PA boys’ basketball advances to the state finals

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PA boys’ basketball advances to the state finals

Senior Sean Menard drives the lane in a game against Coe-Brown. The Spartans will take on Kearsage for the Division II championship tomorrow.

Senior Sean Menard drives the lane in a game against Coe-Brown. The Spartans will take on Kearsage for the Division II championship tomorrow.

Courtesy of PA Yearbook

Senior Sean Menard drives the lane in a game against Coe-Brown. The Spartans will take on Kearsage for the Division II championship tomorrow.

Courtesy of PA Yearbook

Courtesy of PA Yearbook

Senior Sean Menard drives the lane in a game against Coe-Brown. The Spartans will take on Kearsage for the Division II championship tomorrow.

As senior Noah Cummings stepped to the foul line, an “MVP” chant erupted from the crowd.

With blood dripping down his chin after scraping his chin on the court, Cummings made the first out of two free throws.

As referees called a time-out, and due to the severity of his bleeding, Cummings had to come out of the game.

Enter freshman Mike Pitman.

Pitman was handed the ball to replace the senior captain in one of the most unnerving situations imaginable for a freshman: The Division II semifinal game against Conval High School in Peterborough. 

Pitman sunk the free-throw and ended Conval’s basketball season as PA boys’ basketball team advanced to the Division II state finals where they will take on Kearsage High School on Saturday at The University of New Hampshire’s Lundholm Stadium at noon.

The semifinal game started slow with a scoreless first two minutes, and it seemed like it would be a defensive game. 

The game was close and low-scoring throughout the first half and seemed to be a stalemate until PA senior Sean Menard sunk a three-pointer to break up the scoring drought. Conval couldn’t answer, and PA rushed down the court for a fast break score lead by Cummings. The game went into halftime with PA holding a one-point lead, 21-20.

“We needed to be louder, especially on the bench,” said junior Nate Cassidy. “If we get loud and stay loud, our student section will do the same. Our energy will be on a different level.”

As the teams headed back out for the second half, defense remained the name of the game for PA. After making a dismal 3-14 shots in the first quarter, the team knew they needed to step up their offense in the second half.

The third quarter was headlined by PA’s Big Three of Cummings (seven points), Menard (five points) and junior Shea Shackford (four points). Noah Cummings was named D-II Boys’ basketball “Player of the Year” on Sunday, while Menard made second-team All-State, and Shackford earned an honorable mention.  

Cummings hit a buzzer beating three-pointer to propel the Spartans into the fourth quarter.

The Spartans were at the foul line a lot in the late game, having all nine attempts going in for them in last 2:20 in the game. The Spartans took a two-possession lead with Conval intentionally fouling. With only 20.2 seconds left in the game the Spartans sunk four more free throws to send them to their second finals appearance in five years.

Tomorrow, the Spartans will take on the nine-seed Kearsage who upset Merrimack Valley to advance to the finals. While Kearsage is a clear underdog, PA is not underestimating their opponent.

“They’re a great team and have shown they can beat anyone in Division II,” said Menard. “But I believe that our team is strong enough on both sides of the ball to pull out the win.”