Boys basketball championships previews: Battle of big men a highlight of Pinkerton-North

Mar. 8—Sunday's NHIAA Division I boys basketball championship game will feature something old and something new.

Top-seeded Pinkerton Academy (19-1) will be playing in the Division I title game for the fourth time in the last 14 years. The Astros, who lost to Bedford in last year's Division I final, will be facing third-seeded Nashua North (17-4), which advanced to the championship game for the first time.

The teams will meet at the University of New Hampshire (4 p.m.).

The North program has lost in the Division I semifinals four times, including the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons.

"I told my teammates before the game I wasn't going to let it happen again," North junior Parth Miglani said after he scored 24 points to help the Titans defeat second-seeded Bedford 84-69 in Wednesday's semifinals. "I wasn't going to feel that pain again."

North was 4-4 after a four-game losing streak in January, but has won 13 in a row since then.

North's Luke Peters helped limit Bedford's Luke Soden to 13 points in the semifinals. Soden entered that contest averaging 25.4 points per game.

"We've been rolling for a while now, and I've said it to you guys (the media) over and over again, the major difference is our effort defensively," North coach Steve Lane said.

The game will feature an intriguing matchup down low. Pinkerton's Jackson Marshall, a 6-foot-8, 260-pound scoring machine, will likely face more resistance than he usually does since North has an outstanding defender in 6-foot-6 junior Robinson Rodriguez. Although he may be best known for his defense, Rodriguez scored a game-high 26 points during Wednesday's victory over Bedford.

Marshall, who scored the 2,000th point of his career in a quarterfinal-round victory over Nashua South, tossed in a game-high 39 points in an 82-71 triumph over fifth-seeded Trinity on Wednesday. He had 11 rebounds in the second half of that contest.

"It's a really good matchup," Rodriguez said. "He's obviously bigger, stronger. He can shoot the ball, so we'll have to prepare for him and see if we can slow him down down low."

"They're playing really well right now," Pinkerton coach Mike Dunham added. "Rodriguez is a phenomenal player. That'll be a great matchup watching him and Jackson go at it."

Junior Christian Brander didn't play against Trinity (illness), but Drew Brander, his older brother, scored 22 points, including four 3-pointers. Dunham said he's hoping Christian Brander will be in the lineup Sunday.

"We're just going to practice hard and hopefully be ready for them," Drew Brander said.

The Titans and Astros did not play each other during the regular season.

"We have to stay out of foul trouble, we have to be able to get it inside to Jackson and then we have to shoot it well," Dunham said. "We need the kids to play with confidence. That's the way it's been all year.

"(North's) guard play is phenomenal. It should be a great game."


No. 1 Pelham vs. No. 2 Hanover

Pelham, which beat Pembroke Academy in last year's Division II final, will attempt to become the first Division II boys team to win back-to-back titles since Pembroke in 2013 and 2014 when the teams meet in the second of four games at UNH on Sunday (1 p.m.).

The Pythons (19-1) will be up against a Hanover team that's methodical on offense and stingy on defense. The Bears (19-1) held 17 of their 20 opponents to 36 points or fewer, and seven of those teams failed to reach 30. Hanover is seeking its first championship since it beat Portsmouth for the Class I title in 2007.

Each team received a first-round bye. Pelham advanced to the Division II final by beating eighth-seeded Sanborn 68-49 in the quarterfinals, and fourth-seeded Coe-Brown 59-56 in the semifinals.

Hanover reached the championship game by eliminating seventh-seeded Bow 51-34 in the quarterfinals, and third-seeded Pembroke 49-43 in the semifinals.