PAUL HOGAN said he first spotted something special in his NHTI men’s basketball team during a game in mid-November. He wasn’t the only one who saw the team’s potential that night, either.
“We just played like a championship team,” Hogan recalled. “Probably 12, 15 minutes into the game we had a sizable lead — and the other team was a quality team — and one of the officials looked at me and said, ‘You’re pretty good. You play like this and you can beat or compete with any Division III team.’ I just nodded my head and agreed. I felt that the potential was there.
“From that point on, we just got better and better and better. If we didn’t play well we still found a way to win.”
NHTI finished its season on a 16-game winning streak, and the last of those 16 victories earned the Lynx the United State Collegiate Athletic Association Division II national championship. Fourth-seeded NHTI (27-3) beat 10th-seeded Penn State Greater Allegheny 74-70 in the title game last Wednesday night in Uniontown, Pa.
The Lynx trailed by a point with 4:58 to play, but ended the game on an 11-6 run. Forward J’Quavious Thurmond and guard Sean Riley each tossed in a team-high 19 points for NHTI, which won its second USCAA national championship.
For those not familiar with the USCAA, it features 78 small colleges, community colleges and junior colleges throughout the United States.
NHTI had to replace all but one player (Thurmond) who suited up for last year’s team that won 27 games. Nevertheless, the Lynx won the Yankee Small College Conference for the fourth consecutive year and captured the YSCC tournament for the third straight season.
“We were explosive,” Hogan said. “Very explosive. Rebound, outlet, layup or dunk. Exciting basketball. A little inconsistent with our outside shooting, but when we shot the ball well from the perimeter then we were really hard to beat.”
There were three New Hampshire residents on this season’s NHTI roster: guard Tony Agor (Nashua/Nashua South), guard Sean Menard (Chichester/Pembroke Academy) and forward Matt Thurber (Belmont/Belmont). Menard, who played for the Pembroke team that won the 2018-19 NHIAA Division II championship, started every game for the Lynx.
Hogan, who has been NHTI’s coach for the last 21 years, was also the men’s basketball coach at Plymouth State, his alma mater. He coached high school basketball at Pelham and Laconia before moving to PSU. He also coached the Laconia High School baseball team to a state championship in 1990.
NHTI’s other national championship came in 2005, also under Hogan’s direction. NHTI defeated Golden State Baptist of Santa Clara, Calif., in the championship game that year.
The NHTI roster that season featured Newport’s Matt Spanos, ConVal’s Chris Lawes and Pembroke Academy’s Chris Parker.
“That team had mostly New Hampshire kids,” Hogan said. “That team could shoot it and was big. Really big. We didn’t have that size this season. This team was very fast, very athletic, very exciting to watch.
“This year’s team really bought in, and I mean really bought in. It’s one of the best groups, in terms of chemistry, I’ve had in a long time. Very unselfish group and all about team success. For me, that made it a lot of fun.”