The Thursday Thoughts are back and I couldn’t be happier about it.
The start of this season has seemed to have a lot of starts and stops to it to the point where I’m starting to question the purpose of the Holiday Tournament games.
Let’s put it this way…Jack Schaake & Ben Allen are never going to be teasing Arie Breakfield & Keagan Calero that they beat them in a holiday tournament. March is all that matters and finally, …we are on a course to get there.
I was going to share more information about our NHsportspage select teams that will be playing BABC after the season but decided to hold off until we have everything in place. So look for an announcement on that event as early as next week.
As for the Players Locker Room videos with our players answering 8 questions we gave them on video, that will debut Monday and they’ve been great so far.
We are out at two games on Friday night:
‘The Franchise’ Jennifer Chick-Ruth & I will be at the David Smith Dome in Northwood Friday night when Coe-Brown hosts Souhegan in our 3rd Division II game of the week.
Meanwhile ‘Caged Heat’ Lance Legere makes his solo debut with Austin Grass when Derryfield travels to Newmarket in a Division IV showdown.
Portsmouth (3-2) at Salem (5-0)
This will be fun to watch because of the contrast in how each side will attack the other.
Salem is very aggressive defensively but they do it by taking charges and jumping passing lanes, not by reaching. There may be a faster backcourt than Zack Caraballo & Trevor DeMinico (Nashua North?) but I haven’t seen it yet. Rob McLaughlin’s team likes to go for steals out front knowing they have protection from 6’5 Ben Laycock and power forward Kyle Poulin behind them.
John Mulvey’s team is going to try to use all that aggression to Portsmouth’s advantage.
They’ll do this by going backdoor on Salem and using slip screens to keep them from being overly aggressive. Cal Hewitt has been really good for Portsmouth, Mulvey rarely takes him out of close games, and he’s going to burn a lot of calories Friday night. They’ll pressure him and try to pick off the passes to the wings intended for Tommy Degnan, Jake Boutin, and Alex Tavares.
Tavares is the obvious X-Factor. This is a kid who we weren’t sure what he would look like after he took a break from basketball over the summer (It’s not uncommon for kids to get burned out with AAU commitments etc.) and lost a lot of weight as well.
He’s been absolutely terrific and along with Hewitt has been a real leader for this team, which has surprised opposing coaches with how quickly the new players have come together. John Mulvey deserves a lot of that credit but so does Tavares. He’s the unquestioned go-to guy but you never see him forcing his offense or worried about how many shots he’s taking.
The kid is a winner and he’s showing it again to the rest of Division I.
Exeter (4-0) at Spaulding (3-1)
A good one at the Rochester Rec. Center (where a young Justin McIsaac was once peppered with dodge balls). The Red Raiders have played Exeter as tough as anyone the past few years, the challenge in this one is whether they can score enough to win it?
Exeter is no longer subbing 5 in and 5 out and they’ve been better this season than they were at this time a year ago. Cam Clark & Max Rose are each capable of running the point (Rose comes off the bench and several D1 coaches have commented to me ‘He’d start for us tomorrow’) while Ryan Grijalva, Kevin Henry & Josh Morissette have been terrific. There is a good rhythm to their offense (never a big issue) and their defense has been excellent at times (not always the case).
Look for Rose to face guard pre-season player of the year Arie Breakfield the way he did in the second half of the Portsmouth game against Alex Tavares. Keagan Calero had 18 points against Londonderry on Tuesday night in a very good road win (Nate Stanton is coaching his butt off with that group) and Cade Connelly has the ability to take smaller guards to the low block.
Nashua North (3-1) at Alvirne (3-2)
Something is off with the Alvirne Broncos…
Whether it’s an issue on the floor or off of it this team just doesn’t seem to on the same page right now. That’s a fixable issue but with North coming in tomorrow night and a trip to Londonderry to follow, they better come together quickly.
North, on the other hand, looks like a team that knows they are at the beginning stages of a run. Whether it’s this season or next it’s a team with a young core that really seems to enjoy competing together.
It’s funny but Pete, Justin & I interview teams in their locker room and you sometimes pick up on how the players treat & like one another. After last Friday night, Pete came into the radio show with a very good vibe about Steve Lane’s basketball team.
Alvirne has a ton of talent and a very good coach in Marty Edwards, whatever tweaks need to get made likely will. Until then every game is going to be a battle and tomorrow night they face a Nashua North that isn’t going to wait around for them to figure it out.
Oyster River (4-1) at Hanover (5-1)
Boy, are the Oyster River kids going to love this one….
Lorne Lucas’s team likes to get out and go. Tim Winslow & Hanover will accommodate them. Winslow decided before the season began that his team was going to play to their strengths and that has been pressuring the ball for 90 feet and shooting a ton of three’s.
The results have been good as guard Charlie Adams leads Division II in scoring at 24.4 ppg and the offense is averaging 70.1 ppg. They are also a team in need some resume building wins and this certainly qualifies as a measuring stick game.
Kyle Landrigan has been banged up with minor injures and Oyster River is still without Kyle Miller for a few more games with an injury as well yet the Bobcats are still playing very well.
This game should tell us where Hanover stacks up in the Division II pecking order, we already know what Oyster River is and that’s a team expecting to take a very short bus ride to UNH in March.
Souhegan (4-1) at Coe-Brown (1-2)
This will be a fun one to cover because both teams are going to play this one with a sense of urgency.
Coe-Brown had an understandable loss in the opener (to Kennett) followed by a good win (over Hanover) followed by a confusing loss (Sanborn). Now it’s time to pick up another good win against a Souhegan team that has designs on a Top 8 seed as a young team continues to come together under Peter Pierce.
David Smith’s Bears get Luke McCusker back, he hasn’t played since the opener, so that will be a big lift for Coe-Brown. Souhegan sophomore Matt McCool is having his breakout season a year earlier than expected and will cause all sorts of problems if you don’t game plan for the 6’5 big. Jeff Boehm has played very well in the Sabers backcourt and this is a team that Pierce warned was going to take some time to come together.
If they can get to 5-1 before that happens…Souhegan is on track for a home playoff game in March.
Conant (5-1) at Hopkinton (6-0) Tonight
I’m sure there were a few dissenting opinions in Hopkinton when I wondered aloud if Campbell and Conant weren’t a step or two ahead of the rest of the division but the Hawks have a chance to state their case tonight.
The Hawks will mix up their defense against Conant and look to run the offense through 6’5 Kevin Newton-Delgado on the low block.
Conant lacks size & depth so they are going to have to dedicate extra defenders to Delgado and stay out of foul trouble. Caleb Yianakopolos has been very good on both ends of the floor and if you throw all of your attention at Delgado you’re going to get burned by Michael Baer on the perimeter.
Eric Saucier’s team is going to spread Hopkinton out and attack the basket, if Delgado hangs in the paint for rim protection they have the shooters to make them pay. Jake Drew has been really good for the Orioles, Peyton Springfield is option A on offense and both Gavin Motuzas & Anthony Gauthier have been the best player on the floor for stretches this season.
Hopkinton can give you multiple man to man looks, one where they stay home on the player they are guarding on the perimeter & don’t play any help to the paint and the other where they give you the normal weak side help look.
Conant likely will see both, what we’ll see from Hopkinton is if they are on the level of the Orioles & Campbell.
Mascoma (3-4) at Berlin (4-3)
Jim Barry’s team beat Berlin 46-42 on their home floor in December and now has to go up north to try to do it again. Connor Thompson (15.6 ppg.) has been a break-out player for the Royals while Dakota Decocq gives them an experienced scorer and Ben Seiler is a starting to make a big impression as a freshman.
To beat Berlin you have to hold Seth Balderrama (23 ppg) in check but understand that they are used to box in one looks and they play very well against it. That defense usually opens up looks for Jalen Lacasse, who can struggle to create his own shot at times but will absolutely knock down shots if you leave him open.
Berlin has been able to tread water while Michael Moore (maybe my favorite glue-guy in the state) has been out injured. Sinciere Davis has played really well and taken on a leadership role and this is a team used to executing in close games late.
Derryfield (4-2) at Newmarket (6-1)
They’ll be a battle in Division IV this season to get in the 4/5/12/13 section of the tournament bracket.
Now that is a statement I haven’t previously made in 11 years and about 200 Thursday columns.
Why you ask?
Because that keeps you from facing either Littleton (you’re not going there in the quarterfinals and beating them), Newmarket (you’re not going there in the quarterfinals and beating them) and Epping (ehhhhh…………I don’t expect you’re going there in the quarterfinals and beating them…but you could talk me into having a legit chance).
Which leaves the 4 and 5 seeds.
It’s the easiest road to Plymouth State and the final four and if you don’t think ten different Division IV coaches haven’t realized, ‘Hold on…we might actually be a final four team if the bracket falls our way’ then you’re not talking to as many Division IV coaches as I am.
The leaders of that pack are Derryfield & Pittsfield. I’m holding out judgment on Sunapee until I see how they do when they play Newmarket, at Groveton and Derryfield in a row beginning next week.
Those are the leaders of that group but you can include Portsmouth Christian (are they this years good/bad team? Meaning they beat every team below them and lose to every team above them), Groveton (I rarely bet against Mark Collins in March), Colebrook (That was a good win over Groveton…we may have found a pulse), Woodsville (they can shoot their way in or out against anyone and Jamie Walker knows how to win in March), Lisbon (no seriously, look at their schedule and with Jacob Deam & Jared Jesseman they are one of the biggest teams in the division…love the way Sam Natti is managing freshman Camden Burt’s minutes too) and I’m throwing Farmington in the mix but reserve the right to take them back out (Adam Thurston doesn’t get enough credit for the job he does with that program).
It’s too early to play Bracketology but understand this is where the division is at in 2019.
There are two teams fighting for the top 2 seeds (Littleton just about wrapped that up with their win over White Mountains last week) and ten or so fighting for the 4/5/12/13.
Any 12 or 13 seed could beat this years 4 or 5 and coaches know it. I’ll give you an example…let’s say Derryfield finishes as the 4 seed, do you think Farmington, who just beat them, wouldn’t think they couldn’t beat them again? You don’t think Lisbon wouldn’t think they could beat Sunapee?
How it all plays out will be fun to watch, but make no mistake, it’s about getting into that bracket for your best shot at a final four berth.
Listen LIVE to the New Hampshire High School Hoop Show Saturday morning from 9 to 10 am as Pete Tarrier & I will re-cap every single game from the Friday night schedule. Our guest on Saturday will be Littleton Head coach Trevor Howard.
You can listen by clicking the listen live link right on our homepage or on 99.9 FM & 1370 WFEA radio in the Manchester area Saturday morning.