Salem Blue Devils Boys Basketball '18-'19

Wed, Mar 13, 2019 05:30 PM @ Salem
Team 1 2 3 4 Final
Portsmouth 8 8 10 0 26
Salem 13 10 11 6 40

Salem advances to state final

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Wednesday, March, 13 By Jeff Hamrick

DURHAM, N.H. – With a tad more than a half minute left in Wednesday’s state semifinal, the Salem coaches gathered for a group hug.

“I told them we were going to the championship,” head coach Rob McLaughlin said. “That’s what it was at that point, we knew.”

It definitely was a moment to savor.

Pitching a fourth-quarter shutout, the second-seeded Blue Devils were 31.1 seconds from earning the program’s first trip to the Division 1 finals in 11 years with a 40-26 victory over sixth-seed and three-time defending state champion Portsmouth.

“It’s everything we’ve worked for since the start of the year,” said senior Kyle Poulin, who finished with a game-high 13 points. “We knew even going into summer ball that we had a chance to get here. Now that we’re here, it feels great.”

Salem’s defense set the stage, forcing six turnovers the first quarter and allowing Portsmouth only seven of its 16 first-half shots in the second en route to a 23-16 lead at intermission.

“Defensively, I thought we were really, really good,” McLaughlin said. “But you never know what’s going to happen when you get up here. Our guys have shown up for every challenge all year, and tonight was no different.”

A 7-0 run keyed by a Zack Caraballo three and included jumpers by Ben Laycock and Jared Burns provided Salem (21-3) its first 14-point lead at 30-16.

“That was our safety cushion basically in the second half,” Poulin said. “They went on their (10-0) run later in the third and we were still up (four) by the time it ended, so that (earlier spurt) really helped us.”

But Jacob Boutin’s free throws with 2:02 remaining in the period which cut Salem’s lead to 30-26 would be the last points of the game for Portsmouth (15-6). The Clippers missed all 10 of their fourth-quarter shots and finished 8-of-36 for the game.

Michael Ference and Jared Burns shared defensive duties against Alex Tavares, the state’s leading scorer who was held to three points.

“Michael Ference was phenomenal,” McLaughlin said. “And I think Jared Burns did a real good job on (Tavares) early. We’ve been using those two guys on the other team’s best player all year. We try to eliminate what they do to disrupt stuff … I’ve been saying Ference might be the best defensive player in the state, and tonight was a reason why.”

Tavares connected on only one of his eight field-goal attempts and was harassed into making four of Portsmouth’s 13 turnovers.

“Coaches just told me not to worry about anyone in the stands,” Ference said. “Just focus on him and look only at him and have him with no touches the whole game.”

Salem takes a nine-game winning streak into Saturday’s 3 p.m. title game against top-seeded Exeter. The Blue Hawks (20-0) snapped a Blue Devil seven-game winning skein in a 43-33 victory on Jan. 22. Salem scored only 20 points the final three periods that game. The Blue Devils will be looking for the program’s fourth state championship and first since winning a second straight in 2008.

“We’re senior happy,” McLaughlin said. “Four of our top six or seven guys are seniors. And they’re doing what they’ve been practicing all the off seasons the past three years … We were talking that this was the goal … and they stepped up.”

Game Statistics:

N.H. Division 1 Semifinals 

PORTSMOUTH (26): Zach Paradis 2 0-0 4, Alex Tavares 1 1-2 3, Calvin Hewett 3 4-5 7, Thomas Degnan 0 0-1 0, Jacob Boutin 2 2-2 8, Coleman Brewster 0 0-0 0. Totals 8 7-9 26

SALEM (40): Ben Laycock 2 0-0 4, Kyle Poulin 6 1-2 13, Zack Caraballo 4 0-0 10, Trevor DeMinico 1 0-0 2, Jared Burns 1 0-0 2, Timmy Spampinato 1 0-0 3, Michael Ference 3 0-0 6. Totals 18 1-2 40

3-pointers: Port — Boutin 2, Hewett; Salem — Caraballo 2, Spampinato

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