Boys’ Basketball Player of the Season: Pembroke Academy’s Noah Cummings

  • Pembroke guard Noah Cummings hoists the Division II championship trophy as teammate Kyle Roukey (2) claps after the Spartans beat Kearsarge on Saturday, March 16, 2019 at UNH. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

  • Kearsarge didn’t™ have an answer for Noah Cummings in the first half of the D-II final as he drove to the basket on Saturday, March 16, 2019 at UNH. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

  • Pembroke guard Noah Cummings heaves up a shot at the end of the first half against Merrimack Valley on Tuesday, January 15, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

  • Pembroke guard Noah Cummings shoots over Hollis Brookline forward Grant Snyder during a game in January. After leading the Spartans to the Division II title, Cummings was named ‘Monitor’ Boys’ Basketball Player of the Season. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 3/23/2019 7:00:04 PM

His high school career was like one of those “no, no…yes!” shots. It started with an 0-17 freshman season at Pembroke Academy before a long arc brought it splashing through the net with a Division II championship four years later. Along the way, Noah Cummings, like any good scorer, never lost faith in his shot.

“Every year we worked on trying to get better. We knew what we wanted. Every year we were saying, ‘We’re a championship team this year,’ and it wasn’t true for three years in a row, but we said it again this year and we were right about it, and I think that’s the mindset we had to have,” said Cummings, the Monitor Boys’ Basketball Player of the Season. “Having that belief the whole time, even when it probably wasn’t possible, is what we needed to keep working and keep believing it was true for us.”

After that winless campaign in 2015-16, Pembroke went 8-11 the next season before going 16-5 and reaching the 2018 semifinals. This season, Cummings and the Spartans went 21-1 and earned the eighth title in school history (the most in D-II) with a 47-35 win over Kearsarge.

Cummings, an athletic 6-foot-1 point guard, averaged 18.0 points per game this year and he passed the 1,000-point plateau, as did fellow PA senior Sean Menard. Cummings dropped a game-high 20 points in the semifinal against ConVal and scored a game-high 18 in the final. He was named the D-II Player of the Year by the New Hampshire Basketball Coaches Organization and won the D-II Jack Ford Memorial Scholar Athlete Award, which recognizes a combination of athletics, academics and community service.

“He’s an awesome kid,” PA coach Rich Otis said. “They don’t get any better.”

Like Cummings said, all that success took years of hard work. But it was more than those four years of high school.

“Noah has put in the work since he was really young, and you see it over and over again, it takes that amount of commitment, from the time you’re 8 or 9 years old,” said Matt Alosa, the former Pembroke player and coach who worked with Cummings in the Granite State Raiders AAU program. “Noah was an exemplary model of absorbing a high level of basketball. He’s always concentrating, he’s always putting his best out there, he wants to lift weights and work. He’s been a role model of how to prepare and work as a basketball player, and I think that’s what led to success in the tournament.”

And that success in the tournament led to a celebration that lasted for days. Although exactly what happened at the start is a little hazy.

“Right after the game it was just tons of emotions. You don’t even really understand what’s going on,” Cummings said. “We were all just crazy and amped up.”

They managed to get themselves on the bus, but they didn’t leave the crazy in the locker rooms at the University of New Hampshire. They kept going wild on the bus … until they got picked up by the police in Epsom. And then the champs got wilder.

The Epsom police escort was soon joined by fire trucks, and then the Pembroke police, and then the Allenstown police. Eventually the team made it back to the school for pizza, pictures and more celebrating.

“That was just an amazing experience,” Cummings said.

Eventually the party went to the home of Jack Lehoullier, another Pembroke senior who went through the long arc of winless to champion. Otis, who is in his second year as PA’s coach, couldn’t say enough nice things about these seniors and this team, praising their character even more than their considerable skill. Joe Drinon, Otis’s assistant at Pembroke, enjoyed the team so much that he was already missing them on the night of the championship game, so he made a late appearance at the Lehoullier house.

“We all went crazy again when he came in,” Cummings said.

They didn’t have school that Monday, so the players had two days to settle down before going back to classes. Once Tuesday rolled around, the settling down ended.

“It was another level of it with everyone at school saying congrats, everyone super happy, the lunch ladies were giving us cookies,” Cummings said. “The whole school is really good in terms of showing up to the games and being supportive, especially the teachers and the whole staff at PA. There were just congratulations from everywhere.”

Cummings is still figuring out what he’s going to do next year. He may spend a post graduate year at a prep school or he might go straight to college. Asked to compare Cummings to another player, Alosa gave some insight into where he thinks Cummings might fit in at the next level.

“He reminds me of Cody Ball,” Alosa said.

Ball, who is from Londonderry and played for Alosa on the Raiders, is a three-year starter at D-II St. Anselm. The Hawks just won the East Regional title and will compete in the D-II Elite Eight starting on Wednesday.

In order to get to that level, Cummings will need to keep working on his jump shot and his physicality. Given his track record, it’s a good bet he’ll put in the work, however long it takes.

(Tim O’Sullivan can be reached at 369-3341, or on Twitter @timosullivan20)

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