Josh Jones standes with NHIAA Official Jeff Holmes and SHS Coach E.J. Perry
Salem basketball coach E. J. Perry had a little extra jump in his step last Sunday night as he got ready to coach the Class L Senior Stars against coach Todd Kress and his Class I stars at Concord Vocational Technical School in the Granite State Games. Perry, along with Jeff Holmes of Exeter, coached a Class L All-Stars team that saw Blue Devils Josh Jones and Mike Kimball play with new teammates like Brennan Donnelly of Alvirne and Jason Chevrefils of Memorial, who had just got done a 27-point performance last Wednesday night to knock the Blue Devils out of the tournament. Jones and Kimball and the rest of the Class L All-Star Seniors were off to a nice 48-36 halftime lead before NHIAA official Jeff Holmes took to the microphone to name Pelham senior guard Justin Hojlo the Class I Player of the Year. Hojlo was dressed and at the game but did not play because of a serious injury to his thumb that he suffered in the Pelham semi-final 56-54 win over Laconia. Hojlo went to the Class I finals twice and won one title and tossed in 1,210 points in his four years of playing for the Pythons. Right after that, Todd Kress was called to the podium to accept the Class I Coach of the Year for the Pythons. Kress admitted that the brand of basketball played ay Pelham High has been great since about 2002 and shows no signs of letting up, with nine players returning next season.
Jeff Holmes named Manchester West’s first-year coach Sam Carey as the Class L Coach of the Year, and then Salem senior Josh Jones came up to accept the Mr. Basketball Award for New Hampshire. Jones was congratulated by Mike Kimball and his other teammates, but his coach E. J. Perry said, “Boy, is that kid ever deserving of this award. Josh and Kimball play that same kind of ‘share the ball’ style of play, and as you can see, it’s contagious. He’s so unselfish and wanting to get the ball inside for better shots, and he’s been doing it for me for the last four years. We’ve won 78 games and two titles with Josh and Kimball the last four years, and I don’t want to know what it’s going to feel like next December 1st when they’re not around.” Josh Jones swished 1,345 points in those four years, but was still averaging eight rebounds a game, four assists per game, and two steals per game. Josh and Mike Kimball were able to combine for 20 points in the 108-89 win over the Class I Senior All-Stars, but it would have been a lot closer if Mr. Justin Hojlo had been able to play and toss in his usual 28 points a game.
Todd Kress the Class I Coach of the Year for the Pythons with NHIAA official Jeff Holmes.
Justin Hojlo the Class I Player of the Year with NHIAA official Jeff Holmes.
The Saints Mites played two tough games this week. The first game against Amesbury ended in a loss, 7-2. Goals were scored by Ian Krikorian, assisted by Jonathon Last, and a goal by Mason Healey. Their second game was a win against Lynnfield, 7-5. Five goals scored in the first period and one goal in each following period helped lead Salem to victory over Lynnfield. Leading the way was Mason Healey with four goals and two assists, Jonathon Last with two goals and two assists, and Joey Carney with a goal. There was great defense by Hunter Healey and Brandon Paiva.
The Saints Squirt 1 team recorded two losses this week — two very hard-fought games, but no wins. The first game against Medford left the Saints scoreless, losing 4-0. The second loss was to Winchester, 3-1. The lone goal was scored by Jacob Sylvester.
The Saints Squirt 2 team lost in a weeknight game against Andover, 3-2, but they won the Peabody Youth Hockey’s first annual ‘Win the Gold’.
The Saints PeeWee’s skated a 3-1-2 for the week. The PeeWee 2 team beat Andover at 3-2 at the beginning of the week, and their second game was a tie against the same Andover team, 3-3. They then ended their play week with a win against Wilmington, 5-3.
The Saints PeeWee 3s recorded a win and a loss. First was the loss against Burlington, 5-4, and then came a shutout against Woburn, 4-0. Nicholas LeBoeuf and Thomas Gillespie had great games in net, getting the shutout.
The Bantam 1 won at 4-2 against Reading, with Noah Arling, Ryan Pease, Jason Parker, and Shane Morin scoring for Saints, and Cam Brock had two assists. Their other game was a 7-0 loss against Melrose. The Bantam 2 team went 1-1-1. Their win was against Burlington, 5-2. Their loss was to Malden, 3-1, and their final game for the week ended in a tie, 3-3, playing Melrose.
One more week of regular season play then all the Saint teams head into the playoffs in Valley League Play.
You’re in a positive frame of mind starting off the Class L basketball season when your team is led by All-State forward Amanda Saab (who averages 18 points a game), if you’re Salem hoop coach Liz Briggs. Unfortunately, on the second day of practice Saab goes down with an ACL injury to her knee, and following surgery is gone for the entire season. Now it’s time for senior playmaker Caitlin Peters and senior forward Kelsi Record to step to the plate and rally the Blue Devil troops. The No. 1 problem that this team would have starting the season would be scoring points. To offset that problem, the Salem girls would have to dig in on defense until they got their offense rolling. Salem started off with a 5-7 record two thirds through the regular season, but they caught fire late and won their final six games of the regular season, including a big upset win over No. 2 ranked Merrimack. Salem coach Liz Briggs said, “With the injury to Saab, we had to give more time to girls like Kerri White, Melissa Oullett, and Jen Bujnowski to improve their rebounding skills and to give us some scoring down low. Caitlin Peters had to get the ball around to Nora Galvin, Sarah Raye, and Amanda Vaudreuil, and sophomore Gina Righini might have been the most improved player on this team with her ball-handling, passing, and the pesky way she plays defense. We would have that bad quarter, usually in the first half, but then we’d come out strong in the second half. We were down at the half to Bishop Guertin by nine, to Keene by five points, and a couple of other teams, but our girls played very tough down the stretch and pulled out those games.”
The Blue Devils finished the regular season with big wins at Exeter and at Timberlane and were really psyched up to face No. 8 Dover in Dover for the first round of the Class L tournament as both teams finished with identical 11-7 records, but the Green Wave were able to score 22 points in the fourth quarter of that game and go on to beat Salem 48-40. Coach Briggs’ Salem girls were able to jump out to a 15-8 first quarter lead in the playoff game, as Peters had nine points in the first period alone, but Salem’s shooting went cold in the second stanza as the Green wave outscored them 15-5 to take a 23-20 halftime lead, and the Blue Devils never recovered. Coach Briggs is also excited about nine of her players returning next November and all of them will be playing in a summer league somewhere. All this writer can think is “What would this 11-7 team have been like if they had played with a healthy Amanda Saab for the entire year?” Probably a 15-3 team that would have gone to at least the Class L semi-finals!
Ethan Rheault entered the third annual USA Wrestling Middle School Folkstyle Nationals held at Disney for the first time. He beat the defending national champ in the finals, Brandon Bell of the South Georgia Athletic Club, by a 7-1 decision. In the semi-finals he had beaten Travis Berridge by a 6-5 decision. Travis is the Florida All States champion who wrestled varsity for his high school as an eighth grader. (Brandon, Florida High School, is the current national record holder, having won 500-plus dual meets in a row.)
In the end, there were six medal winners on the podium, with five of those six medal winners having started on Ethan’s side of the bracket. He is currently a member of the Salem Boys & Girls Club Bulldog Wrestling team. He has been wrestling for this team for over five years. The Salem Bulldogs this season were the grades K-4, 5-6, and 7-8 State Champions. This a feat that no one in the state can remember any other team having accomplished.
They have always somehow found a way to pull out those close victories at UHN in the post season for the past five years, going back to Terry Doyle’s elbow jumper at the buzzer against Manchester West in 2004, so most of the Blue Devil fans were all waiting to see what coach E. J. Perry and his 2009 Blue Devil boys could come up with against Manchester Memorial in the Class L semi-finals last week. Salem found themselves down on many occasions, but always seemed to come back during the game. The Crusaders led 14-4 after one period, only to see Salem come storming back in the second quarter to cut Memorial’s lead to 22-21 at halftime. The Crusaders and Blue Devils both dug in on defense but the Crusaders still held a 35-30 lead heading into the final frame, but Salem’s senior All-Stater Josh Jones drilled a couple of long 3-pointers to get Salem close, and with 1:30 left in the game Alex LaRosa dropped in a 3-bomb to cut the Crusader lead to 44-41. The Blue Devils did miss a couple of lay-ups earlier in the period and turned the ball over three times down the stretch, but LaRosa had another 3-point attempt go around the rim twice before falling out, and Jones had another good look that just hit the back of the rim and bounced out, and Memorial was able to hit 3 of 4 foul shots and hold on for a 49-41 victory that sent them to the finals against Trinity. Coach E. J. Perry smiled and shook his head as he admitted, “That was a very good defensive game, but I thought the basket was going to open up a bit for us in the second half, and especially with the way we closed out the first half. Instead, they come out and hit us with a 10-0 run in the first four minutes of the third quarter and we had to take a time out and talk some things over. They were taking their time on offense and working the clock, so that made it much tougher for us.”
Salem came out ice cold in the first quarter as they only got a bucket from Josh Jones with two and a half minutes played, and then a lay-up from Mike Kimball with 3:15 left in the first quarter, and a couple of missed lay-ups and two missed foul shots didn’t help. Three-pointers by Alex LaRosa and Mark Adamson and inside hoops from Kimball and Joe Gallant cut the Crusader lead to 16-14 but a Jones 3-pointer and buckets by Kimball and Gallant were matched by two Memorial 3-pointers in the closing seconds of the first half. Down 32-21 midway through the third period, Jones had two 3-point plays in the last three minutes of the third period and Alex LaRosa had a conventional 3-pointer, but they were the only nine points that the Blue Devils could muster in that period. Missed lay-ups and several turnovers were key, but Salem’s stingy defense was still keeping them in the game. Salem’s main problem on defense was trying to control Memorial’s senior forward Jason Chavrefils as he would dominate the inside game for a game high 27 points, which meant the rest of his team combined for only 22 points. Josh Jones led Salem with 17 points, Alex LaRosa had nine points, Kimball had six points, all in the first half, and Joe Gallant had four points, Mark Adamson had a 3-pointer, and Sammy Shields added a bucket. Coach Perry ended it by saying, “I really thought our kids were going to come back again, and if either Josh or Alex’s 3-pointer falls then it’s a tie game. It is a game of inches and we came just a couple of inches short. Jones and Kimball have two Class L championships under their belt, and they helped us win 78 games in the last four years, so it’s been quite a thrill.”