I thought that Trinity would beat West tonight, or if West did win it would be a close game. But just like my decision to include "I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry on a mix CD that I made for my girlfriend's mother, I was wrong. Here are my thoughts on Trinity/West plus tonight's other big games:
My Take on Trinity/West
West beat Trinity tonight 53-41. Anytime there is a matchup between two of the four Manchester schools, it is always a must-see game. These schools have great rivalries, and the gyms are always packed. Tonight both Trinity's and West's student sections were packed, and they were loud. It was a great atmosphere at West High.
Going into this game, Trinity's Phil Hayden had bee playing on a bum ankle. He was going to give it a go once again tonight. Hayden played, but was not 100%, and wasn't able to go at it full boar. Before the game started, I received word that Gordon Duffley was out for this game with a migraine. He played for Trinity on Tuesday, but he didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday due to the migraines. So with Duffley out, and Hayden playing at less than 100%, the door was open for West to pull out the W.
I wasn't surprised that the Blue Knights won this game, but I was surprised with how much they won by. They set the tempo early, and controlled the game from start to finish. Two minutes into the game, the score was Richard Valentin 8 Trinity 0. Valentin was on fire tonight, especially in the first half. He is the quickest player off the dribble in Class L. He made two separate drives where he beat his defender and took it to the rim. Both times Trinity's 6'9" center Sylvere came over to help on defense and try and block the shot. Both times Valentin put the ball off the glass and in...against a player 11 inches taller than him! Plus one of the two buckets was an and-one. He also had a sick crossover dribble then banked the shot off the glass from 17 feet away, and then made a very nice floater in the lane. Valentin had the game's first 8 points, 16 in the first half and a game-high 23 total points.
West has more than just Valentin, though. They play 6 kids and they are all VERY fast and VERY athletic. They're the fastest team in NH. Yes, they're even faster than BG. West uses that speed to play pressure defense, force turnovers, they are so quick that they get EVERY loose ball and then they get out and run, and they're extremely fast in transition. The other 5 players in the rotation are Sammy Abdalla, Quintin Hunter, Aaron Martin, Jose Gonzalez and Greg Asselin. Abdalla and Hunter are as fast and athletic as anyone in the state.
I already knew that the Blue Knights had good athletes and good skill. The main weakness that I saw in West at the QCIBT was discipline. They were playing so fast that they would make silly turnovers, silly fouls and had poor shot selection. For the most part tonight, they played disciplined basketball. They were able to play at a very fast speed while still staying in control and take good shots.
So what went wrong tonight for Trinity? Well David Madol only scored 5 points. This is a kid that has been averaging about 19-20 points a game so far this season, and he was VERY quiet tonight. He just didn't get enough touches, and when he did get the ball, Gonzalez and Asselin played some great defense on him. Like I said, West had some great team speed, they got the loose balls and they forced turnovers. Zach Stevens has been averaging 14-15 points a game so far and he only had 9 tonight. Madol and Stevens combined for just 6 points in the first half.
This was clearly not Trinity's best game. Duffley being out and Hayden being slowed by the ankle hurt them. But even if they're healthy, Trinity is a good team but still has some things to work on if they want to make it to Durham.
As for West, this was a very good win for them. The key for them now will be consistency. They're clearly playing excellent basketball right now. But they have to keep building on this win and not get complacent. They also have to keep all of their kids on the court and out of trouble.
"I'm not worried about the on-court stuff" said West Head Coach Sam Carey. "I'm worried about the off-court stuff. I have meetings with each player everyday to see how they're doing in school and trying to help them stay out of trouble. I keep telling them they have a chance to be REALLY good if they can just stay on the team."
One final note on this game. Each team had a scary moment in the fourth quarter when key players went down with injuries. Abdalla went down for West with 6 minutes left in the game, and Trinity's Madol had to be helped off the floor just a minute and a half later. Neither player returned to the game. These would have been major injuries if they turned out to be serious. But fortunately for both teams they were just cramps, and both players are fine.
My Take on the other big games tonight:
Boy, was this a surprise! Winnacunnet wins it easily, 45-29. Memorial had two big injuries in the QCIBT, Matt Couture and Shomari Morgan. Couture was back to 100% before tonight's game. Morgan has been playing, but he's not 100%. I wasn't at this game, but I'm guessing Morgan was slowed in this game by the ankle and that was a factor. Still, Winnacunnet was in complete control of this one all the way, and especially playing at Memorial this was an impressive win for the Warriors. Since this game was at Memorial, it was the same gym where Winnacunnet's season ended a season ago in the Class L quarterfinals. And although the Warriors and Crusaders return a total of just three players who played more than four minutes in that game, I am sure that Winnacunnet Head Coach Jay McKenna used that as extra motivation for his team to come out and get revenge.
Merrimack wins, 66-48. Going into this game, this was a matchup of two of my top 6 Class L teams. I expected a good, close game. North only lost to BG by two the other night and only lost to Dover by a few points. So I figured that this would be a close one, and possibly a North win. But again I was wrong. Merrimack controlled this game the whole way. The Tomahawks solidify their spot in the top 3 of the Class L power rankings with a very impressive blowout win over a good North team.
Bedford wins 59-57. Bedford picks up a nice home win by beating a good Souhegan team tonight. This was also a good win for Bedford because while they had other wins before tonight, this was the first against a good team. Souhegan is a team that is still trying to define roles and find their identity. And it doesn't get any easier for them, with Pelham on their schedule Tuesday night.
South with a mild upset beats Exeter 60-49. Ok, so South loses to Goffstown, but they beat Exeter?! I am not buying Goffstown as a better team than the Blue Hawks. Especially considering Exeter took Merrimack to overtime last Tuesday. What can you say, it's been a crazy year so far. I'm not complaining though. Parity is a very good thing for NH basketball. Anything can happen on any given night. Teams have to bring their "A" game every night. This makes for better competition and this also makes for better individual basketball players.
Alvirne beats Central in overtime 46-43. Not really a surprise here. But word is that Joe Stisser is finally healthy again and back in the lineup now for the Little Green. I'm sure he'll need some time to get readjusted and back in shape, but as the season goes on he'll make a big difference for Central. Look for them to struggle early but get better as the season goes on. Stisser is a true point guard, and having him back in the lineup means sophomore Gabe LaCount can play the wing which is his natural position. He's been playing out of position so far this year at the point.