Once a year I preview every single game on the Friday schedule. An idea I am excited about at the beginning, having second thoughts about halfway through and at the complete self-loathing stage by the time I am previewing Canaan-Pittsburg/Lin-Wood four hours in…
Tradition is what we are all about as we begin to hit the stretch drive of our ninth season of coverage so…here we go.
Before we begin we wanted to announce we will be holding a season ending party in March for our Gold Level/Premium access players, coaches & parents.
We will debut both our season highlight video and our tournament highlight video highlighted last year by two championship game winners and my rolling my eyes at Justin McIsaac a record eight times.
Content on the site will be for our premium members only very soon.
Meaning without a one-time registration you won’t be able to view player stats, team stats, highlight videos or columns like this.
A registration today means you have full access through February 15th of 2018.
We will also hold a drawing at the party where you can suplex McIsaac (please God let the O’Brien brothers from Stevens register today..)…you could also win the chance to break a folding chair over his head. Good times…
Ok here we go…..I’m breaking down 30 games today.
Winnacunnet (9-3) at Salem (5-7)
Swish Gate Part II. Jennifer Chick-Ruth and I will be in Salem Friday night to bring you all the coverage.
A year ago Salem’s Matt McLaughlin finished off a terrific Division I game with a 30 foot buzzer beater that gave the Blue Devils a huge road win over a Winnacunnet team they were battling for seeding with.
Only Salem left Hampton without the win. The two officials never saw the ball go through the basket after having had their vision blocked by a Salem player jumping up under the basket, making it difficult to differentiate between the net hitting his head and the ball going through the basket.
The ensuing aftermath deserves its own ’30 for 30’ (let’s just say the coaches handled it better than others..) but the game, even with evidence confirming the ball did indeed go through the net, was never overturned. A month later Noah Beygelman of Merrimack hit the potential game winning three pointer in the state championship a half a second after the buzzer sounded.
Earning Manchester Central a record 19th Division I championship.
The official made the right call, on the spot and in a very tense environment to say the least. One year later, we are set up for the same scenarios to play out and no way to correct it if the official makes the wrong call with only a split second to decide and 12 months of hard work on the line.
The next time maybe the official makes the wrong call and Merrimack wins a title they know should have gone to Central.
It’s 2017 and if a game winning shot isn’t instantly on snapchat, Twitter or even Facebook Live did it even happen?
I wrote in my final Thursday column of the year last season that we needed to take those two events as a warning and act on it. Here we are twelve months later, heading back to the ‘scene of the crime’ Friday night when Salem & Winnacunnet meet again, and nothing has been done.
Nothing has been done to correct a giant sink hole bound to strike again.
It’s inevitable that it will happen again. Teams will put their high school dreams in the hands of one official hoping he makes the right call in a half a heartbeat.
If he’s wrong he and everyone else associated with the two programs will know it within seconds….and nothing will be done to change the result.
Londonderry (6-5) at Manchester Central (4-9)
Good Lord somebody break up Central!
Dave Keefe’s team snuck in a 16 point win over Bishop Guertin on a snowy Sunday and followed that up with a win over Exeter on Tuesday night.
We broke down the Little Green a few weeks ago when they squared off with Trinity but it bears repeating; it’s in Central’s DNA to scrap until the end and that effort is starting to pay off for Antoine Revere, David Baraka, Yansel Reyes, Eric Curtijo & their teammates.
They face a Londonderry team that got a sneaky good win over Alvirne on Tuesday night and has battled their own inconsistencies. Now that Cam MacDonald is back it gives Nate Stanton another shooter on the perimeter. That allows more space for Jake Coleman (18.0 ppg) to operate.
Pinkerton Academy (5-8) at Bedford (12-2)
The Astros are fighting to get into the tournament after finishing as a top four seed the past two seasons.
Jay Reynolds (17.1) has been as good as advertised and Joey Merrill is a year away from his breakout season but the Astros don’t have the firepower they had a year ago when Matt Rizzo, Ben Olsen, Brennan Morris and Tommy Romick put up big numbers in all-state campaigns. It took two games in the seacoast tournament a year ago to see Rizzo was as fun to ‘coach’ ( I wouldn’t call what I do coaching..) as I thought he would be and Olsen was critically underrated, even at 6’8.
Bedford has been rock solid and the job Mark Elmendorf has done in his second season as head coach is all that is keeping Tim Goodridge of Merrimack from winning another Coach of the Year honor.
Dover (4-9) at Exeter (8-5)
The Blue Hawks loss to Central now sets them up for a dangerous game Friday night. Throw records out when seacoast rivalries come into play but do the Green Wave have enough scoring to knock off Exeter on Friday night?
They do (as always I’m here to answer rhetorical questions).
Tyler Vitko (11.2) can stroke it when he gets into a shooting rhythm as can Devin Cady (12.2) , John Cantwell (11.5) and the always steady Eric Evans (he’s much better at golf than you…unless you are Jim Cilley).
Matt Fennessy’s team feels like they have given a few games away and are much better than their 4-9 record indicates.
Dover’s path back into the tournament is a gauntlet that includes BG at home and Londonderry. 2-0 in that stretch gets them in the conversation and would knock a team like BG nearly out.
Exeter comes into this one knocked down a peg while Dover feels like they are capable of the upset. This is a game Exeter better be ready for from the jump.
Nashua North (6-7) at Trinity (0-14)
Watching Wenyen Gabriel, Carmen Giampetruzzi, Brad Rhoades and Ryan Otis flying around the court with Dave Keefe yelling out instructions from one knee seems like a hundred years ago. The Pioneers have some good young talent and players like Wil Spencer, Jordan Santos and Zach Dagan have played well but Trinity is staring at a 0-18 season.
Nashua North on the other hand is beginning to round into shape. Alonzo Linton (21.0) has climbed to the second leading scorer in Division I while Casey Lane has returned from injury and Sclyler Boykin (13.1) is putting together an all-state campaign as Steve Lane’s team has won five of their last six games.
Any team with Linton is scary come one & done time but North would do itself a favor getting out of the 8/9 game and clearing out of Portsmouth’s side of the bracket.
That is a team they do not match up well with.
Nashua South (7-7) at Portsmouth (14-0)
I bet two friends (dinner) before the season that the Clippers would lose at least two games. It looks like I’m buying.
Are they beatable? Yes, but most likely on a neutral college floor like UNH where even great shooting teams can struggle to score.
Even then they can win with their defense and when all-state voting comes out you’re making a mistake as a coach if you don’t include Christian Peete on your ballot.
Peete is covering the best player on the floor on a night to night basis (Tuesday Ian Cummings of Merrimack…Friday night Kevin Genao of Nashua South) and if he scores at all he’s giving you bonus production. Last season Romeo Ingram was one of the Top 15 players in Division II but didn’t make even honorable mention all-state because people felt like they were putting too many Portsmouth players on their ballot over the kid scoring 14 points a game for a 5-13 team. Coaches shouldn’t make the same mistake with Christian Peete.
If you don’t believe me ask the players he’s guarding…
By the way Jim Mulvey only played six players in the win at Merrimack Tuesday night,
Bishop Guertin (5-7) at Manchester Memorial (7-5)
You could text me Friday night and tell me ‘BG won by 20’ or ‘Memorial won by 20’ and there wouldn’t be the slightest surprise in either result. How many games can you say that about?
Coaches in Division I understand what having Matt Regan, with his energy, ability as a coach and Massachusetts connections mean. Bishop Guertin is lined up to become a powerhouse again in the same vein as Pinkerton in football. It will take as few years but one very prominent Division I coach told me ‘We know what’s coming.’
This season has been a roller coaster and last week was the latest turn; a 16 point loss to Central on Sunday and a double digit win over Keene two days later. If seniors like Mike Rinko (13.1) want their career to extend into the post-season they need a win here.
Memorial is the dangerous lower seed that sneaks up on you in Round 1. The same place they’ve occupied the last three seasons when they were never eliminated without a fight.
They can make their road a bit easier with a win Friday night.
Coe-Brown (12-2) at Kingswood (5-8)
My quick hitter thoughts on Coe-Brown after a Tuesday night in Northwood with Jen & Jill Chick-Ruth.
The Bears need to get out in transition to get Sam Lupinacci good looks, Brody Ashley is the player they want taking that last shot in March. He’s not a great scorer but he can score with a hand in his face & against contact. Dylan Andrews is a 2017 center, meaning he is a good rebounder who would rather shoot three pointers than post up on the block, the Spenard brothers (Scott & Shawn) give this team an edge & some toughness. As always they are very well coached by David Smith.
They will need to be clicking on all cylinders to get to the final Saturday of the season but if they can secure two home games (with the pep band & Benny the Bear bringing the heat) I like them to get to Durham for the third time in six years.
Plymouth (2-11) at Merrimack Valley (3-10)
Two teams that struggle to score against good teams.
The Bobcats had high hopes in the pre-season, or maybe I had high hopes for the Bobcats, but they struggle in any game that reaches the 50’s and that puts a lot of stress on your defense. Mike Sullivan is a really good coach but he hasn’t had the pieces since Colin Sullivan, Kyle Reisert and company graduated after a quarterfinal run three years ago.
I’m going quick hitters the rest of the way…I knew that 600 word instant replay rant was going to kill me…and don’t get me going on shot clocks..
Con Val (2-11) at Bishop Brady (6-5)
I felt like Con Val could be a real sleeper in Division II but it hasn’t materialized. Griffin Werth (13.9) and Cam Buffum (11.7) can score.. they’ve both been very consistent game to game and Isaac Bacon (11.6) & Liam Baldwin give them size and athleticism in the frontcourt.
Yet they have been swept by Kingswood and Souhegan. One night it’s the defense and the next it’s the offense…
Con Val looks as good as any team in Division II in lay-up line….yet it hasn’t translated.
Hollis-Brookline (9-4) at Oyster River (1-11)
The funk continues for the Cavaliers but there is plenty of time to pull out of it. This is a team at its best when they run the high/low with Matt Simco & Matt Dowling. That opens up shooting space for Nick Fothergill and Stephen Giaconia. I haven’t jumped off the bandwagon…
It’s been a lost season for Oyster River. Whether Lorne Lucas doesn’t have the pieces or the chemistry the Bobcats were thought to be a contender for a Top 10 seed but are now at the bottom of the division standings.
Souhegan (4-10) at Lebanon (11-1)
Pete Tarrier, Jennifer Chick-Ruth and I will be in Lebanon Tuesday night when the Raiders take on Reggy & the undefeated Milford Spartans.
Pete Pierce is doing a really nice job with this Sabers team. They are limited offensively (Ryan Hickey (11.3) and Andersen Geffard (12.3) have carried the load) but have outworked teams on a lot of nights, enough so that they are still in the mix for a tournament berth. Ryan Boehm has returned from an injury and if Souhegan can control pace they could be a tough out in the first round of the playoffs.
Entering the season that seemed like a lofty goal but Coach Pierce has done a very nice job with this group.
Pelham (8-4) at Milford (13-0)
This is one of those rivalry games that Pelham missed when they went down to Division III.
By the way I listened to people all the way up to Newport criticize Pelham for being in Division III the last two years, why aren’t those same people all over Kearsarge Regional (who petitions down)?
Neither program should be criticized but it seems a bit hypocritical doesn’t it?
Kennett (2-9) at Timberlane (8-6)
The social media giant Timberlane Owls (who Wednesday night took shots at Reggy at their own peril..) are fighting for a Top 8 seed. Jeff Baumann has done a really nice job with this program and his hope is that they can get to the quarterfinal round with a shot at a trip to UNH on the line.
Drew Siemering is in your glue guy/lead role for the Owls. A player who does a little bit of everything for Timberlane.
By the way next time you’re up in North Conway visit May Kelly’s Cottage…great spot for lunch or dinner and a beverage. Just saying..
John Stark (8-5) at Hanover (6-7)
Love the offense that Tim Winslow’s team runs at Hanover and freshman point guard Charlie Adams is a player to watch.
Quick hitter thoughts on the Generals after watching them Tuesday night; I’m a big Isaiah Lovering fan, never tries to do too much, smart player on both ends and understands that the offense needs to go through the (high) post. Mike Smith has been coaching this group for a long time so he has a very good feel for who to ride off the bench (Adam Tower!) and how to manage the shots for a player like Cooper Gorski.
The Generals are dangerous if they control pace and keep the game in the 40/50’s…if the game gets into the 60’s they are going to have trouble winning but this is a team that is mentally tough and well coached. They’ll be a tough out in March.
No one wants a 7,000 word column so I’m going real quick hitters for the final two divisions…
Raymond (1-12) at Somersworth (11-3)
Fair or unfair the rep on Raymond is you can score on them all day long…….and Somersworth can score.
Hilltoppers head coach Rob Fauci is still my Coach of the Year at the ¾ way point……what he has done off the court is as valuable as what he does on the floor.
Franklin (7-8) at White Mountains (2-12)
Someone told me the women who would not move her chair 12 inches for Jen & I to cover the game in Groveton two weekends ago is a HUGE White Mountains fan…loooooongtime fan.
My Gilford team knocked out top seeded White Mountains at Plymouth State in the Final Four back in 1989 in a game I’m positive you covered.
Gilford (9-5) at Belmont (13-2)
I’ll leave it at this……….both teams are convinced they are winning this game.
I can’t leave it at that…if Ethan Carrier can defend the rim against Trevor Hunt (a relentless worker under the basket) the Red Raiders are going to have to get a big night out of Matt Pluskis (capable) or Doug (aka Dougy fresh Nutz) Price.
I see a big game from David Hart & Mason McGonagle.
Winnisquam (8-6) at Inter-Lakes (12-2)
Kevin Dame has shortened the rotation and done a really nice job with this Winnisquam team.
Logan Morrison has been solid all season for the Bears while Thomas Marchese (can I call him Tommy at this point? I feel like we’ve been through a lot together..) has to be guarded out past the three point line.
On Friday night they need to pack the paint and make the Lakers beat them from the perimeter. The Swanson brothers (Zach & Eli) have become a legitimate duo ( at 22.7 and 11.1 points per game) and with a Top 4 seed at stake the Lakers cannot afford a hiccup.
Monadnock (9-7) at Campbell (10-4)
Joe Minson and the Huskies have gone from ‘they’re going to be a tough out’ to ‘ It’s going in the wrong direction’ in the past three weeks. A win at Campbell would flip the narrative pretty quickly.
If you haven’t seen Harrison Vedrani play on the low block yet he is a lot of fun to watch. Great footwork for a player his size.
Laconia (2-13) at Mascoma (8-6)
It’s been a very rough season for the Sachems. The silver lining is this is a program with young talent in freshman Ryan Chandler (26 points against Conant) & Ryan Dee and sophomore Ryan Paiva. All three are underclassman and have had their breakout game at the varsity level.
Honestly I only just now picked up on the fact that all three of them are named Ryan.
Are we almost done?
Hopkinton (14-1) at Hillsborough-Deering (0-15)
Oh come on…….
St Thomas (7-5) at Berlin (11-4)
Seth Balderrama (15.5) has taken on the scoring role for Dave Morissette’s team but I’m still waiting on the Evan Arsenault ‘ Forget this I’m taking this game over and we’re not losing’ 30 point game.
He’s capable but sometimes too unselfish….I may need to find older brothers Curtis & Levi for a pep talk…
St Thomas has won 6 of their last 7 games under head coach Sean Murphy.
Sanborn (5-9) at Mascenic Regional (11-4)
As soon as Mascenic’s much maligned defense (guilty) held Conant scoreless in the second quarter I could feel Twitter about to turn on me…good season sweep over their arch-rival.
The bartender at Telly’s in Epping is the daughter of the Sanborn head coach.
That’s all I’ve got on Sanborn….I share the blame with them.
Fremont Pizza is also outstanding when you’re in the area..
Newport (3-8) at Stevens (12-3)
Seriously I’ll let the O’Brien brothers (Zach & Nick) suplex McIsaac at our year end party…registration link at the top….pending McIsaac’s partial approval.
Lisbon (aka America’s Team) (7-9) at Colebrook (11-5)
With Josh Woods (18.9) and Noah Locke home with the flu accusations are running rampant in the North Country that Colebrook Hall of Fame head coach Buddy Trask sent the flu bug down 1-93.
Whether that is true or not, and it is clearly too early to tell, the Mohawks look to be lined up as the seven seed with Wilton-Lyndeborough coming in as a first round opponent in a waaaay too early edition of Bracketology.
Colebrook wants to speed Sam Natti’s team up while Lisbon is at their best getting Woods the ball on the move in the half court.
The Panthers don’t have the ball handlers to attack Jose Alvarado, who owns the quickest hands in Division IV, but this is a team that should be 3-13 and currently occupies a spot in the Top 15 playoff spots.
With no pre-season pick up ball after soccer season and limited time with his team in the summer Natti has done as good a coaching job as any head coach in Division IV this season.
I’m struggling to the finish line…..
Wilton-Lyndeborough (7-7) at Nute (0-15)
Trey Carrier scored 40 points the last time these two teams got together but he’s too polite to do it again…..
Farmington (6-8) at Mount Royal (6-10)
The Tigers need this one as they fight for a spot in the post-season in year one of Division IV.
Adam Thurston is a very good young coach and he has a very good sophomore in Logan Ebare. The Tigers are going to be in the mix year to year in the division.
Hinsdale (5-9) at Pittsfield (14-2)
This Hinsdale team has been crippled by injuries, this was a team that when healthy, was a Top 10 team in Division IV
Lin-Wood (4-12) at Gorham (1-14)
Gorham first year head coach Dan Laflamme owns a Moose Tour business…seriously ..
I love the North Country