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24 - March 25, 2011

Pelham~Windham Sports Pelham~Windham Sports

Pythons Fall to Milford in Basketball Semis

the season, the Pythons, in a hard-fought, intense battle, fell to the Spartans by four, 50-46. Not only was Milford the defending Division

II champions, they entered the 2011 post-season play with an incredible and unblemished 18-0 record. Although in their prior two meetings the Spartans emerged with victories, the Pythons and Coach Regan were confident in their chances to upset the number-one seed. Things started out nicely for the Pythons as

Brett Bailey of Pelham goes up for two points against Kyle Nelson of Milford

by Marc Ayotte The Lundholm gymnasium on the campus of the University of New Hampshire was the site for this year’s Division II boys’ basketball semifinal action. On Wednesday, March 16, the preliminary game saw a clutch three-pointer by Portsmouth’s Kamahi Walker, with 20 seconds left in the game, give the Clippers the late lead as they held on to defeat a pesky, number 10-seeded Souhegan team by a final score of 35-31. In the second half of the semifinal double-

header, a classic battle of two Division II powerhouses ensued. The number four-seeded Pelham Pythons faced the top-seeded Spartans of Milford High School in what was their third head- to-head confrontation of the 2010-11 campaign. Unfortunately for the Pythons and the hundreds of fans that made the trek to Durham to support their team, the third time had no charm associated with it. Despite probably their best defensive effort of

junior Anthony Spirou drew first blood by draining a ’tres’ one minute and eight seconds into play. The stingy Pelham defense kept Milford out of the scoring column for all but 10 seconds of the first three minutes. A Derek DeFranzo steal and feed to teammate Stephen Spirou gave the Pythons a 6-2 lead. Milford was held scoreless for over another two minutes when Mike O’Loughlin nailed a triple of his own to cut the Python lead to one. Two Jake Vaiknoras free throws for PHS and a quarter-ending bank shot by Milford’s Jamie Holder closed out the first quarter scoring, with the lower seed holding on to a delicate, 8-7 lead.

As he did in the first quarter, Pelham guard

Anthony Spirou opened up the scoring in the second stanza with a sweet baseline drive. A stylish, three-quarter court-length pass from DeFranzo to Brett Bailey pushed the Python lead to five at 12-7 just a minute and a half in. Milford gained their first lead of the contest at 15-14 when senior guard Mike Mitchell knocked down two free throws. Mitchell’s eight first-half points and, more importantly, his control of the Spartan offenses allowed the defending champs to turn a first-quarter, one-point deficit into a 19-15 halftime lead. Thirty seconds into the second half, an offensive rebound put-back by Milford’s Kyle Nelson gave the Spartans their biggest lead of the game. After trading baskets for the first two minutes of the third quarter, Spartan senior guard O‘Loughlin, from a different zip code, rainbowed in a triple,

Python Stephen Spirou is held in tight check by Milford’s Mike O’Loughlin

giving his team a new biggest lead at 26-19. In what turned out to be a play that gave the Spartans an additional spark, guard O’Loughlin’s steal and dunk at the 4:20 mark pushed the Milford lead to nine points. With under a minute left in the third quarter, the offensive potent O’Loughlin converted on an ‘AND 1’, pushing the destined Spartans’ lead to double digits. A clutch triple by iconic ‘tres-man’ Dean Joyce, with two seconds left, cut the PHS deficit to eight points after three quarters at 33-25. The never-say-die Pythons came out for the final eight minutes holding nothing back. Their fourth-quarter offensive explosion began just 12 seconds in, as ’Threeno’ Joyce, on a nice feed from Stephen Spirou, poured in his second triple in 14 seconds. With his second textbook three-quarter court pass of the night, Python guard DeFranzo this time hit Joyce, who was fouled on the play. After making his two free throws, Joyce and the Pythons had jumped back into the game with an 8-0 run to cut the Spartan lead to 33-30 just 45 seconds in.

After regrouping,

Milford went on a little mini-run of their own, compliments of an old-fashioned, three-point play by Richie Moore, as they pushed the lead back to eight at 38-30. An immediate, personal Brett Bailey 5-0 run, comprised of a ’tres’ and two free throws, brought the Pythons back to within three points with 4:14 left in the game.

In taking turns for their mini-runs, this time the O’Loughlin spearheaded spurt put the Spartans up 44-37 with just over a minute remaining in regulation. An unsuspecting triple from Python wide-body Brian Finney pulled the Pythons back to within four points at 44-40 with 59 seconds remaining. Ten seconds later, DeFranzo, with two pressure-packed free throws, made it a one-possession game at 44-42. That’s as close as Pelham would come, however, as a costly turnover on an inbound pass resulted in a Milford lay-up, cementing back-to-back championships for the Spartans.

Stephen Spirou (#21) for PHS splits the Milford defenses in semi final’s action against MHS

Milford was led offensively by Mike O’Loughlin with 20 points, as well as a nice defensive effort with five steals. Mike Mitchell followed up with 12 points and six assists. For the Pythons who failed to have anyone score in double digits, Dean Joyce and Brett Bailey were high scorers with nine points each.

A fantastic PHS season concluded with a

valiant effort to knock off, which many basketball pundits considered to be the best team in the state, regardless of division. All associated with the Pelham basketball program can be proud of a spectacular, season-long effort. In a post- game comment that not only encapsulated the Pythons’ season and work ethic, but captured their semifinals approach, Coach Regan commented, “I’ll coach for 32 minutes. You play for 32 minutes. And we both did!” Great season, Pythons!

Milford High School went on to defeat the Clippers of Portsmouth High School in the finals in another low scoring affair by a score of 48-42.

photos by Marc Ayotte

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