We are down to the last two previews of the 2018-19 season as both Division I and Division II will crown a champion at UNH on Saturday.
You can listen to both games live right on our website as Justin McIsaac & I will call both games. As always we will have all the highlights and the post-game celebration/interview with the two champs.
Next week we will roll out all-state picks for each division, The Top 15 Statewide Power Rankings, and our final two-part Thursday Thoughts.
Next week also kicks off the Great Bay Seacoast Tournament with seven teams competing for the title so look for schedules and videos for that event as well.
Finally, we will start previewing the March 30th games at NHTI between the NHsportspage senior and underclassman teams against BABC.
We hope the entire New Hampshire basketball will come out to see the games and support players from all around the state competing against the best from Boston.
If Exeter wins it will be because: Salem couldn’t affect their offense. Sounds simple but ask Portsmouth, who went scoreless in the 4th quarter after cutting the Salem lead to 32-26.
Salem has a way of speeding you up in the half court and ‘stealing’ 6 to 8 points a game off of steals in the passing lanes. Jeff Holmes wants to keep his Big 3 of Kevin Henry, Ryan Grijalva & Josh Morissette out on the floor for 26 minutes on Saturday (two quick fouls on Henry wouldn’t allow that against Londonderry) allowing each player to get into a rhythm on offense.
The Salem player that has made the biggest improvement over the course of the season has been 6’5 center Ben Laycock (a sentiment Londonderry head coach Nate Stanton completely agreed with when we spoke yesterday). Laycock is getting his hands on shots and deflecting passes at a very high rate. On Saturday Exeter wants to draw him away from the basket and out of the driving lanes for Cam Clark, Max Rose, Henry, Morissette & Grijalva.
If Exeter runs their motion offense they can score too many points for Salem to win the game. That is the effect of the best offense in the state.
If Salem wins it will be because: Kyle Poulin & Ben Laycock won them the game.
I’ll explain….you know what you are getting out of your guards Zack Caraballo & Trevor DiMinico. To win on Saturday Salem needs to run their offense through Poulin and have Laycock turn Exeter into a one-dimensional jump shooting team with his defense.
Poulin is a tough match-up for Exeter. I’d expect to see either Morissette or Imbimbo (if his injured ankle is good enough to go) on him. His ability to play with his back to the basket and initiate the offense from the high post is going to test the Blue Hawks. Londonderry had good size with Max Desrosiers, Cole Keegan & James Buttafuoco but none of them are threats to post you up on the low block as Poulin will.
Poulin is one of the best post-players in the state and he will pass out of double teams when he encounters them. That means he is either going one on one down low or kicking out to shooters like DeMinico, Caraballo or Jared Burns.
Ben Laycock needs to protect the rim for Salem, they already will have one of Exeter’s scorers frustrated with Mike Ference guarding them (he was terrific on Alex Tavares Wednesday night and my money is on him guarding Morissette).
If the Blue Devil center can persuade Exeter to stay away from the rim Salem’s perimeter defense is good enough to cause turnovers, contest jumpers and win the game.
My Pick: Exeter 55, Salem 47
If Pembroke wins it will be because: They held Noah Tremblay (20.0 ppg) to around 10 points and Kearsarge couldn’t get enough secondary scoring to win.
The tough part about holding Tremblay in check is that besides the fact he is a terrific scorer, 1) he has a tendency to kill zones, which Pembroke likes to play and 2) he is going to shoot it until he gets hot, and he is going to shoot it from just about anywhere.
Against Merrimack Valley Tremblay drilled a few deep 3’s including a dagger 3-pointer when he had the opportunity to go to the rim with only one defender back and instead pulled up.
He also had a couple of air balls, and his head coach Nate Camp will live with that because he is smart enough to understand shooters shoot and Tremblay is a gunslinger.
Kearsarge needs to get scoring out of Adrian McCarthy, Ben Carl, and Kyle Hernon on Saturday; they can’t beat a team that can score like Pembroke getting 20 points from Tremblay and 6 from everyone else in the starting five.
Look for Sean Menard to set the tone of the offense with his ability to spread the defense out with his shooting, watch for Shea Shackford trying to take Jake Jallah to the rim and for Noah Cummings to pull up on the shorter Ben Carl time & time again when he gets to the elbow.
If Kearsarge wins it will be because: They dominated the glass on both ends of the floor.
If there is a weakness to the Spartans it is that you can beat them up on the boards, and in Hernon (they need at least 10 rebounds out of the 6’5 center), Jack Jallah and Adrian McCarthy they have the personnel to do it. Nate Camp’s team needs to shoot the ball well on offense and give themselves second-chance points by making rebounding their priority.
Ben Carl was terrific in the win over Merrimack Valley and created a lot of easy scoring opportunities for his teammates. He is going to need to repeat that performance on Saturday. Kearsarge has been coming back all post-season and no lead should feel safe for Pembroke but this is not a game The Cougars wants to trail throughout. Rich Otis will pull the ball out and he has the best point guard in the state (Cummings) controlling his offense and the pace of the game.
Pembroke shoots free throws well and if you are down 6 with 2 minutes to go the combination of Cummings ball handling/decision making and the team’s ability to knockdown free throws is a big hill to climb.
My pick: Pembroke 49, Kearsarge 40