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|By Dave Haley, Posted 02-12-2012|
As we do every two weeks we rank the top 16 teams in the state regards of what division they play in. Before we get to the rankings we are excited to introduce our newest sponsor as Merrimack Valley Sports will be sponsoring the coverage of Salem high school athletics on New Hampshire Sportspage. Merrimack Valley Sports is the latest New Hampshire business to show their support for high school sports & we are very happy to have them on board. 6. Hanover 12-0 Previous rank: unranked The coverage of Portsmouth is sponsored by Craven, Sullivan & Splendore PLLC. 11. Conant 14-1 Previous rank: 9
Now the Top 16 teams in the state;
1. Trinity 10-2 Previous rank: 2
The coverage of Trinity high school is sponsored by Edible Arrangements
Quick thoughts: This team has racketed up the defense and after they face Londonderry Tuesday night it will end a four game stretch against the bottom four teams in the division, funny how the schedule works out some years. Friday night they will travel to Salem for one of the most anticipated Division I games of the year with contests against Nashua South, Spaulding, Manchester Memorial and Pinkerton Academy to follow; in other words they are going to be tested down the stretch. The strength with this team has always been in its ability to get you to play one dimensional (read: settle for jumpers) with all of their size down low.
A well deserved congratulations to our friend Steve Burns who was named as the new head football coach at Trinity last week, replacing the retiring Gary Leonard. Steve gave me the exclusive but I blew it with all of the distractions around the Keene story. Coach Burns was a very good choice to fill those formidable shoes and we wish him the best.
2. Merrimack 10-2 Previous rank: 1
Quick thoughts: Holding down the fort without Dimitri Floras, which isn't a surprise when you remember this is a veteran team that went into the fall expecting to play without Floras after he had enrolled at Kimball Union Academy. Tyler & Eric Gendron has been outstanding for Tim Goodridge's team and that was an impressive defensive performance against Manchester Memorial Friday night. With Floras's wrist replacing Gronk's ankle as the 'will he/won't he' injury of the winter the goal for the Tomahawks is to secure a top 4 seed and two home playoff games. This is a team getting contributions from kids like Brian Courtemache & Jackson King (one of the best pure athletes in the state) and they've shown they have enough left on this roster to do it.
3. Nashua North 9-3 Previous rank: 10
Quick thoughts: Players lounge member Ryan Gauthier is really, really good. You want to go deeper than that? Ok, he's made a huge difference in how Steve Lane's team can attack you and it is allowing players like Anthony Farmer (their best defender), Jake Mellin (a future member of our all-underrated team) and Mike O'Conner (their senior leader) to just do what they do best and rely on Gauthier to bail them out on bad possessions. Javon Williams has been steady and with all the chaos of the early season the Titans got some love from the scheduling Gods and sit today at 9-3 and squarely in the 'we still control our own destiny' lane.
4. Spaulding 9-4 Previous rank: 6
Quick thoughts: The only team that I didn't need to look back at my rankings two weeks ago to see where they were ranked because I still remember getting two texts from coaching buddies of mine saying 'Spaulding is the 6th best team in the state..really?'. Yes. Really. Tim Cronin's team owns wins over Salem, Bishop Guertin, Pinkerton, Merrimack and now Manchester Central. Jay Bilas would be fawning all over these guys' resume if they came up in Bubble Talk. So why does this seem to surprise people? Maybe because Spaulding is 9-4 after outscoring their opponents by a whopping 52.6 to 51.2 margin. These guys beat Salem by 12 and Keene by only 5, at home. My advice; don't over-analyze it, these guys are in the hunt for a top 4 seed and they've earned that spot. No more texts please..
5. Salem 10-3 Previous rank: 7
The coverage of Salem high school is sponsored by Merrimack Valley Sports
Quick thoughts: Before we get to the Blue Devils; do you realize that Salem leading scorer Ben Slepian ( 14.3 ppg.) didn't score a point in either of his team's first two games of the season and has averaged 17 ppg. since? How is that possible? Did someone get him a great jump shot as a present for the Holidays? Whatever the case this is a better offensive team than they were a year ago and still a pain to deal with defensively. The match-up with Trinity looms Friday night but the schedule is going to ease up considerably for these guys in the last three weeks. And did we mention Merrimack Valley Sports is their new official sponsor?
Quick thoughts: Hanover is winning by moving the basketball and playing some of the best defense in their division. Lounge member Cyrus Rothwell-Ferraris has been effective shooting the ball while Alex Krass (their top defender) & Dan Gorman (rebounding) have been effective in holding teams to one shot per possession. It's going to be tough to make that road trip over to Hanover for playoff games and with four of their last five remaining games against teams with sub .500 records its a good bet that Tim Winslow's team won't be going very far until a possible trip to Durham in March.
7. Manchester Central 8-4 Previous rank: 4
The coverage of Manchester Central is sponsored by 900 Degrees Pizzaria
Quick thoughts: Tough to get too down on this team after a pair of two point games swung in different directions. The 59-57 win at Nashua South was impressive but Central missed some opportunities to close out Spaulding at home Friday night and lost when Dominic Paradis hit a three pointer for the win with 3 seconds left. Pinkerton Academy and Manchester Memorial are on tap this week so it doesn't get any easier in a wide open Division I.
8. Manchester West 8-4 Previous rank: 12
The coverage of Manchester West is sponsored by 900 Degrees Pizzaria
Quick thoughts: Dan Bryson's team is without Jocarl Bureau (suspended from the team) and that is an adjustment they are going to have to make as they get to the last month of the regular season. Aaron Martin has been outstanding for this team and they'll go into a pair of tough games this week against Spaulding & Nashua South winners of seven of their last eight games.
9. Portsmouth 11-2 Previous rank: 8
Quick thoughts: Jim Mulvey's teams have a pattern of putting injuries, suspensions and the occasional chaos that comes with high school basketball teams behind them at this point of the season and after a pair of good wins at Coe-Brown and decisively over Bedford the Clippers look back in their usual groove. Lounge member Kyle DiCesare is back and shaking off the rust as he looks to make his fourth trip to Durham in a Portsmouth uniform. His season long absence has allowed players like Jacob Lehoux and Devin Hussloge to get valuable minutes. A lot of smart people still see this as the team to beat including a pretty good coach up in the Hanover area.
10. Pembroke Academy 11-2 Previous rank: 5
Quick thoughts: Good defensive teams have been able to hold the 2nd ranked offense in Division II in check and that is going to be the pace teams are going to try to force on the Spartans come playoff time. In losses to Portsmouth & Hanover and in Friday nights win over Pelham Matt Alosa'a team was held to 56, 49 & 46 points respectively. No one is going to try and run with Pembroke, well except for Goffstown who runs with anybody, and the interesting thing to watch is if Pembroke can win a tight game in the half-court against a good team in the tournament. They did Friday night in Pelham and they can expect to have to do it again down the line.
Quick thoughts: Losing Justin Howe (their best rebounder) to grades was tough but both Eli & Steve Hodgsdon have stepped up over the course of the season and this is a team that beats you by imposing their will defensively. Head coach Eric Saucier has enough depth to be able to see what combinations are working best on the floor game to game. One night its Robert O'Brien stepping up (15 points against Fall Mountain) and the next night it's Jake Carlson (12 points against Con-Val). No team in Division III has that kind of depth, even after the loss of Howe.
12. Alvirne 8-4 Previous rank: 3
The coverage of Alvirne is sponsored by greenformygold.com
Quick thoughts: There really is no shame in losing to either Salem or Nashua South, two good teams that are going to be tough outs in March. Alvirne though was beaten convincingly by both teams and against South they stopped competing altogether which is surprising for a veteran crew like this one. The Broncos have struggled after point guard Sean Dunn was slowed by an injury (he missed the Salem game) and he still isn't back to 100% but this team should have enough depth to get through a three game stretch with him hobbled. Games this week against Manchester Memorial and Spaulding will be critical to them staying in the race for a top 4 seed. Time to circle the wagons in Hudson.
13. Souhegan 12-1 Previous rank: 13
Quick thoughts: Just a very consistent basketball team which is a credit to both the kids and head coach Mike Heaney. Two big games are coming up against Bedford that will have seeding implications, add in games against John Stark, at Kingswood & against Hollis-Brookline and it will be a tough stretch to close out the season. The Sabers though have clearly been a top 4 team in their division to this point of the season and Souhegan is never an easy gym to win at. This is a tournament tested group for the most part, a strong finish gets them a clear path back to UNH.
14. Bedford 10-3 Previous rank: 14
The coverage of Bedford high school is sponsored by Bedford Dental Care Associates & HK Photography
Quick thoughts: Yes they didn't look ready for prime time against Portsmouth in a road loss last week (nice job defensively by lounge member James Caparell in holding the Clippers Billy Lane to one point) but this is still a team that is 9-1 in their last 10 games. The 81-57 win over John Stark was emphatic Friday night and illustrates the gap between the top 6 teams in the division (I'm including Pelham in that group) and the rest of class. The two games with Souhegan to close out the season loom large.
15. Berlin 15-1 Previous rank: 16
The coverage of Berlin is sponsored by The Woodlands Credit Union
Quick thoughts: Is it tournament time yet?? Berlin is about as done with this regular season thing and ready to move on as the Celtics are (unfortunately the C's have a ways to go..) and after two more regular season games Curtis Arsenault & his teammates get a crack at their first Division III title. Shooting guard Jake Drouin (45 points in his last two games) is making a late push for the Division III scoring title and has connected on 87% of his foul shots on the season.
16. Moultonbrough Academy 16-0 Previous rank: unranked
Quick thoughts: Nice moment last week as Moultonborough center Marcus Swedberg went over the 1,000 point mark in a 32 point-20 rebound performance against Inter-Lakes. Marcus's father Matt scored over 1,700 career points for the Panthers and was able to watch each & every point along the way. Great test Monday night as Swedberg's team (there are four total on the team so just pick one..) travels to Sunapee to play a very good Lakers team. A win on the road sets up Moultonborough as the top seed in the upcoming Division IV tournament.
Just missing the cut: Pinkerton Academy, Littleton, Newmarket, Somersworth, Pelham, Campbell & Goffstown.
As we do every two weeks we rank the top 16 teams in the state regards of what division they play in.
Before we get to the rankings we are excited to introduce our newest sponsor as Merrimack Valley Sports will be sponsoring the coverage of Salem high school athletics on New Hampshire Sportspage.
Merrimack Valley Sports is the latest New Hampshire business to show their support for high school sports & we are very happy to have them on board.
6. Hanover 12-0 Previous rank: unranked
The coverage of Portsmouth is sponsored by Craven, Sullivan & Splendore PLLC.
11. Conant 14-1 Previous rank: 9