Editorial: Celebrating perfection in Pembroke – and, elsewhere, growth
The Pembroke Academy boys’ basketball team’s undefeated season, which culminated in a comeback championship game win Saturday, was perfect in more respects than one, and that level of achievement is worth celebrating. As the winter season ends, we also hope all the other players, coaches and parents across Greater Concord find something to celebrate, too: growth, which after all should be the ultimate goal of high school sports.
Of course, having lost in the basketball finals three years ago and then in the quarterfinals the two seasons since, the Pembroke boys team understandably approached this season with more than growth in mind. The weight of such expectations could easily have overwhelmed these teens, but it didn’t.
The Spartans went 18-0 in the regular season, winning by an average of nearly 19 points per game despite several nail-biters along the way. It is a team featuring three backcourt stars, but in the quarterfinals – where Pembroke had stumbled the previous two seasons – junior big man Kafani Williams led the way with the help of an even taller teammate, sophomore Dominic Timbas. Perfect.
In the semifinals, junior guard Pat Welch couldn’t miss, and the Spartans rolled over Coe-Brown, a team of upstarts responsible for upsetting Pembroke in last year’s tournament. Perfect.
In the finals Welch got in foul trouble and Pembroke trailed Souhegan by seven at halftime, but as the pressure mounted, senior guard Rene Maher stepped up all aspects of his game and led the Spartans to the title. “We try to be calm,” explained another senior guard, Matt Persons, like Walsh a thousand-point career scorer (that’s a lot) who added that defense is the team’s real key. Perfect.
In beating Souhegan, the Spartans avenged their 2011 quarterfinal loss. And in coaching Pembroke to the title, Matt Alosa, with gray at his temples, closed a circle of his own.
Alosa was the star of the last Spartan team to win the title, in 1991. As he walked off the floor at UNH, where the game was played, and where he still holds scoring records, he embraced his father, Frank, a local basketball icon who coaches most of the Spartans on an AAU team during the off-season.
Perfect, many times over.
But what of the dozens of local teams and hundreds of players this past season who fell short of greatness? How about those who even fell short of what you might call good-ness? Whose shots rimmed out, who reached for their best and didn’t find it? How about those who didn’t even make the cut?
May those who missed the last big shot in the biggest of moments remember that having the courage to try is success in itself. May those who couldn’t bring themselves to shoot with the game on the line remember how empty that feels – and that it’s how they respond to life’s next opportunity that really matters.
May teammates whose personalities didn’t gel, players whose coaches couldn’t communicate, boys and girls embarrassed when their parents yelled at referees – may all those whose seasons were afflicted in one way or another by humanity remember that, well, that’s humanity. That’s why it’s best to focus on what you can control while staying humble, because we all have a lot to be humble about.
Life sometimes rewards those who have earned great success, and to the Spartans – a case in point – congratulations. But when it doesn’t, here’s hoping everyone who plays, or tries to, emerges stronger for the experience.