Trinity (7-2) @ Dover (6-3)
This is a very intriguing matchup, and in my opinion it is the game of the night. Both of these teams were ranked in the top 4 of my preseason rankings (My preseason top 4 was Merrimack, Dover, BG and Trinity). Trinity is 7-2. And considering senior point guard Phil Hayden has been slowed by a sore ankle and senior forward Gordon Duffley missed the West game with migraines, I think Coach Keefe has to be pretty happy with where they're at. Especially since they're flying under the radar, with all of the hype early in the year being directed at Bishop Guertin and Merrimack.
Early in the season, nobody was further along as a team than Merrimack and Dover. And after the Queen City holiday tournament, Dover was #1 in the Class L Power Rankings. They were 4-0, 7-0 if you include the QCIBT. Everything was was peachy in Green Wave Country. Then they lost 3 in a row, losing the first two by a combined 32 points. Now to be fair, those two losses were to the teams now ranked #1 and #2 in Class L. And the third loss was only by 2 on the road to a good Alvirne team when the team's best player, Alex Burt, didn't play the final three and a half minutes.
But I saw both the Merrimack and BG games. Something was off with Dover. In their previous games, everything seemed to flow so smoothly with them. The team was so in sync. Yes, they shot it A LOT from the outside. But they have four of the better shooters in the state on the team. And when they're on, they have such good ball movement that the outside shots they take are not only open shots but they come in the flow of the offense. But in their losses they were forcing outside shots, rather than having them coming in the flow of the offense.
The biggest key was that Alex Burt wasn't getting enough looks. True, teams were double and triple teaming him. But still, they weren't running him off screens or anything. At times he would catch the ball and have a good look at a shot, but not as much as before. And when he was getting looks they weren't falling. When you have a player that usually gives you 20+ points a game and he only gives you 5-10 points, it's going to be tough to win the game. However, it is safe to say that the slump is over. For Dover, and more specifically, for Burt. And that is bad news for the rest of Class L. Last Wednesday night against St. Thomas I saw him drain 4 three's and score 14 points...in the first quarter. Then on Tuesday night vs. Nashua South he had a career-high 32 points and 6 three's. Yeah, the slump's over.
As bad as it was for Dover during that losing streak, and especially during the third quarter of the Merrimack game when they were outscored 25-2 on their home floor, I still think this team has what it takes to get to Durham. Dover is a veteran team. They have good shooters, they play tough defense. Although they don't have a ton of size, Morgan Faustino, Justin Dube and Rory Duffy are as good on the boards as any trio in New Hampshire. And they have a coach in Mike Romps that has them focused and ready to correct what went wrong in those three losses.
This is an intriguing matchup, not only because because these are two teams who have a VERY good chance at making it to Durham, but because this game features arguably the two best players in the state in Dover's Burt and Trinity's David Madol. Although Madol is a VERY tough matchup, Dover is actually one team in NH that I think should actually be able to contain him pretty well. He's a tough matchup because he has the size and strength to score in the low post against smaller defender, and the quickness to face up and take his man off the dribble if guarded by a bigger player. Plus he can shoot it from the outside. Not many players around have all of those tools. But if there's a player in the state who can guard David Madol one-on-one, it's Morgan Faustino. Why's that? Well even though he's only 6'3", MAYBE 6'4" he plays bigger than that due to his leaping ability and strength. He also has the quickness to be able to keep up with Madol driving to the bucket. Plus the fact that Faustino has emerged as one of the top defenders and rebounders in the state. I expect Duffy and Dube to also take their turns at defending Madol, but for the most part I expect it to be Faustino getting the call.
If Dover can contain Madol, and prevent Trinity from draining too many three's they'll be ok. That's a big if though. Because if you focus too much of your defense on stopping Madol, then you'll leave Zach Stevens, Jake Hamel and Travis Descoteaux open for three's. Hamel by the way, is the most underrated spot-up shooter in the state. He doesn't get a ton of minutes, but you do not want to leave that kid open from deep. If he sets his feet, squares up and catches the ball in rhythm, watch out. Of course, the same can be also be said about Stevens. But his shooting ability isn't exactly a secret.
Something else I'll be looking for in this game is Dover's rotation. The 6 player rotation that Dover used early in the year was well documented. Some think that this lack of depth hurt the Green Wave, especially in the loss to Bishop Guertin. Over the last two games however, we're seeing a deeper team. We're seeing Coach Romps experiment a little bit with lineups. Of course it makes it easier to play around with lineup combinations when you win your last 2 games by an average of 30 points. Still, in those two games, players like Paul Flanagan, Richie Lund, Jarell Mejia and Jake Howard have seen some extended minutes. I think these players were getting auditions with the role being meaningful minutes in a close game. I have seen some flashes from each of these players where they have shown me something. It will be very interesting to see who gets minutes out of this group, how many minutes, and how they do. Dover has a very good JV team, and everytime I see them play, I keep thinking to myself that some of them could contribute to the varsity squad. It looks like tonight against Trinity we might just find out.
Speaking of lineups and rotations, I keep waiting to see if/when Logan Kesty is going to start making an impact for Trinity. The 6'1" sophomore guard started for the Pioneers all summer and all fall, even after Duffley joined the team in the BST playoffs. He was a very effective two guard for them, showing the ability to score either by slashing to the rim, or by shooting it from the outside. His defense needed work, but he still seemed to fit in very well with the rest of the Trinity starting lineup. At one point I even had him ranked as high as #3 in the player rankings for the Class of 2012. Kesty goes from starting all summer and fall, to now barely getting off the bench in the regular season. Will Kesty finally get a chance to shine at some point this season? It won't be tonight, as he suffered a sprain in his left foot with 30 seconds to go in the Trinity/North JV game on Tuesday night. He'll be out for tonight's game but could return next week.
Regardless of who wins this contest, I still feel like both of these have an excellent chance of making it to Durham. That's still over a month away though. What this game will do is serve as a measuring stick for both squads, and will tell us where both teams stand RIGHT NOW.
I'll be covering this game for WGAM Friday Night Lights. Tune in to the show tonight to hear my post-game thoughts on this one. On 900/1250 AM or online at fnlnh.com.