DURHAM — When Jay McKenna played for his legendary coach Jack Ford at Winnacunnet High School in the early 1990s, Ford always said it’s never a bad season if it ends in Durham, in reference to making a tournament run and get a chance to play at University of New Hampshire’s Lundholm Gymnasium.
Well, even with a pandemic, the Warriors will still be playing the final games of the the Division I boys basketball season in Durham, albeit at Oyster River High school.
Despite the efforts of Trinity guard Royce Williams, Winnacunnet’s size was too much for the Pioneers to overcome in the Warriors’ 61-48 victory. Williams almost single-handedly kept Trinity in the game with 31 points and rallied the Pioneers to within 44-41 before the Warriors imposed their will down the stretch.
Winnacunnet will play Bishop Guertin in Saturday’s final at Oyster River. BG beat Londonderry 55-38 in Wednesday's late semifinal.
This is Winnacunnet’s first championship appearance since it dropped a 61-59, double-overtime decision to Pinkerton Academy in 2010.
“I can’t pinpoint a particular play or instance, but this is what we’ve done,” McKenna said. “They do a great job of making adjustments on the floor and they do a great job of communicating to us what they think is going to work. They’re seniors and we trust them.”
Sam Andeottola controlled the paint all night and finished with 21 points, while Brett Marelli added 13. Andeottola sent the Warriors into halftime with a 20-17 lead on a three-point play with five seconds left in the second quarter.
“I knew if we were going to win, I needed to come out and play my best game, and I was hitting my shots and the whole team was hitting their shots,” Andeottola said. “”We expected them to go on a run and with a player like Royce, we knew we just had to withstand that run. If we just stuck strong, played defense and not let them beat us up, we knew we’d win that game.”
Williams scored nine points in the third, but Winnacunnet still carried a 40-31 lead into the fourth. Williams scored 13 points in the fourth, including a jumper to bring the Pioneers within 44-41 midway through the quarter.
“Royce played great and the second half, he really stepped it up when we needed him to,” Trinity coach Keith Bike said. “I know he struggled in the first, but scoring 17 points for us is not normal.
“Usually we come out on fire, so that was a different avenue we had to take for the game.”
Marrelli stopped Trinity’s run, while back-to-back putbacks by Andeottola and Elynn Houston gave Winnacunnet a 50-43 lead. Marelli pounded the glass for two more buckets to give Winnacunnet a 54-46 lead.
“We knew it, everybody in the state knew it, and coaches who (said) that size was going to matter, they were right,” Bike said. “I thought the kids tried to battle and we tried to make it a full-court game, but at the end it came down to the paint.”
McKenna was on the last Winnacunnet team that won a championship in 1992, and he’ll take his second crack at coaching in a championship game.
“I don’t think there was any panic. We just had to figure out what was going to work best for us, and we were fortunate to come out on top,” McKenna said. “(Andeottola) was a monster. He’s big, athletic and very skilled. He’s made a name for himself and is someone you have to worry about if you’re the opposing coach. “
Bishop Guertin 55, Londonderry 38
Dylan Santosuosso came out firing, and the rest of his Bishop Guertin teammates followed his lead in Wednesday night’s Division I boys basketball semifinal against Londonderry High School.