Top seed Epping and second-seeded Littleton will meet for the Division IV title tonight with Trevor Howard’s Crusaders looking for their second title in four seasons and Epping their first title since 2014.
Jennifer Chick-Ruth, Sam Natti & I will bring you all the play by play, highlights and of course the post-game interview with the entire winning team.
If Epping wins it will be because: They are able to attack the Littleton zone and get both Shawn Hill & Adam LePage numerous good looks from 3-point range.
The model for how to attack Littleton’s zone was set by Mark Collins & Groveton in the 2017 championship game upset over Littleton. You have to work the ball through the high post (Peyton Rivers?) keep a man on the baseline, basically hiding behind the defense (Noah Bilodeau?) and when the defense collapses on the high post player you kick to the wings where your shooters reside.
Bilodeau might be the player to use at the high post because several times he had chances to score from down low on Monday night but was quickly looking to pass the ball back out. Rivers had a bad night at Plymouth State, a lot of players do the first time on the big stage, but he is a good player and will be very effective against Littleton tonight.
Littleton wants to push the pace, as they did so well against Newmarket, but against Epping Hunter Bullock is going to counter-attack them time & again. Numerous times Woodsville possessions ended with Bullock getting out ahead of the defense and then weaving his way through the back end of the Engineers defense.
Jamie Walker did a terrific coaching job against Epping, they sealed the middle and took their chances with Rivers hurting them down low, and on this night, he didn’t. I don’t see a strategy like that working tonight.
I don’t think Trevor Howard will press tonight because he has too much respect for Hunter Bullock and you expose yourself to Hill, LePage and Owen Finkelstein hitting three’s on you.
I’d expect Bullock to guard Jason Brammer, Nick Fiset may put him on Parker Briggs (the best shooter in Division IV) but Bullock is very good at guarding the ball and Briggs is going to be running off of it. Seems like an assignment for LePage or Bilodeau.
Epping can’t allow Littleton to spread you out and attack the basket the way Newmarket did.
The Crusaders shot an impressive 59% from the field Monday night. Yes, they were hitting three’s early but they shot nearly 60% because they found Josh Finkle ( he was tremendous for them) for lay-ups and snuck Briggs, Brammer and Parker Paradice behind the defense for easy lay-ups. Credit that to head coach Trevor Howard’s who did an absolutely terrific job in the semifinals.
If Littleton wins it will be because: They out rebound Epping and keep Bullock out of the paint.
Even without Danny Kubkowski Littleton is a very good rebounding team. Jason Brammer, Josh Finkle, and Parker Briggs are active on the boards and if Epping has a fatal flaw it is their rebounding. Littleton wants to get the ball and go. They want Epping defending them all night on their heels and a way to make that happen is to push the ball on misses up the sideline with Todd Krol-Corliss or Parker Paradice.
They’ll also win because players like Paradice, Landon Bromley & Josh Finkle stepped up again. Those three players averaged 12 points a game combined during the season and on Monday night they combined for 24. That is huge when your bench guys (Finkle is starting now with Kubkowski out but did not start often during the season) double their production like that. If they play the way they did on Monday night the Crusaders are going to be very tough to beat.
Littleton also played very loose on Monday night, and of course it makes sense, they were playing without their best player and were the underdog (although nowhere near as big as Littleton fans will claim, all three coaches I interviewed for the scouting report thought Littleton could still win and I certainly thought so as well).
Will they play loose again when the North Country thinks they are better than Epping? That’s something to watch.
Briggs is going to get his looks on the perimeter and Brammer is going to be able to get to the rim off the dribble or in transition, will Finkle be effective again against Rivers and the Epping interior defense? Is Parker Paradice aggressive offensively again? Will Landon Bromley give them 6 to 8 points off the bench?
Epping played a typical first-time at Plymouth game, which is to say lackluster, whereas Littleton is here every year and came out loose & played very well.
Expect both teams to play well tonight in what should be a terrific championship game.
My pick: Epping 56, Littleton 52