We’ve made it to February and almost immediately things are no longer making any sense.
Alvirne is now red hot and Winnacunnet is the team struggling………Nute won a basketball game for the first time since Austin Grass & Nichole Marrero were in high school……Epping is your 1-seed in Division IV today and because of it, everyone has shuffled one seat down….Timberlane struggles to beat anyone in Division I (because they don’t belong in Division I) except apparently Keene who they have beaten twice in a row….5 years apart…..Nashua South is suddenly passing Nashua North like a ship in the night……..Colebrook almost took out White Mountains and shuffled the top of Division III…….Lebanon and Hanover treated Jennifer & I to our first ever triple-overtime broadcast…and the hottest team outside of Exeter in Division I is …Goffstown??
On we go into February with March around the corner.
I want to personally thank the small group of families & coaches that support our 7-person team as Gold Level Members. As many of you might not know we all cover the kids in addition to our full-time jobs and families (have you seen how cute Jen’s daughter Avery is??).
We’re not ESPN and we don’t get thrown a check on the 1st and the 15th. We do this because the kids deserve it and our Gold Level supporters and sponsors are the reason we can.
Thank you to each of them on behalf of Jennifer, Pete, Justin, Eliot, Lance, Nichole, Austin & I.
We hope more will come on board in supporting the coverage of the kids.
Thank you to our two newest Gold Level members Lebanon Head Coach Dave Faucher & Hanover Girls Head Coach Dan O'Rourke
Finally, next week is the annual Thursday column where I preview every single game on the Friday schedule. Also known as when my sanity throws on a raincoat, gives a wave and walks out the door by the 24th game I’m previewing.
So look forward to that next week.
We are covering two games on Friday night:
Jennifer Chick-Ruth & I will bring you coverage of Epping at Pittsfield in a big Division IV showdown.
Justin McIsaac & Austin Grass will bring you coverage of Alvirne at Winnacunnet in Division I.
Alvirne (7-4) at Winnacunnet (8-3)
The Broncos have sprung to life and started scoring again, putting up 72 points on Salem Tuesday night, as they won for the fourth time in a row.
The Warriors three straight losses have come to very good teams; Salem (10-2), Exeter (11-0) and Londonderry (9-2) so no one should be pressing the panic button.
The losses can each be excused but the bigger issue is the health of power forward Nick Hepburn, who has played one game in two months, and their lack of a third scorer. It’s been Jack Schaake (15.5) and Ben Allen (18.5) carrying the weight of the offense with the duo accounting for 34 of the team’s 55.6 points per game.
In Alvirne they face a team with a red-hot shooting guard (Ryan Weston is averaging 23.3 ppg. In his last 3 games) and a team that seems to have figured out their rotation after a three-game losing streak in January. Marty Edwards has his team playing their best basketball of the season at the right time.
The Warriors still have the look of a Final Four team but they need someone other than their all-state guard & center to become a scoring threat.
Goffstown (5-6) at Salem (10-2)
How did we get here? The Goffstown Grizzlies, who won two games in Division II a season ago, have won four of their last five games including a win at Manchester Central on Tuesday night. A game in which they erased a 10-point deficit in the final minutes and won the game in overtime.
First-year head coach Ryan Cowette has done a terrific job and the Grizzlies are winning as a unit. They’ve cleaned up the defensive boards, mixed up their defensive looks and followed the lead of players like TJ Dutton, who has developed into their glue-guy and maybe their best defender.
Mike Judd has stepped up as a scorer (he scored 28 points last Friday night against Bedford) while Jack Kelly & Connor Hujsak have been among the team’s most consistent performers.
Salem is going to be all over them defensively on Friday night after giving up 72 points to Alvirne (14 more points than the previous high allowed). Goffstown has something to play for now, a playoff spot, which would be a huge achievement for the first year Division I program.
Hollis-Brookline (7-4) at Hanover (7-5)
Two teams still fighting to host a first-round tournament game.
Hanover dropped a triple-overtime heartbreaker to Lebanon in a game we covered on Tuesday night when Jon Willeman hit a game-tying three-pointer at the end of the second overtime.
Hanover had trouble scoring and in playing their arch-rivals from down the road they faced a team that knows both their offense & their tendencies. If Charlie Adams couldn’t create his own offense Hanover tried to get Jeff Holt the ball on the low block or Nolan Gantrish a shot in rhythm out on the perimeter.
Hank Pikkus was a standout, making four or five defensive plays to keep his team in the game while also hitting a pair of big free throws in overtime. Head coach Tim Winslow runs really good motion offense, always has, but with Lebanon running such a similar style they were on top of Hanover’s cuts and curls all night.
Hollis-Brookline has only beaten one team with a plus .500 record this season (Pelham back in December) and can struggle to score at times as well. Grant Snyder has been very solid for Cole Etten’s team and they rebound well with Sander & Quentin Wimmer in the paint, they just don’t have a knockdown shooter to space the floor and they aren’t great in transition. So points never seem to come easy for them.
It should make for a very close game tomorrow night with playoff seeding at stake as we head towards the end of the regular season.
Winnisquam (7-5) at Mascenic Regional (10-3)
John Langlois' Vikings continue to slowly climb the ladder in Division III, winning six games in a row coming into their match-up with the Bears on Friday night.
Sammy Stauffeneker took over the Division III scoring lead on the heels of 89 points in wins over Gilford, Hopkinton & Hillsborough-Deering. Trey Shaw gives them a very good second scoring option, Zach Barthel has been very solid at forward and the Vikings feature a pair of glue-guys in Gabe Turner & TJ Hiott.
They’ve gotten good resume wins over Hopkinton & Somersworth (back on January 4th) and they are playing for a Top 4 seed and a pair of home playoff games.
Kevin Dame’s team has won five of six games and carried over from football season (The Bears won the Division IV title) the momentum that led them to an undefeated season.
Kyle Mann (17.1) is a perfect fit for Dame’s up-tempo offense and Phil Nichols is one of the better sophomores in Division III. Angelo Glover gives them size & strength in the paint and this is a group that plays fast to take advantage of their athleticism.
Mascenic will run with Winnisquam and a win here puts them a step closer to a Top 4 seed. Winnisquam wants a resume win as they fight for a Top 8 seed in the tournament.
Epping (13-1) at Pittsfield (10-4)
Epping controls their own destiny after their 66-62 overtime win at Newmarket last Friday night but with games at Pittsfield, Farmington & Portsmouth Christian still to play there is work to be done.
The Panthers are up first and the defending champs are going to be tough to beat on their home floor. Jay Darrah’s team lost Tyler Prentice (10.4 ppg) to a season-ending injury but have enough depth to get back to Plymouth next month.
Devin Bedell (14.4) and Dylan Bocash (14.2) not only need to score 15 plus but try and beat Epping up on the glass. They’ll need to contain Blue Devils power forward Peyton Rivers and keep the best scorer in the division from taking over the game.
That is easier said than done. They will have to work to contain Hunter Bullock (23.3), the leading scorer in the division and your likely Player of the Year.
Pittsfield has to keep Bullock out of the paint and limit his transition opportunities, which is where he is at his best. Nick Fiset’s team has the shooters to spread the floor out and make you pay when you clog the middle for Bullock but expect the Panthers to make Adam LePage & Shawn Hill make 3’s before they turn their attention away from Bullock.
Littleton, Newmarket and a lot of other teams in the Top 10 will be keeping an eye on this one and we’ll have all the highlights and the post-game interview with the entire winning team.
Listen LIVE to the New Hampshire High School Hoop Show Saturday morning from 9 to 10 am with Pete Tarrier & I. We will re-cap every single game from the Friday night schedule and our guests will be Con Val Head Coach Leo Gershgorin.
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.