We are back with the Thursday Thoughts, where we take a look at all four divisions and rank the Top 10 teams in each.
Instead of previewing the biggest games from all four divisions, we will give you our weekly power rankings and a check on where we are in each Division.
Today we will also give you our Player and Coaches of the year, to this point of the season, in all four divisions.
We will be out covering four games tonight and tomorrow:
Austin Grass & I will be at Kearsarge tonight when the Cougars take on Lebanon in a terrific Division III vs. Division II battle.
Lance Legere & Jennifer Chick-Ruth will be in Bow tonight when the Falcons take on Pembroke Academy in girls’ basketball.
Tomorrow night Pete Tarrier & Ian Melewski will be in New Ipswich when Mascenic Regional takes on arch-rival Conant.
Lance & Jen will be back at it again Friday night when the Alvirne girls take on Windham.
Our column today is brought to you by our longtime partners at Great Bay Community College. Click on any of the GBCC banner ads to find out more information about virtual open houses, course information and registration!
Before we get to today’s column, I wanted to take a moment to remember Dan Murray, the longtime boys’ basketball coach at Milford who passed away unexpectedly on Sunday morning.
I’ve texted with dozens of coaches and the same things seem to be repeated over and over by different people when talking about him.
Dan was smart, funny, kind, and a terrific basketball coach. He was in it for the kids, from the youth level in Milford to his boys on the varsity.
He always had a smile on his face, but Dan also showed he could give it as good as he got it.
I can still remember him yelling down the sidelines back & forth with Jim Mulvey of Portsmouth during the 2011 championship game at UNH in a game Milford would go on to win 48-42.
Those back to back championship teams, undoubtedly Dan’s best team he ever coached, were led by the all-state trio of Mike O’Loughlin, Mike Mitchell, and Jamison Holder.
That team won the title in 2010 & 2011 and was as good as any Division II team I’ve covered in my 13 years.
When you lose someone unexpectedly, you tend to go back to a moment you had with them. A moment you appreciate for just having been able to spend quality time with them one on one.
For me, it was at a game we covered at Lebanon in 2017. I can’t remember if the JV game was running late or I had just gotten there early, but there was enough time before the varsity teams headed to the locker room to sit down in the stands with Dan and talk.
We probably spent close to a half-an-hour talking about his team, teams around Division II, the players he liked, the coaches he liked and maybe even some coaches he didn’t like as much.
It was a free-flowing conversation between the two of us for what was probably 20 minutes but felt like only a few.
That was Dan Murray to me. It was fun to talk to him, and he always made you laugh. You learned about the game of basketball too.
Dan was one of the good ones. Just a terrific guy and a heck of a coach. Someone who always cared more about teaching the game than promoting himself.
My deepest condolences go out to his family and the entire Milford community. We will miss you, coach.
Gold Level Coaches: Lorne Lucas of Spaulding (NEW), John Mulvey of Portsmouth, Rob McLaughlin of Salem, Nate Stanton of Londonderry, John Fisher of BG, Marty Edwards of Alvirne, Ryan Cowette of Goffstown, Frank Moreno of Bedford, Jeff Baumann of Timberlane, Dave Chase of Pinkerton, Matt Fennessy of Dover, Jeff Holmes of Exeter, Jay McKenna of Winnacunnet, Danny Bryson of Manchester Memorial, Keith Bike of Trinity and Jim Thorpe of Concord.
Player of the Year to this point: Joey DaSilva of Windham
Coach of the Year this point: Jeff Holmes of Exeter
Biggest games of the weekend: Windham at Alvirne and Pinkerton at Londonderry
Where we are at today: Danny Bryson’s Manchester Memorial Crusaders are down three starters since we covered them in their win over Manchester Central, they hope to have guard Cam Pollock back soon.
Gold Level Coaches: Kieth Matte of Lebanon, Leo Gershgorin of Con Val, David Smith of Coe-Brown, Lewis Atkins of Oyster River, Mike Larson of Pelham, Cole Etten of Hollis-Brookline, John Langlois of Manchester West, Steve McDonough of Laconia, Mike Sullivan of Plymouth and Peter Pierce of Souhegan.
Player of the Year to this point: Matt Lamy of Bow
Coach of the Year to this point: Rich Otis of Pembroke Academy
Biggest games of the weekend: Pelham at Con Val, Bow at Pembroke and Lebanon at Kearsarge.
Where we are at today: Got a chance to cover Kingswood on Monday night at Gilford. Brogan Shannon is legit, and should be playing at the college level someday. They are not very big but Ethan Arnold is a good athlete and new head coach Joe Faragher is doing a nice job, they just got back on the floor a few weeks ago…….staying in the Lakes Region (sponsored by Kevin Shaw at Roche Realty!) Laconia has been playing well as Steve McDonough’s team is getting balanced scoring from Demarco McKissic, Kayden Roberts and Keaton Beck. We’ll see the Sachems on Thursday night. Rivalry game alert.
Gold Level Coaches: Mike Rathgeber of Inter-Lakes, Jim Cilley of Belmont, Jaryd Piecuch of Raymond, Jim Hill of Monadnock, Rick Acquilano of Gilford, Eric Saucier of Conant, Nate Camp of Kearsarge, Mike Curtis of White Mountains, Sean Murphy of St. Thomas, Justin Dibenedetto of Campbell and Kiernan Gordon of Prospect Mountain
Player of the Year to this point: Brendan Elrick of Hopkinton
Coach of the Year to this point: Mike Curtis of White Mountains
Biggest games of the weekend: Gilford at Kingswood, Lebanon at Kearsarge and Conant at Mascenic Regional
Where we are at today: What we have found out in recent weeks is this is a very top-heavy division. The teams at the bottom of Division III are struggling to compete against the better teams. That’s where all the lopsided scores are coming from.
Gold Level Coaches: Mark Collins of Groveton, Buddy Trask of Colebrook, Trevor Howard of Littleton, Jamie Hayes of Newmarket, Jay Darrah of Pittsfield, Nick Fiset of Epping, Jamie Walker of Woodsville, David Bedard of Franklin, Matthew McMenaman of Mount Royal, Dave Morrissette of Gorham, Carl Anderson of Hinsdale, Tim Putchler of Sunapee and Adam Thurston of Farmington.
Player of the Year to this point: Parker Paradice of Littleton
Coach of the Year to this point: Jay Darrah of Pittsfield
1a. Littleton- The Crusaders got back on the court again Tuesday night as Josh Finkle scored 24 points in a win over Lisbon. Big one with Groveton Friday night on the road.
3. Woodsville- They went toe to toe with White Mountains twice and those losses told me more about the Engineers than any of the wins. Would love to see them play Groveton or Littleton soon. Still clearly the second best team in the North Country, although someone is rising
4. Sunapee- The Lakers continue to roll along. I’m hoping we can cover one of the two upcoming Mascoma games.
5. Portsmouth Christian- They erased an 18-point deficit to hand Holy Family their first loss on Tuesday night 52-50 behind 17 points from Seth Huggard. All five of PCA’s starters have scored 14 points or more in a game this season. I know these things because I enter all their stats..
6. Groveton- Wait...is that Groveton's music?? (click)
7. Holy Family- They’ll learn from the loss to PCA. While Karl Yonkeau was held in check with 9 points, brother Yann scored 21 in the loss.
8. Epping- The Blue Devils have quietly won four out of five. Owen Finkelstein, Mike Picard, Kevin O’Connell & Jacob Loving have all been contributing for Nick Fiset’s team.
9. Colebrook- The Mohawks are playing well, Carson Rancourt went for 30 points in a win last week over Berlin and the Dowse brothers are averaging 22 points a game.
10. Concord Christian- To quote a Division I coach/friend of mine, ‘Wait, Concord Christian is good? And where is Holy Family?’ See this is why it’s fun being a statewide website…and yes., Concord Christian is good. Remember the name Isaac Jarvis (17 ppg).
Biggest games of the weekend: Littleton at Groveton
Where we are at today: Hinsdale has the toughest strength of schedule in Division IV and no one else is close.......Matt St. Cyr has become more assertive off the dribble, and Groveton is playing much better.......Ed Meade of Derryfield likes to push the tempo, if they play that way for 32-minutes against Sanborn this week Dylan Khalil might go for 50 points.