Jim Fennell's High School Hoopla: Regular-season losses sting, but ...
Matt Alosa remembers being stunned and feeling empty after his previously undefeated Pembroke Academy team lost to Merrimack Valley of Penacook in the semifinals of the Class I boys' basketball tournament.
That was 23 years ago and Alosa still hasn't forgot.
Alosa was a star guard for the Spartans then; now he's their coach and he has the team rolling toward the Division II playoffs as the only undefeated team left in the division.
Alosa is not sure there is a particular lesson to be learned from that long-ago loss, and he's placing much stock in the fact that his team is one of only five undefeated teams - boys or girls - left in the state.
"It's really hard to run the table," Alosa said. "You have to go 25-0 (including the Christmas tournament) and that's hard to do. You could have a couple of guys get sick, couple get hurt, couple of guys don't shoot the ball well one night.
"I can't say it wouldn't be a nice thing, but as long as we finish in the top four and get two home games, that's the goal."
One of the teams that fell from the ranks of the unbeaten this week was the Trinity of Manchester boys' team. The Pioneers lost Tuesday to defending champion Merrimack after winning their first 10 games.
"As a coach, we prepare ourselves and our teams to win each and every game," Trinity coach Dave Keefe said. "But a loss or two doesn't hurt your team at all. A bad day at work or a bad day on the court, you can take so much from that. That was evident at our practice (Wednesday)."
The last team still without a loss among the boys in Division I is Central of Manchester. Little Green coach Doc Wheeler has been in this situation before, when his team went 25-0 behind Boston College-bound Tyler Roche in 2006.
"The only one that was nervous in that tournament was me," Wheeler said. "My stomach was in knots and I'm watching them and they knew they were going to win. Kids are smart enough to know where they stand."
He said he has learned to not worry too much about records as long as the team is prepared, but he does understand how a loss in the tournament changes everything.
"One loss and it screws up your season," Wheeler said.
John Barry knows that feeling. His Pinkerton Academy of Derry team was undefeated when it lost to Dover in the semifinals of the 2005 Class L girls' tournament. Lessons to be learned? "Nope," Barry said. "You lose in the semifinals and all it is is depressing."
Maybe Trinity's loss to Merrimack will help the Pioneers in the long run in the same way Keefe said it did when he was a player at Central and the team lost a couple of late-season games before going on to win the title in 1979.
Terry Bonnette, coach of the undefeated Hinsdale girls, said he hopes his team doesn't have to learn that lesson.
"I think it would be a bad thing (to lose)," Bonnette said. "I want the girls to stay positive and feeling good about themselves. They've been in some battles already. They'll know what it takes to win in the tournament."
By the way, the year after that stunning loss to rival Merrimack Valley, Alosa led his team to the Class I title by beating rival MV in the championship game.
- - - - - - -
SOME TEAMS were having a hard time trying to find makeup dates on short notice as schools started canceling most events scheduled for today and Saturday because of the heavy snowfall expected throughout the state.
Most teams don't normally play on Wednesday and Thursday, but you will be hard-pressed to find a team to agree to play on either day because it would mean playing three games in four nights. Maybe that's not a big deal at the beginning of the season, but each game is critical for some teams fighting for a high seed in the upcoming playoffs or just a spot in the tournament as it gets deep into the season.
The Hinsdale girls, for instance, were looking at rescheduling their game scheduled for tonight against Nute. Nute plays Monday and Thursday of next week, while Hinsdale plays Tuesday and Friday, leaving Wednesday as the only open slot.
It may have to do, but it is certainly not ideal for the 15-0 Pacers, who play next Friday against once-beaten Sunapee in a game that could ultimately decide the top seed in the Division IV tournament.
- - - - - - -
RACHEL HILL will make her mark in college athletics on the soccer field when she heads off to play for the University of Connecticut, but the senior from Somersworth proved she knows her way around a basketball court.
Hill cracked 1,000 career points Tuesday with her first basket in a 48-29 win over Raymond. She finished the game with 18 points.
She really made a splash this fall when she became the state's all-time leading goal scorer in girls' soccer with 151.
- - - - - - -
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS-BASKETBALL VERSION: Snowed out. See the related story at right.
Jim Fennell covers high school basketball for the New Hampshire Union Leader. His email address is email@example.com.