Tonight was a crazy night of high school hoops in NH, here's my take on all of the madness:
My take on Merrimack/Dover
Merrimack wins this one big, 65-46. These are two very evenly matched teams, and they're two of the top 3 teams in NH. Considering it was at Dover and some of the Merrimack players were either banged up or sick, I figured Dover would be slight favorites (Matt Hardwick had strep throat and Dimitri Floras had injured ribs). Then Eric Watson, arguably Merrimack's best player, did not play the entire first half due to off-court behavior. Add all of that together and you would think Dover should have won this game. Or at least if they lost it should have been very close. But Merrimack was flat out the better basketball team tonight, as they continue to show that they're for real. The Tomahawks outscored the Green Wave 25-2...in the third quarter! Alex Burt was held to just 5 points on the game, due to outstanding defense by Anthony Floras.
For the second straight game, Dover's best player was Morgan Faustino. Faustino had a team-high 18 points tonight, continues to play excellent defense and is one of the best rebounders in Class L. Rory Duffy knocked down some shots late in the game when Dover made a little run to get back in the game, but he was ice cold in the first half. Last couple games he has taken too many shots, with some of those shots coming out of his range. As a team, Dover was 5/28 from long range. That's not going to get it done.
Merrimack only turned the ball over twice ALL GAME. Anthony Floras played great defense, Dimitri Floras did excellent offensively and handling the basketball. I was also impressed with Travis Maser and Tyler Gendron. And when Watson came on the floor to begin the third, he nailed a three from the top of the key to give the Tomahawks the lead back which really set the tone for the rest of the quarter. He makes a big difference for them with his scoring ability, strength inside and toughness. He also plays with a swagger that rubs off on the rest of the team. This team plays very good team basketball, they share the ball well, have great team chemistry and they're tough as nails.
I'll be covering BG/Merrimack next Friday night, can't wait!!
My take on tonight's other big games
Bishop Brady 51 Bow 46
Talk about a shocker! Going into this game, Bow was 4-2, and Bishop Brady was just 1-7, including an embarrassing 40 point loss to John Stark just a couple weeks ago. So this is a big upset. Bow's best player, 6'6" Tom Poitras suffered an ankle injury in Bow's last game. In that game Bow lost by 13 at home to John Stark. But with a healthy Poitras, Bow owns wins over Pembroke and Oyster River, two teams currently in the top 5 in Class I. So it is obvious how much of a difference having Poitras healthy makes for the Falcons.
Oyster River 50 Pelham 39
And apparently, this game was even that close! Looks like Oyster River led by about 15 for most of the way. This is another shocker. Going in, I figured these were two evenly matched teams. Pelham was #3 and Oyster River was #4 in my Class I Power Rankings before tonight. I thought Pelham was a little better going in, and considering this game was at Pelham, where the Pythons are VERY tough to beat I figured that they would win or at least lose in a close one. I saw Pelham play Souhegan the other night. And although they won, they didn't look great. At the same time, Oyster River didn't play well last week when they lost to Portsmouth. These are two teams that are still a work in progress. They WILL both get better as the season goes and should both have a good chance at making it to Durham. But give the Bobcats credit. They blew out a decent Kingswood team on Monday, and now they go to Pelham and win easily.
Nashua North 69 Alvirne 67 (Double OT)
Well apparently the Dover/Merrimack JV game wasn't the only game tonight. These teams were ranked right next to each other in my Class L Power Rankings going into tonight, and this game proved that they are two VERY evenly matched teams. This was a rivalry game and I'm sure it had a great atmosphere. The most intriguing thing about this matchup to me going in was tempo. North is a team that likes to play FAST, sometimes too fast. Sometimes they play so fast they get out of control and turn the ball over, their opponent gets easy buckets and their games can have big swings in them. But Javon Williams, Ryan Gauthier and Alex Pratt are all up tempo players. They want to get out in the open court, run and play at a hectic speed. On the flip side of the coin, if there is one team in New Hampshire that is a slow it down, half court team it's Alvirne. Caleb Donnelly is a half court player. Ryan Sweeney is a half court player. Sean Moyen is a half court player. Cody Lambert is a half court player. The only one of their key guys who has the ability to play an up tempo game is Joe O'Hearn. Which is why it is no surprise to me to see that O'Hearn had a game-high 20 points tonight. The fact that the final score was in the high 60's, means that it was likely a fast paced game, and because of that I'm not surprised that the Titans were victorious in what must have been a very exciting game to watch.
Winnisquam 62 Berlin 54
I'm gonna give some love to Class M here. I've seen Berlin and they're VERY good. I figured that they were probably #3 in Class M behind Conant and Campbell, with Winnisquam and Mascoma in the discussion with Inter-Lakes, Stevens and Somersworth also in that upper echelon. Berlin is a good team. They have size, toughness and shooting. They're led by super-sophomore Curtis Arsenault, a 6'3" kid who is quick and very strong physically. For Winnisquam to beat Berlin, at Berlin tells me they're for real and they have to be considered the #3 team in Class M. Mascoma Valley is undefeated and can make a case for that #3 spot. But they've had the easiest schedule in Class M thus far. They're next two games are against Stevens and Conant, then they play Winnisquam a week later. Those three games will tell us if Mascoma is for real or not.
Inter-Lakes 56 Somersworth 55
Tonight was a good night if you were a Class M fan. Winnisquam/Berlin is a good matchup between two of the top 5 teams in Class M. And Somersworth/Inter-Lakes is a good matchup between two teams that are just on the cusp of being top 5 teams in Class M. Two very good, competitive games. I saw Somersworth play Farmington on Tuesday night. The Hilltoppers did not play their best game but still beat a mediocre Farmington team. Inter-Lakes is a good team and they pick up a good road win tonight at Somersworth. The Lakers have a soft schedule the rest of the way. Their only two tough games are against Winnisquam and Berlin, the only two teams they've lost to so far. Somersworth meanwhile has to play Campbell twice coming up. Those will obviously be VERY tough games, but other than that the Hilltopper schedule is soft.
Here are some other notable scores from around the state. Not much to say about these games, the scores aren't very surprising. But I wanted to put them here anyways so people knew.
Winnacunnet 52 Salem 38
Memorial 61 Londonderry 48
Trinity 66 Exeter 56
Bishop Guertin 72 Spaulding 54
Souhegan 70 Con-Val 55
Lebanon 64 Kearsarge 52
Bedford 48 Hollis/Brookline 34
St. Thomas Aquinas 51 Coe-Brown 41