NHIAA Div. II Boys' Basketball Semifinal: Pembroke cruises to title game
DURHAM - A special player has Pembroke Academy on the brink of a special season.
Junior guard Pat Welch - who some will argue is the best player in the state - scored 21 of his 28 points in the first half Wednesday as top-seeded Pembroke Academy routed No. 13 Coe-Brown Northwood, 62-31, in the semifinals of the Division II boy's basketball tournament at Lundholm Gymnasium.
The Spartans (21-0 in Division II, 24-0 overall) now have chance to complete an unbeaten season when it returns here Saturday at noon plays seventh-seeded Souhegan High of Amherst in the championship game.
In their only meeting during the regular season, the Spartans beat the Sabers on the road, 44-40, on January 15. Welch was slowed down that game by back injury and was hardly a factor on offense.
Not Wednesday night.
The junior guard, in position to score 2,000 points for his career, swished the first two shots of the game and ended up going 9-for-10 from the field in the first half to finish with 21 points. He single-handedly outscored the Bears in the half as Pembroke went into the intermission with a 32-18 lead.
"Before the game, I had this vibe going through my body," said Welch. "I knew I was going to have a good game."
The Spartans kept the lead in double-digits through the second half.
Pembroke coach Matt Alosa said his team would thrive on the big floor at UNH and he certainly was right on this night as the Spartans kicked their running game into gear. Welch led the way.
"He made shots," Alosa said. "Tonight was not a fluke. I see how hard he works every day in practice."
Coe-Brown had been the Cinderella story of the tournament. Losers of seven straight to end the regular season, the Bears upset No. 4 Hollis-Brookline in the first round and beat 12th-seeded Windham in the quarterfinals to earn a trip to Durham.
Midnight, however, came early for the Bears.
They took a brief lead in the first quarter, but a pair of transition baskets by Welch gave the Spartans a 15-11 lead after one quarter and they would never trail again. They dominated the second quarter, highlighted by a Welch steal and stop-and-pop 3-pointer that made it 30-17.
Coe-Brown's quarterfinal win over Pembroke a year ago seemed like a distant memory.
When he left the game for good with 1:59 left in the game, Welch was greeted by a standing ovation by the Pembroke fans filling one side of the stands. Even some Coe-Brown fans on the others side stood and applauded the virtuoso performance.
Pembroke 62, Coe-Brown 31
Coe-Brown: Beau Pingree 1-0-2; Damon Doyle 0-2-2; Andrew Langdon 4-2-10; Chris Laurion 3-1-8; Josh Jackman 2-0-4; Alec Zollman 1-0-3; Michael West 1-0-2. Totals: 12-5-31
Three-pointers: Laurion; Zollman
Pembroke: Rene Maher 3-3-9; Matt Persons 5-0-12; Pat Welch 12-2-28; Dominic Timbas 1-0-2; Kafani Williams 1-2-4; Collin Justin 0-2-2; Connor Boucher 1-0-2; Cam Taylor 1-1-3. Totals: 24-10-62
Three-pointers: Person 2; Welch 2
Coe-Brown (10-11) 11-7-9-4-31
Pembroke (21-0) 15-17-10-20-62