Pembroke tops Souhegan as defenses dominate
AMHERST - Pat Welch is a scoring machine, averaging 30 points a game for a Pembroke Academy boys' basketball team that went into Tuesday's game against Souhegan without a loss and sitting atop the Division II standings.
He finished with four points.
Pembroke, as a team, was 6-for-34 from the field over the final three quarters.
So, as you could imagine, the Spartans were more than satisfied to head back home with a 44-40 win over what might be the best .500 team in the state.
Senior swingman Matt Persons stepped up to fill the void, scoring 23 points and accounting for five of the team's six field goals over the final 24 minutes.
"We did what we could to win that game," Pembroke coach Matt Alosa said.
On this night, that meant the Spartans (8-0) had to rely on their defense, mixing and matching looks to hold the Sabers (3-3) to 15-for-52 shooting. The Spartans were able to cut off the driving lanes and managed to contain Souhegan big man Jake Kennedy (12 points)
"We do play really good defense," Alosa said.
Souhegan coach Mike Heaney said he's not a fan of moral victories but he said he applauded his team's effort against what he sees as the top team in the division.
And the Sabers had their chances to get more than a moral victory; they were 0-for-8 in the second half on shots that would have tied the game or given Souhegan the lead.
"We got scorers the ball where they needed to score and they didn't go in," Heaney said, "It was maddening."
Meanwhile, Welch was on a basketball floor for the first time in three days, his back still sore after tweaking it during last week's game against Windham. He took six shots from the field, made one and was never a factor, part of it injury and part of it the defense by Souhegan's Brandon Len.
Len, Souhegan's top player, scored 14, but he had to work for everything he got and used a lot of energy on the other end guarding Welch.
With Welch ineffective, up stepped Persons, who was 8-for-13 on a night when there seemed to be a lid on the baskets, and handling the ball more than he normally does. He scored nine in the first quarter to give Pembroke a 19-7 lead.
"He's not used to that role," Alosa said. "He did a good job."
The Spartans iced the game by making four of five free throws in the final 40 seconds, the last two by Rene Maher with 4.9 seconds.
Persons was the only one doing any scoring for the Spartans after the first quarter, scoring six of the team's seven points in the second quarter. He got their only field goal of the quarter, a 3-pointer from the corner, with 3:30 left. That drought allowed the Sabers to get back into the game.
While Pembroke was 1-for-9 from the field in the second quarter, Souhegan had its struggles in the opening stanza, going 3-for-11. It never got much better for either team the rest of the night.