North beats West 54-37. No Valentin and no Hunter for West. Pratt and Williams played very well for the Titans, who even their record at 8-8. West is now 11-5.
Once again for West, the story wasn't who played, but rather who didn't play. Junior swingman Quintin Hunter is suspended for the rest of the season. And Richard Valentin, who is one of the best players in NH, was nowhere to be found in the North High Gym this evening.
"He's still on the team" West coach Sam Carey explained after the game. "He's been out for a week now, he's just sick right now. I don't know when he'll be back."
The Blue Knights aren't a deep team to begin with, typically only rotating 6 players in and out of the lineup. And when 2 of those 6 are out, it really puts a damper on what you can do as a team.
"It's tough when you're practicing with only 7 players on a consistent basis" Carey went on. "Right now our kids are either showing up late to practice or not showing up at all."
With all of that being said it's amazing that the Blue Knights are still 11-5. You have to give Carey a lot of credit. It also goes to show you that when this team does have everybody together they're as good as anyone in Class L.
But Hunter isn't coming back this year and Valentin's status is still up in the air. They need Valentin to come back and return to form if they want any chance at making it to Durham.
As for North, even though it was against a depleted West team, this was a good win for them. They played good solid team basketball. Alex Pratt played like an all-state player. Javon Williams showed why he's the top ranked sophomore in NH. And Zach Nadeau continues to be the most unselfish player in New Hampshire basketball. He didn't score any points tonight, but had 10 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals.
"If Nadeau was 4 inches taller, he would be a Division I player" said North coach Andy Otocka, praising his team's unsung hero.
Pratt finished with a game-high 22 points. He hit shots, finished at the rim, and seemed to make all of the right decisions whether it was on the break or in the half court offense.
There might have been one shot that Williams forced, but for the most part he played under control tonight, making good decisions. And once again he showed why he is the most athletic player the state, with some acrobatic finishes and also changed direction in mid-air on a couple of put-backs. He also showed a great first step, getting by his man off the dribble and getting to the rim at will.
North has 4 players capable of putting up 20 points on any given night (Pratt, Williams along with sophomore guard Ryan Gauthier and senior forward Trevor Rancourt). They also have some solid role players in Nadeau, senior guard Mark McHugh and senior forward Dylan Brodeur.
The Titans like to run up and down the court, take quick shots. Teams that can't run with them will get blown out. The question with North is consistency and defense. If Williams and Gauthier can play well consistently, and if they can pick it up on the defensive end this team will surprise people in the tournament. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them upset somebody on the road in the prelims given the right match-up.
North is 8-8, but 3 of those losses were to Dover, BG and Memorial. Not only are these 3 of the current top 5 teams in the Class L Power Rankings, but the Titans lost these 3 games by a combined 9 points. A couple bounces here or there and they'd be 10-6. And their last 2 games are against Central and Timberlane, two very winnable games.