John Habib's City Sports: This week's rivalry final is BG-Trinity
Today, the buzz is about hoops instead of hockey.
Two Greater Manchester teams, St. Anselm and Southern New Hampshire University, join intrastate rival Franklin Pierce on the first day of the NCAA Division II Men's Basketball East Regional at SNHU Fieldhouse while Trinity High represents the city in an all-Catholic-school showdown with Bishop Guertin of Nashua for the NHIAA boys' basketball Division I championship at the University of New Hampshire's Lundholm Gymnasium.
Trinity and BG tip off at 3 p.m., after the Division II final between unbeaten Pembroke Academy and Souhegan of Amherst.
The Catholic-school pairing may not have quite the intensity of Manchester's or Nashua's intracity rivalries, but as state finals match-ups go, BG-Trinity - a rematch of the 2011 Division I championship, won by the Cardinals, 54-46 - is pretty good.
"We met them two years ago in the state championship game, and they beat us," said Trinity coach Dave Keefe. "We have some players back from that game, and we hope to redeem ourselves."
There are no Manchester residents on Bishop Guertin's varsity roster and no Nashua kids playing for Trinity, but the two schools - separated by only 24 miles - draw students from common territory, particularly along the Everett Turnpike corridor between the state's two largest cities. BG's roster, for example, includes one player each from the Manchester border town of Bedford and nearby Merrimack.
Both teams are also rich in basketball tradition.
Manchester's Bishop Bradley High won three boys' Class L titles before it and two other Catholic schools combined to establish Trinity in 1970. In 1975 and 1976, Trinity won consecutive state titles under coach Don Beleski, with Dan Duval and Peter Reilly the common links between teams that also featured such players as Greg Wenger, Kevin Allen, Tim Fahey, Ed Schibblehute and the Paul brothers, Ron and Andy.
Bishop Guertin didn't emerge as a Division I title contender until the mid-80s, after Tyler Page took over as coach. That's when Skip Barry, who would go on to play for Boston College, emerged as one of the state's outstanding players.
In the 1984 Class L final, which still ranks among the top New Hampshire basketball championships ever played, Barry (34 points) and Portsmouth High's James Best (21 points) were terrific in leading their respective squads. Portsmouth won the title, 59-46, but Barry left his mark, setting NHIAA records for most points by a player in a Class L tournament (94), most points in a final, most field goals in a championship game (17) and most field goals in one tourney (38).
The next season, BG met Trinity in the 1985 semifinals, and Trinity emerged with a 52-50 victory. Trinity snapped a seven-game losing streak to that point against BG. That Beleski-led Trinity squad featured James McDonald, Brian Harrington, Frank McBride, Craig Guindon and Dave Wenger. The Pioneers ended up beating Dover 61-58 for the state title.
In 1986, Bishop Guertin entered the finals against rival Nashua with a 23-0 record, but Nashua had the state's best player in St. Anselm College-bound Chris Madigan, who led the Purple Panthers to a 66-65 upset victory and the Class L title.
The Cardinals next reached a final in 2002, only to lose to Nashua again, 75-55. Finally, they broke through and won their first Division I title against Trinity two years ago.
Now Keefe is the first coach since 1964 to lead a Division I program to five state championship games over a seven-year period. In 2007 and 2008, the Pioneers lost to Salem. In 2009, the Pioneers beat Memorial, 50-25, with a lineup including Jordan Laguerre, Richard Madol, Dylan Clark, Cormac Fitzpatrick, Komut Gabriel, Phil Hayden and Nate Valentine.
Now Keefe's son, Patrick, returns to Durham for the third straight time along with two other teammates from the 2011 championship loss to BG, Carmen Giampetruzzi and Mabor Gabriel.
After Trinity's 60-58 semifinal win over Nashua South on Tuesday, Giampetruzzi said of today's game, "We can get some revenge."
Bishop Guertin coach Jim Migneault said he understands where Giampetruzzi is coming from.
"He's a great competitor, a great athlete who wants to win," Migneault said. "We also want to win. We'll see what happens."
"City Sports" appears on Saturday in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email staff reporter John Habib at firstname.lastname@example.org.