It seemed like the entire town of Pelham came up to Lundholm Gym on Saturday afternoon as a crowd of over 3,000 filled the gym to capacity, and while Justin Hojlo was out on the floor warming up for the Pythons, it was evident that his shooting touch was off due to his injured thumb. Neither team did much on offense for the first few minutes of action, as Hojlo opened the scoring with a long jumper that bounced off the back and front rims before falling in. Spirou added a bucket, Sean Sweeney came up with a steal and a lay-up and Sweeney ended the first quarter with a nifty 3-pointer that found nothing but net to give Pelham a 9-6 first quarter lead. The Clippers’ John Mulvey began to catch fire in the second quarter when he hit his first two 3-pointers of the game and they would outscore the Pythons 11-6 to grab a slight 17-15 lead at intermission. Pelham could only get an inside hoop from Dave Wesson, a steal and a lay-up from Hojlo, and an inside basket from Mike Lombard in the entire quarter. Grant Hebert tied it up at 17-17 early in the third quarter, but the Clippers went on an 8-0 run to stake themselves to 25-17 lead before Hojlo made two free throws with 5:30 left in the third period. Josh Boissonneault had a big tip in and Stephen Spirou scored a big basket and followed that up with a conventional 3-point play. With 3:12 left in the third quarter, Mike Lombard powered his way underneath with another 3-point play and suddenly this game was all tied up at 29-29. The Clippers went ahead 34-32, but Spirou hit a 3-point play and added another inside bucket just before the buzzer to give Pelham a 37-36 lead heading into the final period of the Class I season. Lombard gave Pelham their last lead of the game with a hoop that made it 39-37 with 6:30 to go, but Portsmouth hit two 3-pointers and three field goals to start to pull away. Wesson had another hoop and Lombard hit three free throws to put the Clippers up 46-43, but another Mulvey 3-pointer proved to be a dagger in the Pythons side. Hojlo hit two free throws down the stretch and Lombard hit a bucket inside, but the Clippers kept making their foul shots and Pelham missed their last seven outside shots. Portsmouth took the title game 61-48, but Hojlo and his crew battled every inch of the way before falling short. Coach Kress later said, “ We could make an outside shot in the final minutes and Mulvey was red hot and they made their foul shots. I give them all the credit in the world. Justin gave it his all, as did all of our kids and we certainly don’t have anything to be ashamed of.” Spirou led all Pelham scorers with 14 points, Lombard had a big game with 11 points, and Justin Hojlo finished up his high school career with 10 points, which sent him out with a phenomenal 1,810 points for his four-year career at Pelham High.
Pelham boys basketball coach Todd Kress almost realized his greatest nightmare last Wednesday night at the Lundholm Gym at UNH where the Class I semi-finals were held. After pouring in 14 first half points to give the Pythons a 25-14 halftime lead over the Laconia Sachems, Hojlo looked even more pumped up in the third quarter and hit a 3-pointer and a lay-up, before he was fouled on a 3-point attempt with the Laconia player coming down on Hojlo’s right thumb. Hojlo had the hand looked at by Pelham trainer Joe Cacciatore and only made one of the three foul shots he attempted before going to the bench to have Cacciatore tape it up real good. There was 3:53 still left in the third quarter and Pelham was still holding onto a 31-24 lead, but the Sachems came back with a conventional 3-point play to cut the lead to four and the Pythons would be looking for a new hero or two in the final 12 minutes of this contest to guarantee their ticket to the Class I finals on Saturday. Sophomores Stephen Spirou and Mike Lombard answered Coach Kress’ call in fine fashion on several different occasions down the stretch, and they wouldn’t waste any time in doing so. In the last two minutes of the third quarter, Lombard scored inside and Spirou added two buckets off of offensive rebounds and the Pythons had a 37-30 lead over the Sachems heading into the final eight minutes. Spirou kept getting hotter as the Pythons needed him the most as he’d score 16 of his 20 points in the second half, with a dozen coming in that last quarter, and we was five of six at the foul line down the wire. A Spirou bucket and two free throws gave Pelham a 43-41 edge with 4:02 left to play because Laconia hit two long 3-pointers and got two steals and turned them into coast-to-coast lay-ups. After Spirou hit another foul shot with just under four minutes to play, Mike Lombard came through with five of six free throws in the next two minutes to give Pelham a 49-45 lead with 1:30 left to play. Sean Sweeney came through with two huge free throws and Spirou hut three of four shots at the charity stripe in the final 28 seconds to secure Pelham’s trip to the big game against Portsmouth who beat No. 1 seeded Pembroke by 10 points. Justin Hojlo and Stephen Spirou finished up with 20 points apiece, Mike Lombard contributed seven points all in the second half, and Sean Sweeney added five points. Coach Kress said following the game, “Hey guys who do like my sophomores? With all that pressure out there coming down the stretch, Spirou and Lombard were sensational. We won’t know anything about the extent of Justin’s injury until we have it x-rayed, but knowing him, he’ll find some way to be somewhat ready by game time Saturday.”
Despite a terrible economy that shows us that we’re coming very close to a recession, George Harris and his family over at Harris’ Pelham Inn haven’t slowed down a bit when it comes to booking weddings, parties, anniversary’s, or other special functions that they’ve done for well over 50 years. Harris and his crew did find it extremely important to leave Friday night open in order to throw a big banquet for all of the Pelham Python football players and their coaches and family to reward them for their second straight Division V championship and another perfect 11-0 season. Mr. Harris and his sons and daughters made sure that they attended Pelham’s playoff games back in mid-November for big wins over Kearsarge and Saint Thomas and he thought that it would be real special to honor this group with a big celebration banquet. George Harris smiled and greeted the players, coaches, and parents as they entered the place Friday night as he admitted, “Gee, these kids had a great season. I really wanted to give these kids a party last year, but I wasn’t feeling that good, so they went out and won another championship and we’re happy to have them here this year.”
Pelham athletic director, Timmy Powers, was the master of ceremonies for the evening as the entire group feasted on a scrumptious full course family style turkey dinner while John Harris packed a full table of cheeses, crackers, breads, and fruits, and his sister Susan tended bar for the huge gathering. There was definitely championship fever in the air, as four of the football players (Mike Lombard, Sean Sweeney, Conor McColgan, and Dave Wesson), were getting ready to hopefully bring home another Class I basketball title the following night at the University of New Hampshire. Powers got the evening off on a bright note as he presented George Harris with a game ball from the championship game that was signed by all of the players and coaches. They may only be 14-18 year-old kids, but they wanted to let the Harris Family know that they not only appreciated their support at the games, but they most definitely appreciated the Harris’ providing them with a first-class football field and track that they have at the Harris Family Track and Field. Coach Tom Babaian gave a great speech about what it took for his team that had very small numbers, to conquer all the bigger teams that had dropped down from Division IV and higher for the season. Football finally became a sport at Pelham High back in 1993 when coach Joe Travierso started the sport up, but in the first 15 years of competing, only seven Pelham players had been named to the New Hampshire Shrine Team, and only five of them actually played. This past year Greg Husband of Franklin was named this year’s NH coach, and it was revealed that both Bruce Vieira and Bill Helliwell will be playing for NH this August 1 when they lace up their shoes to play the Vermont All-Stars. Another guest speaker was longtime Stonehill College football coach Tom McDonald, and he spoke tremendously high of coach Babaian and the unselfish ways of the Pelham football team that blended together very nicely for 22 straight victories. Also on hand for this event were Pelham High Principal Dr. Dorothy Mohr, Assistant Principal Leland Brennan, the busiest guy during football season, athletic trainer Joe Cacciatore (who kept this group glued together and bandaged for the entire season), and Scott Williams who keeps the 700 Pelham High students in line during the school year. Coach Tom Babaian and captain Bruce Vieira then unveiled the 2008 Division V championship football banner that will hang in the rafters with the rest of them. It was a very special night for a very special group of young athletes that was only put together by a very special family … the Harris Family. Thank you a thousand times over!
For the first time ever, the Pelham Pythons will have a representative at the New England Girls Gymnastic Meet at Norwich, CT. Pelham senior Chelsea I’Anson will be heading to this once-in-a-lifetime meet Saturday, because all she did two weeks ago at the NH State Meet was to go out and take first place in the entire state on the Balance Beam when she performed a near perfect routine in getting a whopping score of 9.200 from the judges with Plymouth’s Abby Clark coming in second place with a 9.050 score. Chelsea will be competing against all of her Salem friends as the Blue Devils won the NH State Meet, but she’ll also be competing against all of the best girls gymnasts from all six New England state. There is also a slight chance that I’Anson could get a shot to perform in the All-Around if one of the top six finishers at the state meet can not make it to the New England Meet, because Chelsea finished seventh in the state in the All-Around with a score of 34.1.
Here’s hoping the I’Anson goes down to Norwich Free Academy and comes back with another stellar effort on the Balance Beam, which just may lead to a placing in the New England Girls Gymnastic Meet … and that would really put a sweet ending to an incredible senior season!
11-0 Pythons Win State Title over Gilford - 2007 State Division V Football Champions
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