What an Unforgettable Finish to an Undefeated Season

March 13, 2015
 

by Mike Bourk

Pelham finished its regular season 18-0 besting Prospect Mountain of Alton 70-30.  The first quarter has been brutal to teams visiting the “Snake Pit” this season.  With Pelham’s tight defense, superior rebounding, and fastbreak offense, opponents frequently find themselves in a deep hole early against the Pythons.

Prospect Mountain fell into that stereotype as the Timberwolves could not contain Pelham’s up-tempo style and found themselves on the short end of a 24-5 score at the end of the first quarter.  All five starters scored in the quarter.  Dylan Silvestri and Ryan Cloutier each scored 6 points in the first quarter.  Ryan Rondeau and David Rogers each knocked down a three.  Keith Brown canned a pair of threes.

In the second quarter, Kyle Frank had two steals to keep Pelham runs of six and eight points going.  Cam Deloreto gave Silvestri a break as he took over rebounding for the Pythons.  Cloutier led all scorers with 19 points.  Although Silvestri scored 13 points, his biggest contribution was rebounding.  After the game Dylan talked about his rebounding, “I try to get a read on where the shot will end up if it’s missed.  If it looks like it will be inside, I’ll either box my opponent out or crash the boards; otherwise I’ll play for position.”

As it was Senior Night for Pelham, it was a nice touch by Coach Matt Regan to start the fourth quarter with his five seniors and replace them as a group at the first whistle for their final regular season time together.  After the game Regan talked about the 18-0 season: “It’s not really something you think about as the season goes on because we’re focused on just one game at a time.  The tournament starts next week and everybody will be 0-0.”

When asked about having the same five players start all 21 games thus far, Coach Regan replied, “Now that you mention it, yes, we did have the same starting lineup for the entire season.  That was kind of unusual.  We typically have a player or two that gets an injury or has the flu.  We’ve been pretty lucky this season.”

Pelham Finishes Regular Season Unforgettably

Two New Hampshire high school boys’ teams and four girls’ teams have finished their regular season undefeated.  What separates the Pelham boys’ team from the other five teams is they capped their unbeaten season with an unforgettable finish.

Bryan Doherty is a senior at Pelham High School.  He has been a constant fixture at football and basketball games for the past four years.  Last year he began participating in track.  He is a positive, uplifting spirit on the sidelines and is an inspiration to his teammates.  The same can be said for many student-athletes, but Bryan’s situation is different.  He has Down Syndrome.  Usually, the nucleus of each human cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from the child’s mother and half from the father.  Down syndrome occurs when a person has a partial or extra copy of chromosome 21.  This genetic disorder causes developmental delays.  The level of severity varies from person to person.  There are about 400,000 Americans diagnosed with Down Syndrome.

Bryan’s mom, Christine, talked about how he first became involved in sports, “When Bryan was in the fourth grade he had a classmate, Joe Costa, that was playing Rec basketball.  Joe and his mother, Mary Ellen, asked if Bryan would like to play on Joe’s team.”  Parks & Rec Basketball Program manager Dave Parola added to the background: “Bryan’s parents asked me if it would be possible for him to play Rec basketball.  I said sure, we’d love to have him participate.  We’ll work something out.”  What Dave did was modify the rules slightly so that Bryan was able to play ball with his classmates.  Christine went on to say, “Rec basketball opened the door for all the other sports, such as Razorback football, Little League baseball, and school sports.”

Bryan’s Pelham High School athletic career started in his freshman year, 2010.  Tim Schaffer, who graduated from Pelham High in May of that year, was helping out Pelham High football as a volunteer when he was approached by then Assistant Coach Dana Blair.  Tim told the story: “Coach Blair came up to me one day and told me he thought I had good skills as an instructional assistant and asked if I would be interested in being a personal aide to Bryan.  I said sure.  He talked to Valerie Morse from the Special Ed. Department and got the okay.”  Tim continued, “I worked with Bryan to give him the confidence to push himself to do things he might not have done on his own.  I helped him with drills/exercises and taught him about the game of football.  He was amazing.  It was incredible how quickly he picked things up.  Along the way he developed a sense of humor and is actually pretty witty.  He’s made a complete transformation from his freshman year to today.”

Zach Masiello, class of 2015, played four years of football with Bryan on the sidelines.  Zach shared his experience: “I remember our freshman year, Bryan was quiet and pretty much stayed with Tim (Schaffer).  By our senior year he was right in the mix with the rest of the team.  He’s a great kid and was an inspiration to the guys on our team.”

Parents and coaches echo Zach’s sentiment. Christine Brown, mother of Keith Brown, had this to say about him: “Bryan Doherty has been such a good influence on the players, their families and all the students at Pelham High.  His positive attitude and ‘have fun and play hard’ mentality always manages to steer the kids in the right direction.  If Keith is having a bad game or a bad day, Bryan exactly what to say to get him back on track.  Bryan and Keith have known each other since Keith was in sixth grade.  At that time, Keith played on the middle school basketball team and Bryan was the manager.  I am glad Keith and Bryan have become such close friends.”

In his junior year, Bryan added spring track & field to his repertoire, not as a team manager, but as a participant.  Bryan does the 100-meter dash and the shot put.  PHS Track Coach Don Mullen spoke about Bryan, “What strikes me the most about Bryan is how hard he works and the pure joy he brings to each of his events.  He just loves sports and it shows.”

Now back to basketball.  On Friday, Feb. 27, Bryan stepped out of his role as manager and donned a PHS basketball jersey with the number 45 for the first time.  With two minutes left in the game Bryan checked in.  Forty seconds later he dribbled down the court and sunk a shot from about 12 feet out that brought down the house.  Bryan talked afterwards about getting the chance to play: “This was the greatest day of my life.  Tonight I got to play and it was an awesome feeling.”

Coach Regan talked about getting Bryan in the game, “We all wanted to make this happen and it wouldn’t have without the cooperation of the people from Prospect Mt. High School.  We’re very thankful to them.”  After the game Prospect Mt head coach Mike Joy talked about the final two minutes of the game, “I explained to my players this was about doing the right thing for a teenage kid; they all agreed.”

The story was picked up by WMUR, Boston TV stations, national newspapers and even had a segment on ESPN.  The media attention Bryan received did not faze him in the least.  At the first tournament game several days later he was back in his manager’s role.  He shared his thoughts about PHS basketball:  “I’ve been doing this for four years.  It gives me great courage.  This was a great year and everyone just played hard.”

Carolyn Doherty, Bryan’s sister, sums it up best: “It’s a tough act to follow when your older brother is the most popular and well-liked kid in the school.”  Following Bryan would be a tough act for anyone to follow.