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Pembroke boys’ basketball team rolls into championship game

  • Pembroke's Patrick Welch drives to the net against Coe-Brown's Damon Doyle during the Division II Boys' basketball semifinal game Monday night, March 13, 2013 in Durham. Pembroke defeated Coe-Brown 62-31.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Pembroke's Patrick Welch drives to the net against Coe-Brown's Damon Doyle during the Division II Boys' basketball semifinal game Monday night, March 13, 2013 in Durham. Pembroke defeated Coe-Brown 62-31.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Defended by Pembroke's Dominic Timbas, Coe-Brown's Damon Doyle attempts to get a shot off during the Division II Boys' basketball semifinal game Monday night, March 13, 2013 in Durham. <br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Defended by Pembroke's Dominic Timbas, Coe-Brown's Damon Doyle attempts to get a shot off during the Division II Boys' basketball semifinal game Monday night, March 13, 2013 in Durham.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Pembroke's Patrick Welch drives to the net against Coe-Brown's Damon Doyle during the Division II Boys' basketball semifinal game Monday night, March 13, 2013 in Durham. Pembroke defeated Coe-Brown 62-31.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Defended by Pembroke's Dominic Timbas, Coe-Brown's Damon Doyle attempts to get a shot off during the Division II Boys' basketball semifinal game Monday night, March 13, 2013 in Durham. <br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

DURHAM – In last Saturday’s quarterfinal, Pat Welch didn’t make a shot until there was only 3:15 left in the game. Last night in the semifinals, Welch drained his first bucket just 17 seconds in, and he didn’t stop there.

The junior guard finished with 28 points on 12-for-16 shooting as No. 1 Pembroke doubled up No. 13 Coe-Brown, 62-31, in the Division II semifinals at the University of New Hampshire’s Lundholm Gymnasium.

“I think (Welch) had the feel early on that this was his night,” Coe-Brown Coach David Smith said. “You don’t have many nights like that; he probably has more than the rest of us humans, but you could see early on that he just had that confidence. ... He was expecting to make every shot and it seemed like he did.”

The Spartans, now 21-0, will face No. 7 Souhegan (14-7) for the D-II championship Saturday at noon. Pembroke reached the final in 2010, but the last time the Spartans won it all was in 1991. It’s the second straight year Coe-Brown (10-11) has lost in the semifinals.

Welch followed up his opening jumper with a 3-pointer and forced the Bears to call a timeout before the game was a minute old. Coe-Brown kept close to the Spartans for the most of the first quarter, but Pembroke went on a 7-0 run to close the opening frame, capped by a behind-the-back, in-traffic, fast-break layup from Welch to take a 15-11 lead after one.

“It was good for the confidence when that first shot went down,” Welch said. “Then the crowd got me going, and I started feeling good getting out on the fast break. It was nice.”

He carried those good feelings into the second quarter as he scored on penetration, on pull-up jumpers and in transition. By the end of the half, Welch was 9-for-10 from the floor and 2-for-2 from the line for 21 points as the Spartans held a 35-18 lead.

That was in stark contrast to the quarterfinal game against Pelham, when Welch was scoreless in the first half and wound up with just six points for the game. But Pelham’s defense forced the ball away from Welch, who was willing to find open teammates and let them do the work in that 47-35 win.

“I had no frustration after that game,” Welch said. “We were going to the semifinals; that was good enough for me. I just want to win.”

Pembroke senior Matt Persons, another 1,000-point scorer for the Spartans, had only two points himself in that quarterfinal win, but like Welch he rediscovered his range at Lundholm. Persons went 2-for-3 from beyond the arc in the first half and finished with 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting.

“We made a couple jumpers early, got a quick lead and Coe-Brown wasn’t able to slow the game down like they did during the regular season,” Pembroke Coach Matt Alosa said, alluding to the Spartans’ 43-37 win over Coe-Brown on Feb. 15. “With Pat and Matt hitting those shots, it’s a whole different ball game.”

While the Bears did want to keep the pace under control, they weren’t looking to slow things down as much as they did in the regular season game.

“We played them a lot slower in Pembroke, but we had to be a little more aggressive in order to win this game,” Smith said. “We weren’t playing just to be close, we were playing to win the game.”

But with Pembroke taking that early lead, the Bears were forced to come out of their signature zone defense, something they didn’t have to do last year when they upset Pembroke in the quarterfinals, 57-52.

“They like to stay back in that zone, so we knew if we got like a 12-point lead we could pull them out of it, and that’s what we did and that’s how we changed the game,” Welch said. “When they came out, we could blow by them and score.”

The Spartans did some of that in the third quarter to take a 42-27 lead after three, but they really started blowing by, and blowing the game open, in the fourth. Pembroke outscored Coe-Brown 20-4 in the final frame, as Rene Maher (nine points, five assists), Welch and Persons dissected the Coe-Brown defense.

As impressive as the Spartans were on offense, shooting 72.7 percent for the game (24-for-33), they were just as impressive defensively, holding the Bears to 30.8 percent (12-for-39) from the floor and holding a 27-19 rebounding advantage.

“Honestly, that defense is really what it is for me. I don’t care what the scenario is, if we hold Coe-Brown to 31 points, it’s nearly impossible for us to lose, whether we shoot well or we don’t,” Alosa said. “So that’s what I’m happy about is the way we defended, and I thought Matt Persons did a tremendous job on (Chris Laurion, Coe-Brown’s leading scorer, who finished with just eight last night).”

Despite the bitter end, it was a sweet tournament run for Coe-Brown, which got 10 points from Andrew Langdon and four points and four rebounds from Josh Jackman.

“I was blessed to have such a great bunch of kids, they were super kids and they worked right to the end,” Smith said. “Unfortunately we lost to a better team tonight.”

And now Pembroke will try to prove it’s not just better, but the best team in D-II.

“That’s what we’ve been shooting for all season,” Welch said.

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

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