Strong second half powers Pinkerton to D-I title

By Nathaniel Ford

DURHAM – The bleachers were full, and fans had to find standing room to watch the Pinkerton Astros defeat the Nashua North Titans 9076 in the Division I championship at UNH. 

Pinkerton was defending runner ups from last season and got back to the big game, and they were able to bring home the title this season. This is their first D-I championship victory since the 2010 season.

After finishing the season 17-1, the Astros earned the top seed in the division. They averaged a historic 84.4 points per contest, and did not slow down in the playoffs, scoring 101 in the quarterfinal, 82 in the semis, and 90 points today. 

The first quarter was fireworks early. Nashua’s Robinson Rodriguez knocked down two three-pointers on their first two possessions, and they jumped out to an early lead.

Pinkerton responded, and behind some big baskets from 2,000 point scorer Jackson Marshall, including a deep three, they took the lead right back. 

The Astros took the lead and extended it amidst a 14-0 run. They started this stretch down by a point, and before the crowd knew it, they exploded to a 23-10 lead. Nashua’s Jaden Pena got a layup inside to end the quarter, but Pinkerton controlled it, entering the second up 23-12.

North did not roll over trailing by double figures against the number one seed. In the second, they rallied and had an absolutely huge quarter.

The leader of this run was Pena, who recorded an electric 12 points in the quarter. The Titan guard had some smooth finishes at the rim, and he knocked down 5 free throws as well.

The big momentum shift was the defense the Titans played on Marshall. They held the state’s leading scorer to just 2 points in the second quarter, which allowed them to storm back into the game. 

Nashua chipped away early in the quarter and crawled back a little, but they gained tons of momentum in the latter half of the period. They won the back half of the quarter 15-5, which turned a 5 point deficit into a 5 point lead. 

The max capacity crowd went ballistic in the final minute because of the play from Alize Roig Cortez. Down by one, the Titan guard knocked down a shot from way beyond the arc to take the lead. Following that, he hit a buzzer beater three-pointer to give North a 43-38 lead entering the break. 

Early in the third quarter, it looked like Nashua could start to extend their lead further. After allowing a few quick baskets, they came out with a 7-0 run, forcing a Pinkerton timeout. Pena sparked the streak with a floater and a three-pointer.

Whatever Mike Dunham said to his team in that timeout, it worked wonders for them. They responded immediately with a 7-0 run, which forced a Nashua timeout. 

The Titans’ timeout did not have the same effect that the Pinkerton one earlier in the quarter did. Pinkerton came out of this timeout and went on a 9-2 run, which took the lead for the Astros. 

Following the big runs, it was back and forth the rest of the way, and Pinkerton held on for a 67-61 lead entering the final quarter. Marshall was huge in the third, scoring 10 points for them. Pena led the way for Nashua North, with a 12 point quarter of his own. 

The Astros stayed poised in the fourth and were able to extend their lead even further. They quickly were able to extend their lead to double digits behind some big three-pointers from Charlie Ludden and James Wallace. 

Once they got the lead into double figures, they were able to stay comfortably in advantage. The Titans tried battling back, but their outside shots were not falling, and they just ran out of time.

A Jackson Marshall dunk put the exclamation point on a 90-76 championship victory, which was the highest scoring final in Division I history. 

Charlie Ludden was a big contributor for the Astros on both ends of the court. He scored 18 points in the game, with 10 coming in the fourth quarter. Defensively, he had a game-high four blocks and shut down Parth Miglani, the Titans’ leading scorer on the season.

Andrew Brander was also huge for the Astros, scoring 26 points on an efficient 11-16 from the field. He filled up the stat sheet elsewhere, recording 11 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal and a block as well.

Leading Pinkerton, like he has all season, was Jackson Marshall. He recently eclipsed the 2,000 point threshold, something only one other player, Matt Bonner, has done in the state’s top division. Today, he put together an impressive 31 points and 16 rebounds en route to their victory.

Nashua North was led by a special performance from Jaden Pena. Despite the loss, the senior put on a show, scoring 30 points, a game high. The point guard also grabbed 7 rebounds and dished out 4 assists as well. 

Forward Robinson Rodriguez put together a great performance of his own for the Titans. Battling against Marshall on the low post, he scored 22 points, including 3 three-pointers, and grabbed 6 rebounds. 

Nashua North came up short in their first championship appearance since the school was opened. They started 4-4 and proceeded to go on a 10 game win streak to finish 14-4 and earned the third seed. They upset Bedford in the semi-finals, who was the second seed in the division.

After two straight title game appearances, Pinkerton will look to head back for a third season in a row. Despite losing a 2,000 point scorer in Jackson Marshall, they have a young core that will look to bring them success once again next season.

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