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Welch bigger and better for undefeated Pembroke basketball team

  • Patrick Welch of Pembroke Academy basketball team.<br/><br/>JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff
  • Patrick Welch of Pembroke Academy basketball team.<br/><br/>JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff

He arrived with the deadly pull-up jumper and had scored nearly 1,000 points by the end of his sophomore season. Now, in his third year at Pembroke Academy, Pat Welch has pushed his game to new heights.

“Pat’s gone from being a boy to becoming a young man,” Pembroke Coach Matt Alosa said. “Physically he’s grown, and he could always put the ball in the basket, but now he’s starting to understand the nuances of the game. He’s starting to get the things that are going to help him at the next level.”

Unfortunately for the rest of Division II, Welch is still at their level. He’s averaging 21.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists this year, leading the

Spartans to an 18-0 regular season and the top seed in the D-II tournament, which they opened with a 43-25 win over a stalling St. Thomas team on Wednesday and will continue with a quarterfinal game tomorrow against No. 8 Pelham.

“I think I’m a lot better this year. The biggest thing is, last year I was mainly just shooting on the outside because I couldn’t get to the hoop, I wasn’t big enough,” Welch said. “So over the offseason I worked on getting stronger and now when I blow by the guy I can get my shoulder into him, get some space and get to the hoop.”

Welch and teammate Jordan Williams trained at the Impact Zone in Bow all summer. By the end, Welch had added 15 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot frame, increased his bench press from “about 140, and now I can do 205 three times,” and improved his vertical leap enough that he’s been able to dunk during game action.

The new physical tools have helped Welch deal with the constant pressure he faces from defenses. But he’s also using some of the nuances Alosa mentioned.

“He starting to see the play before it develops, understanding when to be patient and when to go full speed,” Alosa said. “He’s a workhorse type of player and he wants to go with his hair on fire all the time ... but he’s becoming a more efficient player now and he can have a good game and make a big impact even if he’s not shooting well.”

That impact can also come on the defensive end, which is something new this year. Senior guard Rene Maher used to take the opponent’s top perimeter player, but Welch’s on-the-ball defense has improved enough where he now gets that assignment, allowing Maher to have a greater effect on the team defense.

Alosa said Welch’s playmaking, another point of focus this year, has also improved during the course of the season, although not enough for Welch.

“I’ve been getting better at it, but I still need to get better at passing,” he said. “Right now, Rene is probably the only one on the team who’s an efficient passer, so I definitely need to keep working on that.”

Of course, the tournament will provide the true test for Welch’s many improvements. Despite the talents of Welch, Maher, Williams and Matt Persons, a senior captain and 1,000-point scorer himself, Pembroke has been upset in the quarterfinals the last two years, losing as the No. 3 seed last year and the No. 2 in 2011. All year long Alosa and the Spartans have readily admitted that anything short of a championship this year will be a disappointment, and they’re not backing off that with the goal in sight.

“We definitely can’t lose now,” Welch said. “We’ve got to go undefeated the rest of the way.”

That seems like the natural evolution for the Spartans and for Welch, who grew up in the Pembroke program. He was 4 years old when he started playing youth basketball for his father, Bill, in Epsom. At 8 he was playing for Alosa and his father, Frank, with the Granite State Raiders. And soon enough he was looking up to the older Spartans.

“The kid who got me into basketball the most was Justin Muniz,” Welch said. “He would always play one-on-one with me and let me win when I was little and I loved playing with him, so that’s how it got started.”

Muniz was a senior guard at Pembroke in 2006-07, the first year Welch was a water boy for the Spartans. For four years he went to practices and sat behind the bench during games, soaking it all in as the Spartans reached the semifinals in ’08 and ’09 and the final in ’10.

“Drou (Goff), Coleton (Neely), Jon Grenier, Nick Porter, I always looked up to all those guys. They would show me new moves that I couldn’t do and I would work on them on the side,” Welch said. “And by the time I got to high school I already knew all the plays, I had them all memorized, and I knew what the defenses were. I think that made it a lot easier for me to figure it all out once I got there.”

It showed in his first game as a freshman when he dropped 27 at Portsmouth, the eventual state runner-up. Now Welch has to figure out how to complete the evolutionary cycle and deliver Pembroke its first championship since 1991, back when Coach Alosa was the star guard with the deadly pull-up jumper.

“It was pretty exciting at the end of the season when we got to 18-0,” Welch said. “But almost right away coach was saying, all right guys, we’ve got to go undefeated the rest of the way, we’ve got to finish this.”

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3371 or or on Twitter @timosullivan20.)

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