Boys’ basketball: Pembroke falls from unbeaten in 69-58 loss to ConVal

  • Pembroke guard Mike Strazzeri (1) defends against ConVal guard Joseph Gutwein during the second half of Tuesday night’s boys basketball game in Pembroke. The visiting Cougars stayed unbeaten on the young season and handed the Spartans their first defeat, 69-58. GEOFF FORESTER/ Monitor staff photographs

  • Pembroke forward Alex Francouer (21) and Joe Fitzgerald (20) defend against ConVal guard Austin Knight (2). GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Pembroke forward Shondell Hadley (left) gets locked up with ConVal forward Owen McGuire during the second half. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Pembroke forward Cooper Gilman goes up with ConVal forward Owen McGuire during the second half of Tuesday night’s boys’ basketball game in Pembroke. The visiting Cougars won, 69-58. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 1/5/2022 4:48:29 PM

With the turning of the calendar and a fresh slate of opportunities, teams more often than not use the start of the new year to make differences and changes.

Pembroke, however, was in a groove before the new year. Winners of six consecutive boys basketball games to start the season, only one of those came by one possession – the nice way of saying they’ve been blowouts.

But the groove has ended, for now. Change, good or bad, is inevitable, and the Spartans will look to get back on track after their 69-58 loss to ConVal at home on Tuesday.

Pembroke’s night took a turn that it couldn’t steer back from just under the halfway mark of the second quarter. The once-hot Spartan offense, which had gotten solid production all over the floor and especially from midrange, seemingly cooled off.

Where shots once fell in, they banked out or slid off the glass as the visiting Cougars rebounded, stretched the floor and made quick work with their offense. Malachi Page fueled ConVal’s run, scoring 12 points off the bench as the fans from Peterborough made it feel like they were attending a home game while being 45 miles away.

“We didn’t do a very good job of getting back, and they made us pay for it,” Pembroke coach Rich Otis said. “They’re a good team; there’s a reason why they’re undefeated. We just couldn’t get going.”

Pembroke (6-1) stopped the bleeding behind Shondell Hadley’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the half, halting the 13-3 run from ConVal (6-0). Hadley’s 3-pointer was the spark Pembroke needed heading into the second half as senior guard Mike Pitman got things started off with a quick five points, including a splash 3-pointer.

The energy from the Spartans’ five on the floor radiated to the bench, as players clad in green long-sleeve shirts with the message “We Play the Right Way” embroidered in white started waving towels around. Fans got to their feet cheering as the Spartans run brought the game to a 45-43 ConVal lead midway through the third quarter.

Pitman, who finished with 19 points, continued to play his role as floor general for the Spartans.

The senior was instrumental in not only scoring but facilitating the offense and distributing as well.

“He’s everything to us,” Otis said. “He’s our best player, our hardest-working player and, in my opinion, one of the top five best players in the state.”

That offense saw three other Spartans in double-digit point figures, including Hadley (12), Mike Strazzeri (11) and Joe Fitzgerald (10).

In a back-and-forth final quarter, Pembroke ultimately broke down in transition much like it did in the second quarter. After a quick stolen ConVal pass, the ball was in turn stolen right back and the Cougars sealed the game with a bucket from Owen McGuire.

Fortunately for the Spartans, they like everyone else have had to adjust the mindset of a short memory because of the condensed, three-games-a-week schedule.

Pembroke has two more games this week, with a Thursday road trip to Hollis-Brookline and a Saturday home matinee against Plymouth.

Matt Parker bio photo

Matt Parker is a sports reporter at the Monitor and started in August 2021. He is an Ohio native and relishes being from the Buckeye state. A proud graduate of Ohio University located in Athens, Ohio, he served as the sports editor for the student-run newspaper, The Post, from 2019-20. When not at a game or chasing around a coach, you can catch him playing his guitars or looking for the next Peanuts memorabilia piece to add in his growing collection.

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