Boys’ basketball: As No. 4 Coe-Brown prepares for its D-II semifinal against No. 1 Pelham, a Q&A with head coach Dave Smith

Coe-Brown’s Dave Smith is shown in a Jan. 2023 photo. The Bears’ longtime varsity boys’ basketball coach will lead the squad into a semifinal date with Pelham set for Tuesday.

Coe-Brown’s Dave Smith is shown in a Jan. 2023 photo. The Bears’ longtime varsity boys’ basketball coach will lead the squad into a semifinal date with Pelham set for Tuesday. Chip Griffin / Photos by Chip

Connor Bagnell drives to the basket for Coe-Brown against Pembroke's Javien Sinclair on Feb. 19, 2024.

Connor Bagnell drives to the basket for Coe-Brown against Pembroke's Javien Sinclair on Feb. 19, 2024. Chip Griffin—Photos By Chip

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 03-04-2024 2:08 PM

On Friday, No. 4 Coe-Brown (16-4) took down No. 12 Kennett, 69-41, in the Division II boys’ basketball quarterfinals. The Bears advanced to face No. 1 Pelham (18-1) in the semifinals at Oyster River High School on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.

The Monitor caught up with Coe-Brown head coach Dave Smith to recap Friday’s win over Kennett and look ahead to what’s likely to be a challenging matchup with a Pythons team that hasn’t lost since the first week of January.

Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity and brevity.

Concord Monitor: Let’s start with Friday’s game against Kennett. You’d lost to a double-digit seed in the quarterfinals last year. I imagine that was something top-of-mind for you guys coming into the Kennett game.

Dave Smith: Most definitely. You don’t always have those opportunities, so it was nice to be able to take advantage of it.

CM: What was working well on Friday?

Smith: Pretty much our tempo of the game. The score did not indicate the game itself. The game was a little bit of back-and-forth, and I think at halftime it was about nine points. They got it down to seven at one point, and then we had a pretty good run in the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter, and that kind of sealed the deal. It wasn’t quite as lopsided as the score. Our second and third teams were shooting pretty well against Kennett, but during the heft of the game, defense was very important for us to set the tempo of the game, and fortunately we were able to do that.

CM: You’ll have a tough task against Pelham on Tuesday. Pelham’s only lost once all season, and they’ve won 14 games in a row. What’s the biggest key for you guys going into that game?

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Smith: I think the biggest key is the game tempo right from the get-go. We had a little trouble establishing that at Pelham early in the year. They got a good start on us, and then we came back and fought them off a little bit. Put ourselves in a situation with about three minutes to go, down by three, they hit two awesome shots that solidified the game for them. Our goal would be to try to play our tempo more than their tempo, if we can. Obviously they have two top all-state athletes in their starting unit, but they also have other very solid players off the bench.

CM: That game you were referring to was on Dec. 15, the second game you played this year, a 63-51 loss. You’re definitely taking confidence from the fact that you guys proved you could compete with them, but how much are you watching film from that game given it was over two months ago, and how much are you looking more at the recent film?

Smith: The recent stuff is the most important. They have improved since that game as well, and we have improved immensely. I feel that at that point, our identity was still questionable what it was going to be like. At this point, I do think we have found our identity. It should be a great game.

CM: You lost four starters from last year’s team. Did you expect that this group could get to the semifinals at the start of the season?

Smith: Getting to the semifinals is not an easy task, as we saw last year having the opportunity; we couldn’t get it done. So you never really know. It’s how you’re going to fit in with the other teams, the matchups with other teams. Matchups, especially in the playoffs, are very important. The type of team you’re matching up with, does it match up with your strengths and weaknesses? Or is it the type of team that you have trouble with? That all makes a difference.

The long answer to that question would be that was always your goal going into the year, to be the best you can be and to be playing the last game of the year, but you never know what the journey is going to bring. Everybody experiences injuries and sickness and things like that that you have absolutely no control over that crop into these matchups as well.

CM: What’s the message to the guys going into Tuesday night?

Smith: It’s just to give it our best effort, which these guys will. I’m very confident that their effort will be there. Now we’re trying to work on our execution. If we have the effort and the execution, once again, I think it will be a great game.