Part III of our four-part series looking back at the 45 championship games we’ve covered on NHsportspage takes a look at the championship games in all four divisions from 2012 to 2015.
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The 2012 Division IV championship game between Moultonborough and Littleton was featured in our Top 10 and I missed the Division III final between Berlin and Prospect Mountain.
2012 Division II final: Portsmouth 58, Bedford 33
Comments: This was a dominant Clippers team led by the backcourt of player of the year Kamahl Walker and Billy Lane.
John Langlois was the Bedford coach and they knocked off a very good Souhegan team that was missing two starters in the quarterfinals before beating top seed Hanover easily in the semifinals.
Trevor Famy, Cam Meservey, and Trevor Glassman led a very good Bedford team but Portsmouth was absolutely loaded.
The Clippers beat pre-season #1 Pembroke in the season opener (the Spartans ended their season in the quarterfinals when they were upset by Coe-Brown) and were dominant by the time March arrived.
This was also the first final four Justin McIsaac & I called together.
We have called so many games together since, in both basketball and football, that we know the rhythms of one another to the point where we sound like we share the same brain (which is terrifying).
In this first final four though I remember at halftime of this game and with Portsmouth comfortably ahead McIsaac asked on-air “What can Bedford do to get back into the game?’
I responded, “Nothing, this game is over.”
I’m not sure he knew what to do with that..
2012 Division I final: Merrimack 65, Manchester Central 56
Comments: Tim Goodridge’s team featured sophomore point guard Dimitri Floras and the Gendron brothers Tyler and Eric.
Of all the past champions this Merrimack team might have been the biggest ‘What if?’ of all of them.
Floras left for prep school after the season (he would go on to have a very good career at SNHU) but if he stayed at Merrimack he and Eric Gendron (the 2014 player of the year) would have collided with the 22-0 Manchester Central team of Jon & Joey Martin, Brett Hanson, Dawson Dickson and Tyler Kelly.
I get dizzy just thinking about what that match-up would have looked like as Merrimack went to the 2014 (we’re getting there I promise) championship game without Floras.
Central had beaten Trinity in an overtime classic in the semifinals.
2013 Division IV final: Lisbon 38, Derryfield 36
Comments: You could do a 30 for 30 on this final four.
First of all, Newmarket dominated Division IV all season long. They swept Derryfield and rolled through the division. Christian Hawkins and Josh Eisfeller gave the Mules a first-team all-state performer at point guard & center and they jumped out to a 26-7 lead on an overwhelmed Lisbon team in the first of the two semifinal games at Plymouth State.
Lisbon though made a run at the end of the half to cut the lead to 10 as Littleton head coach Trevor Howard sat in the crowd waiting for his semifinal match-up with Derryfield saying, “ Don’t let Lisbon hang around. Not with Chad Knighton on the team.”
He was right.
Knighton was the leading scorer in Division IV and the performance he put on in the second half of Lisbon’s stunning upset win over Newmarket is still talked about to this day.
Knighton scored 22 of his 29 points in the second half and was unstoppable as the Panthers kept cutting into the Mules lead.
Lisbon stole an inbounds pass out of a timeout late and took their first lead of the night on a Knighton pull-up jumper with 9 seconds to go in the game.
I have re-watched this game (I wasn’t there I was at the Division III final four that night) three times and every time I do I still think Newmarket is going to win.
Littleton was shell-shocked to see their rivals stun the top seed and got blown out in the second semifinal by a Rob Bradley coached Derryfield team that now had a Newmarket team that had swept them out of the way.
Head coach Sam Natti knew he didn’t have enough offense to stay with Derryfield in the final so Lisbon slowed the pace and won a low scoring contest. Mike Heath was really good for Lisbon and Justin Quinn knocked down big shots for the champs.
We didn’t have a videographer for the championship game. Eliot Bless & I went up to the Plymouth after my Saturday morning radio show and he taped the final seconds on his camera phone as Mitch Green missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds.
It was Derek Roberts who made himself a Lisbon legend that afternoon, knocking down 5 3-pointers as Lisbon pulled off another big upset to win Sam Natti his first title as head coach.
2013 Division III final: Conant 66, Campbell 46
Comments: The Orioles rolled to the title over John Langlois and Campbell.
Devin Springfield was terrific for the Orioles who were also led by Jake Carlson, Rob O’Brien, Kyle Carland and Eli Hodgson.
They survived a 39-38 game with Berlin in the semifinals (I hope people are aware of how good of a coach Don Picard of Berlin is) while Campbell beat top-seeded Hopkinton.
The Cougars were led by point guard Max Gouveia and Jacob Morgan, and it was an ankle injury Morgan suffered in practice before the championship game that slowed him against the Orioles.
2013 Division II final: Pembroke 49, Souhegan 41
Comments: The first of back to back titles for Matt Alosa and his core of Patrick Welch, Dominic Timbas and Kafani Williams. Matt Persons was a very good forward for a Spartans team that beat Coe-Brown in the semifinals (Welch was unbelievable that night) while Mike Heaney’s Sabers beat Lebanon.
Souhegan made a great run behind first-team all-state guard Brandon Len and center Jake Kennedy. Knocking off Portsmouth in the quarterfinals on the road.
Former teammate Tony Barksdale, who was a freshman at Boston University, tragically passed away that March. Head coach Mike Heaney and the entire Souhegan team attended his funeral the morning of the quarterfinal upset of Portsmouth as the team rallied around the memory of their beloved teammate.
In the semifinal Tanner Kent did a terrific job defending Lebanon’s first-team all-state guard David Hampton as the Sabers advanced to the final.
2013 Division I final: Trinity 50, Bishop Guertin 46
Comments: This was the season McIsaac nicknamed us ‘The Trinity basketball network’. We must have covered them five times.
They were led by Mabor Gabriel, Carmen Giampetruzzi, Patrick Keefe, Ryan Otis, Brad Rhodes and a skinny underclassman who hasn’t been heard from since named Wenyen Gabriel.
This was a group we got to know very well and it was a terrific team with a lot of balance up & down the lineup. One of my all-time favorite groups.
The Pioneers beat Nashua South in a really good semifinal. Nate Mazerolle’s team was led by the Preston brothers Tim & Jack.
South missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime, while BG erased a big halftime deficit against Spaulding to advance to the championship.
Justin McIsaac was predictably crushed.
Bishop Guertin was the 7-seed and had pulled off a big upset in the quarterfinals when they won at Manchester Central in the final minute. Jeff Lunn was their all-state big man (who would go on to play at Keene State) while Kyle Gavin knocked down a ton of big shots for Jim Migneault’s team.
I missed the 2014 Division IV final between Epping and Sunapee but we did cover both of the semifinal games.
2014 Division III final: Conant 40, Campbell 36
Comments: The video of this final is actually pretty outstanding as Jon Kesty and Jen combined for multiple angles.
This was the post-season where Conant, scuffling a bit at the end of the season, was told by their head coach Eric Saucier that if they held every team they played in the tournament under 40 points they would win the title.
They did and the final score from their championship game made Saucier look like a prophet.
Conant was led by Rob O’Brien, who was absolutely terrific for the Orioles and all-state forward Eli Hodgson (another all-time great kid). The duo of Josh Degrenier and point guard Kyle Carland came up big in the Orioles title run.
Campbell was a very good team led by all-state forward Zach Bergeon, Harrison Vedrani, and Andrew Smarse. John Langlois again led a team to the finals and you can spot Scott Hazelton on the sidelines as one of his assistant coaches.
Nick Panagiotes was huge in this game for Conant, knocking down four 3-pointers.
2014 Division II final: Pembroke 49, Portsmouth 40
Comments: Better known in some circles as the ‘Dry pavement’ Final Four.
First the lead up to the final four.
Lebanon had come back from a 16-point deficit in the first round to beat Goffstown behind six straight points from senior Gage Young. They then beat Hollis-Brookline in the quarterfinals at the buzzer on a Dom Merrill tip-in.
Kieth Matte’s team was also led by Nick Shepard, Colin Sau, sophomore Austin Whaley, and freshman KJ Matte.
You would think that would have been enough drama for an entire post-season but looking back…they were just getting started.
The entire state got blanketed by snow the night before the semifinals (Pelham vs. Pembroke and Lebanon vs. Portsmouth) was to be held at UNH.
Whether school was canceled or delayed three of the schools were fine with sending their teams to UNH (the snow had stopped by morning and pavement everywhere was dry) ….except for Lebanon.
Their superintendent had a rule of ‘no school/no games’ and even though the roads were dry all day in Lebanon, the team was not allowed to go to UNH.
UNH was already booked, or not available the following night so the NHIAA had to act very quickly and moved the entire final four to Exeter high school. With the semifinals now being played on Friday night and the finals at UNH the following afternoon.
The craziness didn’t end there.
The first semifinal between Lebanon and Portsmouth was the single most physical game I have ever covered. Kids were hammering each other, one kid pinched another so hard it left a purple welt on his side and I remember actually being afraid for the safety of Lebanon freshman guard KJ Matte.
Pembroke and Pelham was expected to be a terrific game (the Pythons were led by Jake Vaiknoras (an all-time great kid) and sophomore Keith Brown) but Matt Alosa’s team overwhelmed them right out of the gate and won going away.
The next afternoon Portsmouth was able to hang in behind all-state forward Patrick Glynn, Nick Mackey (another all-time great kid), Donovan Phanor (a future senator) and a very talented freshman named Joey Glynn.
Pembroke though was too much as Patrick Welch, Kafani Williams and Dominic Timbas led the way.
2014 Division I final: Manchester Central 70, Merrimack 61
Comments: Doc Wheeler’s Little Green capped off an undefeated season by beating a very good Merrimack team in the final. This was the first year of our Coaches for a Cause Jamboree and so we watched in December as Central beat Conant by 12 and Merrimack beat Pelham by 7.
The two best teams I’ve ever covered were the 2017 Portsmouth Clippers and this 2014 Manchester Central team. Their semifinal win over Manchester Memorial is featured on our first greatest game special and is our most viewed game highlight video in our 12-year history.
I truly believe if those two teams could be matched up in a 7-game series it would go the full seven games.
Eric Gendron was the Division I player of the year for Merrimack and was terrific. He was joined by all-state forward Shayne Bourque and guard Austin Franzen.
The Tomahawks beat Trinity in the semifinals in what would be Wenyen Gabriel's last NHIAA game before he left for prep school. Actually he kicked McIsaac's butt in the seacoast tournament in the following weeks and then went to prep school.
Brett Hanson was just named Division II National Player of the Year, both Joey and Jon Martin played Division II college basketball and Dawson Dickson played in college as well and is now an assistant coach at Keene State College. Tyler Kelly did all the dirty work for Doc’s team and Mike Plentzas was their terrific 6th man who would have started for any other team in the state.
Jen’s 3-minute preview video is terrific…give it a look.
The 2015 Division IV final between Wilton-Lyndeborough was in the Top 10 and also on our Greatest Games Special.
2015 Division III final: Pelham 51, Conant 42
Comments: The 2015 tournaments were unquestionably the best we have ever covered. Three of the games are featured on our greatest games special (The Division IV final and Bishop Brady/Portsmouth on our first special and Pelham’s win over Campbell in the semifinals in our upcoming special) and all four divisions were involved in the madness.
After surviving Campbell Matt Regan’s Pythons finished off a 22-0 season with a win over a very tough Conant team led by Josh Degrenier, CJ Bildoeau, Brandon Ford, Simeon Hodgson, JP Record and Nate Wheeler.
This was actually a very good game. Conant came out firing behind Degrenier and the semifinal scare Campbell gave Pelham proved they were human after all.
Pelham was led early by all-state forward Dylan Silvestri, the kind of player every coach in the state would kill to have on their team, before the big guns Ryan Cloutier and Keith Brown got rolling.
Tyler Rogers and Ryan Rondeau were terrific for Pelham (we talk a lot about this group in the upcoming special but Rondeau would have been the best player on a lot of Division III teams that year) and pulled away in the second half for the title.
Matt Regan’s bright pink championship shirt was again along for the ride.
Both 2015 Division I & II championship games were featured in our Top 10
Coming Monday: Part IV 2016-2019