Tonight it was double duty for me. I was broadcasting the Dover/Winnacunet game on WTSN and I was covering the action for WGAM Friday Night Lights. I don't care what anyone says, this final score was a HUGE surprise.
Going in it was Winnacunnet (12-1) playing at Dover (9-4). Even though the Warriors were playing without Harry Knowles who was out sick, you had to still consider them the favorites. Sure Dover was at home, but Coach Romps told me himself earlier this season that he thinks his team plays better on the road. I've seen both of these teams play a lot. Even with Knowles in there, there's not much separating these teams. I expected a very close, hard fought game. So the fact that Dover won this thing by 25 is indeed a big surprise.
For the first half at least, this was a very close, hard fought game. It was the game I expected heading in. Both squads fighting for every rebound, every loose ball, every possession. Players laying it all out on the line, diving on the floor. At the half Dover only led by 1, 26-25.
The third quarter was the Green Wave downfall in their loss to Merrimack a few weeks ago, but tonight it was their triumph. They outscored Winnacunnet 23-10 in the third frame, and that was the difference in the game (And yes I made that sentence rhyme on purpose).
They key to this game were the backcourt match-ups. Going in, you have two first team all-state players in this game. Jesse Gould for Winnacunnet and Alex Burt for Dover. Burt clearly got the better of that match-up, scoring 21 points to go with 4 rebounds and 4 assists while Gould had just 4 total points.
The backcourt combination of the senior Burt and junior Kenaan Al-Darraji was just too much for the Warriors this evening. They were the two best players on the floor this game. Burt continues to adjust to the way teams are playing him. He's seeing a lot of double teams, and not getting as many looks from three. So he's adjusting and is taking the ball to the hoop more. As for Al-Darraji this was the best game I've ever seen him play. He was hitting shots, he was getting into the lane and making plays, handled the ball well against defensive pressure and played good defense.
"Tonight was the best defense Kenaan has ever played for us" said Dover coach Mike Romps.
Gould on the other hand had a rough game. Dover did a good job of contesting all of his shots and not letting him get to the rim. He was also in foul trouble for the majority of the game which not only limited his minutes but made it difficult for him to get in a rhythm when he was in there.
"It was just one of those nights for him" said Winnacunnet coach Jay McKenna.
Another factor in Dover's third quarter run came about midway through when McKenna picked up a technical foul. On the play itself McKenna definitely did have a case. Burt drove baseline and was met by Winnacunnet's Ryan Dunn who attempted to take a charge. It looked like it was a charge on Burt, but the call was a block on Dunn. This sent the usually calm demeanored McKenna into a frenzy. The result of the actual play was 2 free throws for Burt, which he made. Then Burt made one of the two technical free throws. On the technical Dover also got possession back and Burt drove the lane and went to the line once again. Just like that the lead went from about 8 to 15 very quickly.
"Before the game I was asking my team when the last time I got a technical was" remarked McKenna after the game. It turns out it was about 10 years ago when I was coaching the JV team."
This is the second time in the past few weeks I've seen a technical foul change the momentum of a game. The first was in the Merrimack/BG game. Merrimack had a 20 point lead earlier in the game but BG cut the lead down to just 1. A big part of the comeback was a technical by Merrimack's Eric Watson. Guertin's Steve Cuipa made both free throws then BG got possession and scored and really got momentum on their side.
Other than the blocking call on Dunn, the refs really weren't that bad in this game. I know that the fouls were pretty lopsided (Winnacunnet was whistled for 23 team fouls while Dover had just 8), but when that happens it isn't always the officials' fault. Sometimes, one team just flat out committed more fouls than the other. There were a few plays where a player would go up for a shot at the rim with a defender right there. Some of these were called fouls, some were called clean blocks. But most of these plays were pretty borderline calls and could have gone either way.
Talking to Coach McKenna after the game, it is obvious that the passing of former Winnacunnet head coach Jack Ford was heavily on the minds of him and his players. Though his team competed hard, I get the sense that it was tough for him and his team to stay focused on this game with their thoughts instead on Coach Ford.
"It's been a long week for us" McKenna explained. "Half of my players were at the funeral earlier today. It's the end of a really long week for us."
Nobody scored more than 11 points tonight for the Warriors. Dunn, as well as junior forward Steve Cronan, junior guard Shawn Munson and senior guard Nick McGrail all played well in the loss however. McKenna had especially high praise for McGrail.
"Since he came into this program 5 years ago, NOBODY has worked harder than him" he said. "He's just a very smart and means so much to our team."
In addition to Burt and Al-Darraji, junior forward Morgan Faustino and senior forward Rory Duffy also played well. Faustino had 10 points and 8 rebounds. Duffy had 8 points, had 4 rebounds and played excellent defense all game long.
So Dover beats Memorial on Wednesday night by 21, and now they beat previously 12-1 Winnacunnet by 25. Not a bad week for the Green Wave.
"I think we're peaking at the right time" said Romps.
Dover's schedule definitely eases up over the final 4 games. They finish up with Londonderry, Goffstown, Timberlane and Exeter.
"Never in the history of the two programs have we won at Londonderry" said Romps.
That could definitely change on Tuesday night.
For Winnacunnet, they have a big date next Friday night at Bishop Guertin. Was tonight's game a fluke, with the passing of Coach Ford and Knowles being out? We'll find out next Friday night.