Jim Fennell: Pioneer spurred on by mother's memory
DURHAM - Somewhere Kristen Rhoades was smiling Saturday when Trinity of Manchester beat Bishop Guertin of Nashua, 50-46, in the championship game of the Division I boys' basketball tournament at the University of New Hampshire's Lundholm Gymnasium.
Brad Rhoades knew exactly where his mother was.
"She was here, watching down on me," Rhoades said as he held the game ball he used to knock down two 3-pointers - including a clutch one late in the third quarter - and score 10 points for the Pioneers.
Kristen Rhoades, who went to UNH, died Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011, after a freak snowmobile accident as she and her husband, Frank, were on their way home after dinner at a friend's house near their home in Epsom.
Frank tried in vain to save his wife, then had to tell his two children their mother was gone. You never know how someone is going to deal with that. For Brad, he went back onto the basketball court and played his heart out.
He took the court for the Pembroke Academy junior varsity team two days after Kristen Rhoades died at the age of 46 and decided to score 46 points in her honor. He did, running off the court and into his dad's arms after making his three to hit the mark exactly. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. Even the other team was rooting for him.
Things change and, two years later, Brad is now a junior at Trinity. He transferred schools this season for what he said was a number of reasons, a mix of academics and athletics.
He played in the Division IV football championship game for the Pioneers and now suited up for Trinity's 21-win season in basketball that ended with their first title since 2009. He said he and Ryan Otis, who transferred in from Merrimack Valley, have been friends since they were 8 years old and talked about going to Trinity together.
"They came here and they didn't know me," Trinity coach Dave Keefe. "They adjusted so well."
Rhoades began the season starting for the Pioneers, but was replaced by sophomore Wenjin Gabriel. His time and points went down. Keefe said he took the change in stride.
"He never went into the tank," Keefe said. "He never gave up."
Rhoades was given the assignment of guarding Nashua South point guard Tim Preston late in their semifinal game and helped keep a player who emerged as one of the best in Division I from beating the Pioneers when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter.
He did it again Saturday against BG point guard Steve Toscano, who may have been playing as well as anyone in the tournament. Four days after scoring a game-high 19 points in a semifinal win over Spaulding of Rochester, Toscano was held to four on Saturday.
On the way to the game, Rhoades was getting updates from his father on the Division II championship game between Pembroke and Souhegan of Amherst earlier in the day. He said he was rooting for his old teammates, including Rene Maher, Pat Welch and Matt Persons, and said they were rooting for him.
Everyone ended up happy. Pembroke beat Souhegan and Trinity beat BG.
Rhoades was clutch, scoring 10 points, including the final five of the first quarter after BG had just gone on an 8-2 run. Then he nailed a three late in the third quarter after the Cardinals had got to within one point.
After the game, Rhoades went up and hugged his teary-eyed father.
"I told him this was for my mom," Rhoades said.
Kristen Rhoades must have loved watching that moment.