Friday, February 17, 2017

Tempers Flare Between Cougars and Huskies

By: Ross Laorenza
A physical game lead to some extra pushing, shoving and a near punch thrown in Campbell's 61-52 win over Monadnock Regional. Late in the third period Sean French was knocked to the ground by Monadnock's Jake Wood as both players rushed for a loose ball. Wood had set some hard picks in the first half, all legal, but some Campbell players seemed to take offense. Joaquin Heller got in the face of Wood who then brushed him off. All players were separated and Heller was assessed a technical. Late in the fourth French was sent to the bench after aggressively challenging for a rebound and taking Monadnock's Tim Santaw to the ground in the process.

Soule Gives Verbal Commitment to BC

One of the top girls basketball talents to ever come out of New Hampshire has made her college decision. Taylor Soule, a resident of Lebanon, NH and a junior at Kimball Union Academy has given her verbal commitment to Boston College head coach Erik Johnson.

"I had offers from UNH, UMASS AMHERST, Marshall University, URI, Cincinnati, Delaware, Boston College, Fordham and Providence" Soule told the NH Notebook. "In the end I choose BC because of how the overall school made me feel. The campus is absolutely beautiful. The coaches are great and caring people who I know I will learn a lot from. I'm really excited."

BC is 9-18 on the season right now in ACC play. The ACC is one of the most competitive women's basketball leagues in the country.

"I know how competitive the ACC is so when choosing where I wanted to continue my basketball career I had to think about conference and what kind of program I wanted to be a part of" explained Soule, a 6-foot wing forward. "A school like Boston College who's sometimes perceived as a smaller named school, will have a lot to prove playing against some of the biggest names in women's college basketball but I know they play with heart and never back down. I want to be part of a team chasing something big while playing with purpose and I know that's what the people at BC are working hard to achieve."

Friday, February 10, 2017

North Upsets Spaulding in OT

By: Ross Laorenza
Nashua North improves to 6-6 after a 57-55 overtime victory over the Spaulding Red Raiders. With 9 seconds remaining in OT Spaulding was called for a 5 second violation on their inbounding attempt.

Ryan Lynn did a great job blocking any possible passing lanes using all of his 6'5" frame. Alonzo Linton caught the ensuing high, lobbing inbound for North and was fouled with 7.7 to go. Making 1 of 2 at the line the window was open for one final shot. Spaulding's Cal Connelly took an of balance three at the buzzer, but it was well short.

After the very frustrating loss Raiders coach Tim Cronin noted, "You can't just walk on the floor and win."

Friday, February 3, 2017

Lebanon Beats Brady to Remain Undefeated

In a game between arguably the two best teams in D-II girls basketball, Lebanon went on the road and beat Bishop Brady in convincing fashion, 47-31. Lebanon remains undefeated on the season - they are now 11-0, while Brady falls to 10-2. Both of Brady's losses have come to Lebanon. The Raiders led by as many as 17 (45-28).

"This was a good win for us" said Lebanon's legendary head coach Tim Kehoe. "I liked how we controlled the boards. We have some great leadership. Jojo (Joslin Wainwright) is a great leader and she controls the boards. It's not just the bigs - our guards were rebounding too. One concern I had coming in, was turnovers but I was pleased with how we controlled our turnovers."

Not only did Lebanon do a good job of protecting the basketball, they pressured the heck out of it on defense which led to numerous Bishop Brady turnovers. Lebanon played tenacious, intense, in-your-face man-to-man half court pressure defense. The Raiders completely took Brady out of their offensive rhythm, forcing turnovers and ill-advised 3-pointers. The Giants often settled for the outside shot and they weren't falling - Brady shot just 5/22 from downtown. Playing on such a small court, Lebanon's pressure 'D' smothered Brady - 3 times the Giants stepped out of bounds as a result.

"Defense is what we hang our hat on" said Coach Kehoe.

The Player of the Game for Lebanon was 6-foot-2 freshman forward Rebecca Wright, who poured in a game-high 20 points to go with 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. Wright had an impressive all-around game, especially considering she was going up against Brady's junior 6-footer Samantha Will, who has already been established as one of the top bigs in the state. Wright was a force inside all game long, and also made some nice passes from the perimeter.

"She's a player" said Coach Kehoe about Wright. "She's only 14. She also leads our team in 3's."

The Raiders jumped out to a 9-4 lead early on, but then Bishop Brady freshman guard Sofia Riccio slashed to the rim, driving with her left hand and finished with her left as well to cut the Lebanon lead to 9-6. Raiders sophomore guard Madeline Hastings (7 points) made a nice hustle play, diving on the floor for a loose ball. Lebanon scored on the other end, and it was 11-6 Raiders after 1 quarter.

Bishop Brady junior guard Lauren Roy came out firing to start the 2nd quarter, nailing a 3-pointer off the catch off a drive and kick-out by Caitlin Mallahan. Roy showed good form on the shot. Lebanon's lead was cut to 11-9. Still, you had to be impressed with the man-to-man pressure defense by Lebanon, really making Brady work for any point they got. Brady meanwhile was taking too many outside shots, they needed to take it to the basket more. Meanwhile, Lebanon was attacking the basket all game.

Wright made a strong move to the basket and finish inside. Lebanon got a quick bucket off another Bishop Brady turnover, which came as a result of Lebanon's pressure 'D'. Will (team-high 9 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks) made a nice block, and on the other end Will drained a 3-pointer. That cut the Raiders' lead to 15-12 with 4:05 left in the 1st half. Coach Kehoe called a timeout, and the Brady student section went nuts!

Lebanon started working their high-low sets, as Wainwright made a very good pass lobbing it from up top to Wright in the low post for a layup. Brady answered on the other end, quickly pushing the ball and getting it inside to Will for a layup. Lebanon's lead was down to 17-14. Brady continued to launch 3's and they weren't falling. Brady picked up their pressure 'D', forcing a 5 second inbound violation on Lebanon. On the other end Riccio drilled a 3-pointer and we were all tied up 17-17. The intensity on the part of both teams continued - Lebanon made two good passes on the same possession, setting up a layup attempt inside, but Will was there to make another nice block. At this point it looked like an even match-up!

Wainwright hustled after the boards, converting a put-back, as Lebanon went back on top 21-17. Bishop Brady junior point guard Sarah Doherty (transfer from Goffstown where she won a state title last year) cut back-door against the aggressive, over-playing Lebanon guards on 'D'. Doherty received the pass in the paint and flipped in the bucket, and-1. The aggressive pressure 'D' of Lebanon is very effective on a small court like this one. On the bigger floor at SNHU though, the opposing team can spread them out and have more room to operate, drive and run their offense. Lebanon maintained a slim 21-19 lead at halftime.

Give credit to the Raiders' defense, as they held Brady to just 12 points in the 2nd half. Lebanon sophomore guard Anna Wolke made a nice pass to Wainwright, who was cutting to the basket for a layup early in the 3rd quarter. Mallahan hit a bank shot inside for Brady. But then the Giants best player Will was forced to sit for a few minutes with foul trouble.

Due to the small court and pressure 'D' of Lebanon, Brady stepped out of bounds with the ball for the second time. These were costly turnovers. Raiders senior guard Josephine Brown converted a quick layup on the other end, and it was 28-21 Lebanon with 5:45 left in the 3rd quarter. Giants first-year head coach Annie Alosa was forced to call a timeout to try and stop the bleeding.

Out of the timeout the Raiders continued to add to their lead. Wright ran the floor in transition and converted a put-back. Just moments later Wright finished another layup, this time off a nice dish on the fast-break by Hastings. Lebanon now had a 32-21 lead. Brady answered back on the other end with a quick drive and layup in traffic by Doherty (7 points).

Wright made a nice pass on a high-low feed to Wainwright for a layup and a 34-23 Raiders lead. It was 34-25 Lebanon after 3.

"We run a lot of sets, and this was one team I thought the high-low sets would work well against" said Coach Kehoe. "I got that from Coach Bill Self of Kansas."

The standout freshman Wright continued to shine in the 4th quarter. She made a really nice move, getting the ball with her back to the basket around the foul line, then turned, used a drop step and made a strong move to the rim, hitting a tough leaner inside for 2. She has a good combination of strength and finesse as a young post player.

Doherty was keeping Brady alive, hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Wright made a nice block on 'D'.

"It's nice having a 6-foot-2 kid protecting the rim for us" said Kehoe. "We haven't had that before."

Then it was Wainwright making a nice block for Lebanon on an attempted 3-pointer by Brady. Then the Giants stepped out of bounds with the ball for the third time. Wainwright (10 points) made a nice move, similar to the one Wright made earlier in the quarter - she got the ball around the foul line, back to the basket and then turned, took it to the rim for a strong finish. Lebanon led 39-28 with 2:35 left in regulation.

Wright continued to play outstanding basketball. This time, with Lebanon moving the ball around the perimeter to run the clock, Wright got the ball out on the right wing, saw she had an open driving lane so she took it to the rim, scoring over two defenders for a strong and-1 finish. The Raiders players on the court and their bench were pumped!

Lebanon extended their lead to 45-28, Brady continued to miss 3's. The Giants need to take higher percentage shots, especially against a team this good. The Raiders cruise to the 47-31 win.

Although Lebanon already beat Brady earlier this season, Coach Kehoe was more satisfied with this win. Not only did they pull out the win tonight on the road, but they did it without one of their best players, senior guard Meredith Melendy.

"Meredith tore her ACL in that other game against Brady" explained Coach Kehoe. "She is a hard worker, and was averaging about 15-16 points per game for us."

Wright has helped to pick up that scoring load. She will likely be a 1st team all-state selection as a freshman, and it will be the second year in a row that a freshman makes 1st team all-state in D-II girls basketball. Last year it was Hanover's Silke Milliman, who is now at Northfield Mount Hermon. So apparently the Upper Valley has all kinds of 6-footers who can play basketball coming up through the ranks these days!

Lebanon is not only the team to beat in D-II, they're one of the top 3 or 4 teams in the entire state, regardless of division. The Raiders took Bedford to overtime in the Queen City Holiday Tournament.

As good as Lebanon is, it's scary to think how good they'd be with Taylor Soule. Soule, a 6-foot junior forward just committed to Boston College on a basketball scholarship. Soule is from Lebanon, but has attended nearby Kimball Union Academy for all four years.

One other note on Lebanon - the entire game the Raiders bench cheers "Defense! Defense!" whenever their team is on 'D'. This may not seem like a big deal, but this does three things. 1 - it keeps the bench in the game, they're cheering the whole time, they're attentively watching the game so they're ready for when they go in. 2 - it pumps up the Lebanon players who are on the court. 3 - it intimidates the opposing team. A small thing that can make a big difference for the Raiders. They've done it as many years as I've been covering them under Coach Kehoe.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Laniyan Commits to St. A's

The Saint Anselm College women's basketball team has added another local standout to its 2017 recruiting class. Jenoyce Laniyan (Bedford, NH), one of the NHIAA's top prospects has committed to the Hawks.

Laniyan will join fellow granite-stater Kaitlyn Petrocelli (Merrimack, NH) at St. A's in the fall. The pair committed just days apart. Laniyan is 6-foot-1 and Petrocelli is 6-foot-2, so clearly head coach Julie Plant is looking to add more size to the roster. This isn't surprising, as two of the three seniors on this year's squad are 6-foot-1.

"This was a complete coincidence" said Laniyan, about her and Petrocelli both committing to St. A's at the same time. "I have known Kaitlyn from our days with the New England Crusaders. I am excited and look forward to playing with her."

Laniyan played for Manchester Memorial as a freshman before transferring to Bedford. She has developed her game there, as well as by playing with the NE Crusaders on the AAU circuit. She decided that St. A's was the best fit compared to the other schools recruiting her.

"It started out with a lot of interest from Division I schools" Laniyan explained. "They all happened to be too far away. I did visit one of them."

Laniyan has good strength and is very athletic for a player her size. She is expanding the range on her jump shot and is improving her post moves and footwork. She is a solid rebounder, post defender and runs the floor well in transition.

"I chose St. A's because I like the campus" Laniyan continued. "The team is a great fit as far as what they were looking for in me as a player. It is so much as in your style of play will fit in our system. Playing close to home is a bit of a factor for my family. Personally the fit is the deciding factor. I was comfortable with the coaching staff and the team. It helped that I know some of the players."

Laniyan's Bedford team was the runners-up in NHIAA D-I last season, falling to Bishop Guertin in the final. She hopes to get the Bulldogs back to the finals this season and in her career with a state championship.

"We have been working hard this season" Laniyan concluded. "If we all stay focused and continue to play together as a team we can win it all."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Winnacunnet Holds Off Late Charge by Trinity

By: Ross Laorenza
The Winnacunnet girls basketball team improved to 6-5 on the season with a 40-35 victory over Trinity. The Warriors led by 9 with under a minute and a half, but saw the Pioneers come on strong late in the 4th quarter. Two free throws from Emily Britton finally put the game out of reach.

"I think that Trinity never stopped playing, and in a game like this tempo was so important..." said Warriors head coach Cassie Turcotte. "Games are all about momentum and all about runs, and Trinity's run was well timed to narrow out that gap at the end, to make it a lot closer of a game than I was comfortable with."

Friday, January 20, 2017

Unbeaten Portsmouth Holds Off Bedford

Portsmouth won the D-II boys basketball state championship last year, going undefeated. They moved up to D-I this year and are now they best team in the NHIAA, regardless of division. Some people are even saying they don't think anyone will give Portsmouth a game all year.

Well, they got a game tonight. Bedford went in to Portsmouth's gym and gave the Clippers a heck of a battle. Bedford even had a lead in the 2nd half. It's hard to believe the Bulldogs lost their top 6 players off last year's team (5 graduated, 1 transfer).

Bedford put up a valiant effort, but Portsmouth grinded out a hard fought win, 56-42.

"We can beat these guys" Bedford head coach Mark Elmendorf said after the game, with a smile. "We want to see them again on March 18 at 3 o'clock. That's our goal - I'm going to tell my team that right now. This was a really good basketball game - I'm proud of the way we played."

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Petrocelli Commits to St. A's

NH's loaded Classes of 2017 has yet another scholarship player. Kaitlyn Petrocelli (Merrimack, NH), a 6-foot-2 face-up forward from the New Hampton School has committed to Saint Anselm College in Manchester.

"I was also considering Assumption and Franklin Pierce" Petrocelli told the NH Notebook. "I chose Saint A's because of the campus, coaches, and the team. I love coach Plant's coaching style and how she pushes her players to be the best they can be. When I was on my official the team made me feel very comfortable and I always felt included. I feel that I will get along with them on and off the court."

Petrocelli had to overcome a major obstacle in order to get to this point.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Sanborn Wins Thriller in OT

By: Ross Laorenza
With 4.7 seconds left in regulation the Sanborn girls basketball team was trailing by 2 and in jeopardy of losing their first game all year. To add difficulty Gilford's Kaitlyn VanBennekum was going to the line shooting one-and-one. Indians coach Brian Gray called a time-out.

"When you have those timeouts to set up, you have to talk about what is happening and then what's going to be happening," said coach Gray. "So I set them up with different options based off of what was going to happen. So, when they came out (of the timeout) they knew they had a plan, at least, to get something going."

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Milford Wins Battle of the Undefeated

By: Ross Laorenza

The Milford Spartans are now 5-0 after a hard fought win, on the road against Pelham. It was an emotional night inside the Snake Pit as Pelham High School honored long time fan Ronald Walsh with a remembrance before tip-off. Walsh cheered on the Pelham basketball program for the past 42 years. He was memorialized with a plaque on his favorite seat inside the gymnasium.

The Pythons got off to a fast start scoring on two of their first three possession and taking a 5-0 lead. Senior Captain Kyle Frank connected from beyond the arch for three, then made a steal at half court and scored off the window. Milford would charge right back. Ryan Banuskevich hit back-to-back three pointers to but the Spartans in front 6-5.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Timely Shooting Lifts Memorial Over Alvirne

By: Ross Laorenza
The Memorial Crusaders (2-2) notched their first win of the new year Friday night, 55-45 over the visiting Alvirne Broncos (2-1). While both teams struggled offensively in the early stages of the game, the Crusader were able to get some key baskets from Elvin Barbosa, Jake Santiago and Michael Roumraj when they needed them most.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Lebanon Runs Away With QCIBT Ship

The Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament (QCIBT) is annually the deepest, most competitive holiday tournament in New Hampshire. But for the second year in a row, one team has stood high above the rest in the tourney's field. In 2015 it was Exeter, who won all three of their games by 28+ points, including a beating of eventual D-I state champs Manchester Central 73-37.

2016 is Lebanon's year. The D-II school from way up north in the Upper Valley beat three D-I teams in four days, including a 60-38 thrashing of Trinity in the final on Friday night at Manchester Memorial High School.

Even more impressive was that Lebanon did it without their best player - senior point guard and reigning D-II Player of the Year K.J. Matte has been sidelined for three weeks with a broken foot. Yet the Raiders still don't miss a beat, showing they're much more than a one man team.

"It was awesome to see everyone step up without K.J., especially here since Mr. Matte said it's the best Christmas tournament in the state" said Graham Chickering, a senior guard who scored 16 points to go with 6 assists and 3 blocks in the final and was named tournament MVP. "We knew that if we came out here with focus, slipped out on screens and closed out on our gaps we'd be alright."

Bedford Charges Past West in QCIBT

Considering they lost their top six players off last year's team, I'd say Bedford looks pretty strong. Four starters and their sixth man graduated and standout big man Colby Gendron left for prep school. They have very little varsity experience on this year's squad.

Yet Bedford went 2-1 in the Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament (QCIBT), they only lost by four in the semi-finals to eventual tourney champs Lebanon and they beat Manchester West by double digits in the 3rd place game on Friday night. Other than Lebanon, Bedford was the best team in this year's QCIBT.

That's a credit to the job coaches Mark Elmendorf and Frank Moreno have done with the Bulldogs. It also showed how much depth was in the program last year.

Led by junior guard Maxwell Chartier (game-high 21 points), junior forward Nolan Anderson (11 points) and senior wing Liam Greene (10 points), Bedford beat Manchester West 57-47 in the 3rd place game.

Buzzer Beater Lifts Exeter Past Memorial

Other than Lebanon, most of the teams in this year's Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament (QCIBT) were pretty evenly matched. That is definitely the case for Exeter and Manchester Memorial, who went at it in the tourney's 5th place game on Friday night.

Exeter was ice cold offensively in the 1st half. Memorial was ice cold in the 2nd. In the end, the only thing separating these 2 teams was a buzzer beating layup by Exeter senior guard Nick Sowers. The Blue Hawks escaped with a 42-41 win.

Central Handles Dover in QCIBT

The Manchester Central boys basketball team found themselves in an unfamiliar position on Friday - playing in the 7th place game of the Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament. Central has won the tournament a whopping 23 times, and have been in the championship game three years in a row prior to 2016.

But this is a much younger, inexperienced Little Green squad. They return just 1 starter and 1 key reserve from last year D-I championship team. Still, this Central team (coached by new head coach David Keefe) has enough speed, offensive firepower and defensive tenacity to compete with most teams in D-I.

Led by sophomore guard Osiah Lewis, junior wing Kyler Bosse and sophomore guard Eric Curtijo, Central cruised past Dover 62-50. The Little Green extended their lead to 10 early in the 2nd quarter, they led by double digits for the majority of the rest of the game. The outcome of this contest wasn't in doubt during the 2nd half.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Winnacunnet Wins Holiday Tourney Ship

In a game between two of the best teams in the NHIAA, Winnacunnet trounced seacoast rival Spaulding 62-44 on Wednesday night in the finals of the Oyster River Holiday Tournament. The Warriors were led by tournament MVP Liam Viviano, who had 10 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals.

"They're a good Division I team" said Viviano. "I know they didn't have their best player, but we didn't have one of our better players either. We still beat them by 20. I hope this puts fear in people's eyes."

Spaulding's best player Cal Connelly has missed the past two games with the flu, while Winnacunnet sophomore forward Jack Schaake is expected to be out for a few weeks with an ankle injury.

Viviano had an excellent all-around game - pressuring people on 'D', hitting 3's. Most impressive was his passing, as Viviano served up a number of high level dishes which led to baskets. He showed the ability to score the basketball, but even better was his ability to create offense for his teammates.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

BG Girls Beat Central Catholic

In a game between one of the best teams in the NHIAA and one of the best teams in the MIAA, it was the team from NH that came out on top.

Defending NHIAA state champs Bishop Guertin overcame a slow start (scored just 5 points in 1st quarter) to defeat perennial MIAA powerhouse Central Catholic (Lawrence, MA) on Thursday night. This was the preliminary round of the 2016 Commonwealth Motors Christmas Tournament, at North Andover High School.

"We didn't get off to a good start, but in the 2nd quarter the girls off the bench stepped up and brought some energy" said Bishop Guertin senior and D-I Preseason Player of the Year Meghan Cramb, who dropped a game-high 18 points in the win.

After falling to Bedford (the team they beat in last year's D-I final) BG has bounced back with a 46-27 win over La Salle Academy, a dominant team out of Rhode Island and now a 60-49 win over Central Catholic.