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March 07. 2013 9:03PM

Jim Fennell's High School Hoopla: Conant-Campbell, once more, for the championship


Conant's Jake Carlson works his way around Newport's Andrew Houde during the NHIAA Division III semifinals held at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester on Tuesday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
MANCHESTER -- If you just go by the scores, the results of the first two games between Conant High of Jaffrey and Campbell of Litchfield don't make a lot of sense.

The Cougars went on the road in the second week of January and rallied to beat the Orioles, 65-63. About a month later, in the final week of the regular season, the Orioles went to Litchfield and dismantled the Cougars to the tune of 70-37.

How did that happen? Nick Freson, Campbell's senior center, thinks he has the answer.

"They had something to prove," Freson said.

Now, Freson said, it's his team's turn to prove something.

Campbell will go for the program's first title Saturday when it faces Conant in the championship game of the Division III boys' basketball tournament at the Southern New Hampshire University fieldhouse. Game time is 3 p.m., the first of three championship games scheduled that day at SNHU.

The game will be followed by the unified basketball championship game between Spaulding of Rochester and Nashua South at 5:30. The final game will feature the Division I girls' championship game at 7:30.

If you go beyond the pride factor, there are two other reasons that may have more to do with the dramatic change in results between Conant and Campbell.

In that first game, Conant was missing senior Jake Carlson, a senior wingman who is one of those glue guys every successful team needs. His absence was obvious back in January when the Orioles came unglued after building a double-digit lead against the Cougars.

Jacob Morgan's 3-pointer with 10 seconds left capped off a rally that saw Campbell come back after trailing by 15 late in the third quarter.

On the other side, Campbell is without Jesiah Wade, who is ineligible. His quickness and defensive pressure was a big reason the Cougars were able to rally the first time the teams met. He and senior point guard Max Gouveia combined for 15 of the team's 22 points in the fourth quarter.

Carlson is back after breaking his elbow and the Orioles are rolling. They cruised past Newport in the semifinals and are now in the championship game for the 10th time since 1998.

Campbell's only other trip to the finals came in 2003 when the Cougars lost 40-39 to Inter-Lakes.



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CHAMPIONSHIP SATURDAY: In addition to three titles being decided at SNHU on Saturday, a champion will be crowned in the Division IV boys' tournament at Plymouth State University when fourth-seeded Derryfield of Manchester plays No. 6 Lisbon at 1 p.m.

This is a rematch of the 2011 title game when the Panthers beat the Cougars, 40-33. That was Lisbon's fourth title in seven years.

While the Panthers have to deal with Derryfield's towering frontcourt that includes 6-foot-6 junior Roger Larrivee, the Cougars will have to figure out how to slow down Lisbon junior guard Chad Knighton.

Knighton scored 28 points, including the game-winning basket, in Tuesday's upset of second-seeded Newmarket. Lisbon coach Sam Natti thinks his star should be the player of the year in Division IV.



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FIRST THINGS FIRST: Before we get to Saturday, one title will be settled tonight when top-seeded and unbeaten Lebanon plays second-seeded Portsmouth (7 p.m., SNHU).

This is the first meeting between the teams this year and the Clippers will have their hands full. The Raiders have been on an absolute tear all season.

Lebanon beat every team during the regular season by no fewer than 23 points. The closest any team has come happened in Monday's semifinal when the Raiders beat Milford, 56-41.

This marks the 52nd consecutive season of coaching for Portsmouth mentor Dan Parr and second as the girls' coach.


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MORE UPSETS?: There were two upsets in the first round of the Division I boys' tournament Tuesday when No. 12 Dover beat No. 5 Memorial and No. 11 Exeter knocked off No. 6 Merrimack, the defending champion.

The most intriguing matchup of tonight's quarterfinal round could very well be No. 8 Bedford at No. 1 Trinity of Manchester, a game that matches two old friends in Bedford coach Mike Fitzpatrick and Trinity coach Dave Keefe. The Bulldogs may also be the hottest team in the tournament.



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UNDEFEATED AND LOOKING GOOD: Top-seeded Pembroke, the only undefeated boys team in the state, opened the Division II tournament with a 43-25 win over St. Thomas Aquinas. And, the path to the finals got a little easier for the Spartans.

If Pembroke gets past eight-seeded Pelham in a quarterfinal game Saturday, the Spartans would play the winner of No. 13 Coe-Brown Northwood and No. 12 Windham in the semifinals. Both teams pulled off first-round upsets.


jfennell@unionleader.com

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