NHIAA Div. I Boys' Basketball Semifinals: Trinity on familiar turf
Four state championship game appearances in six years is a very big accomplishment in Division I boys' basketball. Big because it's been done only five times since 1964.
So when Trinity head coach Dave Keefe takes his familiar front row seat for another bus trip to Durham today, he could return to the Queen City as the only coach to reach the state finals five times in seven years over the last 49 seasons.
"I cherish every trip to Durham and this one is no different," said Keefe, whose top-ranked Pioneers (19-1) battle fourth-seeded Nashua South (16-4) at 7:30 p.m. at the University of New Hampshire's Lundholm Gym.
Speaking of 1964, that was the last season Spaulding of Rochester qualified for the state finals. All that could change tonight in the 6 o'clock opener when the third-ranked Raiders (17-3) confront seventh-ranked Bishop Guertin of Nashua (15-5).
Consistency is a big part of successful programs and the Pioneers have had a winning tradition over the last eight seasons under Keefe. The Pioneers are making their seventh semifinal appearance under Keefe and are just two wins away from the program's eighth overall state crown and first since 2009.
"Just been blessed to have the opportunity to teach and work with great kids over the years, fun to see them mature," said Keefe, who was a prominent player on the 1979 Class L state championship team for Manchester Central.
Tonight the Pioneers face a team Keefe said is similar to his squad.
"You look at Nashua South and see they have many weapons, including what I like to call their 'Big Three' of Tim Preston, Jack Preston and Dave Dunham," said Keefe. "They also come at you with another scrappy player, Dan Auger and a physical kid, Trevor Knight. Like us, they like to push the ball up the floor when the situation presents itself and will run their halfcourt sets as well. Very similar to us."
Trinity's 'Big Three' of Carmen Giampetruzzi, Ryan Otis and Mabor Gabriel are as good as any trio in the league. Wenjin Gabriel and Patrick Keefe round out a formidable five-man unit that is averaging 68.1 points and allowing just 48 points per game.
Of the remaining teams left in the tournament, Trinity has an edge in post-season experience.
"Patrick, Carmen and Mabor are playing in Durham for the third straight season," said Keefe. "That experience is so important to possess, especially this time of year."
Trinity, which opened the season 10-0 and has won its last nine games, defeated Nashua South, 63-58 in the Gate City on Jan. 8.
"The team that takes care of the ball, dives on the floor for the loose balls and does the little things that don't show up in the box score will win," said Keefe. "It comes down to executing plays."
Spaulding beat Bishop Guertin on Feb. 22 in Rochester and that was the night senior Dom Paradis eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau.
In that game against BG, Paradis led the way with 18 points. The Raiders are averaging 61.8 points and allowing 52 per game. From three-point land, Spaulding is shooting 30 percent this season (95-for-312), but have allowed opponents to shoot the same percentage (95-for-318).
Spaulding lost to Merrimack in the semifinals last year and to Trinity in 2008 in the semifinals. The Raiders have already set a school record for most wins in a season.
"Coach (Spaulding Tim) Cronin runs a very good program and we all know Paradis is a very good player," said Bishop Guertin head coach Jim Migneault. "Spaulding reminds me of our own team in 2011 that won the state championship. They love to run the floor and they're very good around the basket."
Nick MacGregor and Alex Gray will provide matchup problems for BG as well.
The Cardinals will be led by Jeff Lunn, but will be without starting point guard C.J. Boykin who, according to Migneault, will be benched tonight. Boykin was arrested Saturday by Hudson Police for an egg-throwing incident by Hudson Police.
"In his place we're going to rely on Jack Zimmerman, Steve Toscano and Kyle Gavin, three players who have played well and whom I have a lot of confidence in," said Migneault. "Our confidence has been growing game to game and we're coming off a big win against Central at their place. We feel we can play with anyone and it's a matter of staying focused and taking care of the ball."