As we do for each of our semifinal previews we hand it over to the people who know these teams best; the coaches that face them during the season.
We had three opposing coaches’ breakdown the four teams and the match-ups for tonight’s Division II semifinals at the University of New Hampshire.
Justin McIsaac & I will call both games and we will have all the highlights & the post-game interviews with the two winning teams.
If you can’t make it to UNH tonight you can listen to us call the game live on The McIsaac on Sports Network, there will be a link right on our homepage to listen to us call both semifinal games.
Our coverage tonight is sponsored by Concord Orthopaedics!
Concord Orthopaedics, with locations in Concord, Derry, New London & Windham, has been serving New Hampshire and beyond in specialized orthopaedic and arthritis care.
Concord Orthopaedics is the sponsor of the coverage of Concord area high schools Bow, John Stark, Concord, Bishop Brady, Pembroke Academy, Kearsarge, and Merrimack Valley.
(5) Merrimack Valley v. (9) Kearsarge Regional
There is no way you had this as your semifinal match-up but Tim Mucher’s Merrimack Valley team has earned their way back to UNH for a second straight year and Nate Camp’s Cougars are the Cinderella story of the 2019 post-season.
We asked three tournament coaches to breakdown the teams and tonight’s match-up.
First Tim Mucher’s Merrimack Valley Pride.
“Methodical is a word I would use to describe them. They will play at as slow of a pace as it takes to win. They play a match-up zone and it takes a lot to bring them out of it.”
Another coach broke down the Pride. “With MV it starts with their match-up zone. Can you beat their zone? If you are stationary against it they do a nice job but if you run motion action against it, you can really attack them. The baseline is where they are very vulnerable. If you can find the corner 3-point shot and beat their zone you will win the game because I don’t think they really have a Plan B defensively.”
A third coach talked about attacking the MV defense. “They can extend pressure at times…if its 1-3-1 they put Kyle Dube at the front and if it’s 2-3 they put him in the middle of the defense.”
All three coaches were unanimous in their praise for their all-state forward. “(Kyle) Dube is a first team all-state player. He has a very quick release and is an excellent scorer. I think for them to win tonight he has to get to 16 to 20 points, but that has been his nature. He’s consistent.”
“When he sets a high ball screen he is not going to roll to the basket, he’s popping every time to take a 3-pointer,” pointed out another head coach. “He has a good stroke and a quick release so when we played them we sat on that screen and knew he was shooting it.”
Another coach talked about pace. “An advantage for them is that everything slows down in the tournament, so a team like MV will not be rushed into their offense, they take a lot of time and I expect tonight to be a low scoring game in the ’40s.”
What about Nate Camp’s Kearsarge Cougars?
“Nate is very well prepared and he will make good adjustments throughout the game,” said one tournament coach we spoke to. “They will come at you with that 1-3-1 he runs and it’s a defense you don’t see a lot.”
Another coach broke down the Kearsarge defenses. “They will play a few different defenses, 1-3-1 zone, 2-2-1….the goal against Kearsarge is to attack their zone and get them out of it. I don’t think they are a great man to man defensive team and when we played them we felt like if we forced them to go, man, we had them beat.”
The first name that came up with Kearsarge was Division II scoring champ Noah Tremblay. “That kid is a stud,” raved one coach. “ He is a great shooter. In the game we faced them he knocked down a couple of long three’s where our guy had a hand in his face. You just had to shake your head and give him credit.”
“When they rotate the ball to him he knocks down shots,” said another coach. “I think Kyle Hernon could be a tough match-up for Merrimack Valley down in the post but they don’t seem to look for him very much down on the block.”
“I think Dube against Hernon is the key match-up of the night.”
So how do you see the game going?
“Merrimack Valley runs a lot of flare cuts; every motion is to the basket. What they are going to need is their starters like (Dillon) McCarthy, (Griffin) Wheeler and Jared Sylvester to step up. They need 30 points combined from those guys…minimum because they know what they are getting from Dube.”
So who wins tonight?
“I like Kearsarge to win it.”
“I’m going with Merrimack Valley.”
“Kearsarge in a low scoring game.”
(2) Con Val vs. (3) Pembroke Academy
The three coaches we spoke to agree the winner of this game is the favorite on Saturday. “I think the winner is going to be the last team standing on Saturday.”
We asked them to break down the teams and the match-up, starting with Leo Gershgorin’s Con Val Cougars.
“They are all about attacking…they attack on defense and they attack on offense. Everything they do is with the intent to get to the basket.”
A fellow tournament coach agreed. “What they run is not complicated; they run a 5-out offense and on defense, they switch on everything. They feel like they have five position-less players so they will switch on every screen.”
“Mather Kipka is their best offensive player, he’s not a threat to shoot outside though, he is trying to draw you (the defender) out to take you to the basket. If I played them again I would make him, and their entire team, shoot 12 to 15 footers. Connor Buffum is a very good spot up shooter, you can not leave him, but you can back off their other offensive players once they are inside the three-point line and my strategy would be to make them shoot pull-up jumpers.”
Another coach talked about how to guard the Cougars. “I think Connor Buffum might be the best spot up shooter in our division, you can’t leave him. But you can sag off on their other players. Kipka is tough but you have to cheat on him, I’d leave (Pembroke center) Jack Lehoullier under the basket to defend their drives. Get up on Kipka and when he starts to dribble, back off.”
A coach talked about how Con Val should approach their match-up tonight. “My philosophy at UNH is you stay with what your strength is, you do not go away from that on the bigger stage. Con Val’s strength is their speed. I think they need to create chaos because when the game gets sped up like that they really are at their best.”
What about Rich Otis’s Pembroke Spartans?
“They have three go-to guys and that is what differentiates them from the other teams at UNH. The only other team like that was Oyster River and they were knocked out. For me it starts with Noah Cummings, I think he is the best player in our division. At UNH you are going to need a guy who can create when things breakdown and Cummings is that perfect guy. He can make things happen, who is that guy for Con Val?”
“I’ve been very impressed with Shea Shackford,” said another coach. “He is very confident and knocks down big shots for them. When he is coming off screens looking to shoot he is very dangerous.”
Another coach talked about the Pembroke defense. “Their pressure is 2-2-1 and they block up the middle and try to make you go up the sidelines against them. We faced them this year and scouted them a bunch. Too many times teams tried to jam the ball to the flashing player in the middle and they fed off of the steals & turnovers they created.”
“They will cheat a couple of guys up in their zone so if you can find a player over the top you’re going to score on them.”
Another coach talked about their experience in Durham. “They have been there before,,, Cummings, (Sean) Menard, Shackford.. and I think that has to be an advantage over Con Val.”
“The biggest issue facing Pembroke is their depth. If they get in foul trouble they are in trouble, on the other hand, Con Val has really good depth. One night it is (Max) Richard stepping up and another it is Ben Henry…when we played them Del Bonsu-Anane killed us. They have a good group with depth and that is their advantage over Pembroke. Leo will play a lot of guys where Rich Otis is going to rely on 5 or 6.”
How do you think it plays out tonight?
“ Gimmick defense don’t work at UNH. The court is too big and the teams are too good. I don't think Pembroke will get much out of their pressure defense but I think Cummings and Menard can win it on their own.”
So who wins tonight?
“ I really think it could go either way…if forced to pick I’ll say Con Val.”
“ Pembroke by 10.”
“ I like Pembroke to win it all.”