.

Hollis Brookline, now 17-2, busted to an 18-4 lead after a quarter as the shooting struggles Milford endured and persevered through last Tuesday night at Timberlane, followed them across Route 111 into the Cavs’ cage.

“We played tight, a lot of back rims on the missed shots,” said coach Murray, whose No. 9 Spartans finish up at 11-9.

“They played very well. They played a real solid game. We didn’t get out running, and we didn’t make shots. Their size hurt us, not on offense, but on the defensive end.”

Milford simply couldn’t find any offense, inside the arc or out. On every drive, it seemed, 6-foot-4 Matt Simco and 6-foot-6 Matt Dowling were there to help and deny any attempts at the rim.

When they kicked it out, the shooters never really got great looks, with the credit going to Hollis Brookline.

“The height advantage was awesome. Having Simco and Dowling down low, in my opinion they are the best two rebounders in the state,” said VanCoughnett. “It makes it a lot easier on the guards. We don’t need the rebounds, because they get them all. We knew, just keep closing out with a high hand and we’d be fine.”

The lead went to 22-4 before Milford’s Jamie Pare (team-high 12 points) finally broke through from long range midway through the second. By halftime, the lead was 27-12 at the half and 38-20 through three quarters.

Only in the final minutes, with both teams’ benches emptied, did a 20-point margin get whittled down to the final spread of 13.

Simco had a monster double-double for the winners with 13 points and 16 rebounds. Sophomore guard Grant

Snyder also had 13 points. Jonathan Brackett chipped in eight points and four assists, while Dowling added six points, five rebounds, a couple blocks and at least 10 shots altered in the lane.

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