Tonight I saw Winnacunnet play West. I was a little disappointed. I thought this game would be a lot closer than it was. This was a match-up of the #3 and #4 teams in Class L according to my Power Rankings going in. I thought this would be a good game that could go either way. But the Warriors ended up winning 61-46. The first 3 or 4 minutes it was back and forth, but the rest of the game it was all Winnacunnet. How were they able to dominate West so easily? Keep reading...
My Take on West/Winnacunnet
The difference in the game was discipline. Winnacunnet had it and West didn't. West had poor shot selection for most of the game, they forced shots and drives that weren't there. They also made a lot of silly fouls, many of which came in the backcourt. They're a faster team than Winnacunnet is, not sure why couldn't just slide their feet instead of reaching in so much.
The Warriors meanwhile, were VERY disciplined tonight. They played excellent team basketball. They were unselfish, made the extra pass and got to all of the loose balls. They took good shots and took advantage of West's mistakes all night long. The Warriors didn't play anyone over 6'3" all game and West is quicker and more athletic than they are. But Winnacunnet is just a very smart, unselfish, disciplined team.
Winnacunnet's Jesse Gould was the game's high scorer with 18. But when they were at their best tonight, everyone was getting involved. In one 4 minute stretch of action, Gould, Ryan Dunn, Steve Cronan, Harry Knowles, Shawn Munson and Nick McGrail all scored for the Warriors. With this team, they don't care who scores, just as long as someone scores. And that's what you like to see.
This was definitely not Richard Valentin's best game. The Blue Knight senior guard is one of the state's best players, but he had a rough go of it, finishing with 10 points, 5 turnovers and 4 fouls. Towards the end of the game he got into it with with Knowles, almost getting t'd up. Then when he went to the bench he snubbed Coach Carey who tried to give him a high five. Then after the game in the handshake line, he once again got up in the face of Knowles and had to be restrained by a coach. I give Knowles credit because both teams he kept his cool and just walked away from Valentin. However after last Tuesday when he got into it with Pinkerton's Ben Proulx and now this, one has to seriously wonder whether Valentin will make it through the season.
Sammy Abdalla and Greg Asselin did play solid ball for West, finishing with 13 points apiece. Still, for West to beat the top teams in Class L (Winnacunnet has to now be considered in that category) they will have to get more production from Valentin. The Blue Knight's biggest win f the season to this point was over Trinity a couple weeks ago. Valentin was sensational in that ballgame. But not tonight.
West is now 5-0 at home, and 1-3 on the road. And the one road win was over Keene. Do they only play well at home? It appears so. They brought almost no fans with them tonight to Winnacunnet.
As for the Warriors, you have to consider them as a legit contender. After watching them play tonight, I now want to see them play either BG or Merrimack. BG and Merrimack are the top two teams, and seeing Winnacunnet play one of those two teams would really tell us how good they are. Unfortunately, they don't play Merrimack at all this year. And we'll have to wait until the end of February to see them play Guertin. That could possibly be a match-up of a 14-1 team vs. a 13-2 team.
My Take on Tonight's Other Big Games
Salem 56 Merrimack 55
Wow, how about Salem? They have beaten the top two teams in the state...in the past week! And on Friday they beat Londonderry by 20! The Blue Devils have gotta be the best 4-5 team in recent memory.
Dover 68 Nashua South 48
After returning to the lineup on Friday night vs. North, Jake Nelson made his first start of the season tonight for the Purple Panthers. I'm not surprised that Dover won this game, but with Nelson starting, and the game being in Nashua I thought it would be closer than this. Certainly a far cry from the meeting these two squads had back in the Rivier Fall League. For those who didn't see that game, it was probably the best game I saw all summer or fall. Nelson and Alex Burt were both at the top of their respective games. They covered each other the entire game. Seeing two of the best guards in the state go at it like that was a lot of fun. Oh by the way South won that game. In tonight's game, Burt drilled 6 three's. He also had 5 three's in the first half of Dover's win over St. Thomas last Wednesday. I know it was just against St. Thomas. But between that game and tonight's game it is clear that Burt is out of the slump he was in during the Green Wave's three game losing streak. That is bad news for the rest of Class L. Mark my words, Dover will be one of the top 4 or 5 teams when it's all said and done.
Trinity 57 Nashua North 36
Here's another game that I expected to be much closer than it was. Both of these teams played VERY close games on Friday night vs. their respective top rivals. It was a match-up of the #5 vs. #9 team going in. Did everyone play for North? I have to believe that David Madol had a big game for Trinity in this one. Of all of the teams in Class L, North might be the one that really lacks a a player who can contain Madol defensively. Madol is too big for Trevor Rancourt and Zach Nadeau, and too quick for Dylan Brodeur. I'd be curious to find out if the Titans went zone in this game. It would make sense to contain Madol, but then you have to worry about Zach Stevens draining three's on you.
Some Love For Class M
How about the 3 big upsets in Class M tonight? Fall Mountain, a 5-7 team going in, went on the road and beat Stevens, who was 9-2 going in...by 14 points! 65-51 was the final. I would be very interested to hear if Stevens had any injuries that may have played a role in that one. Elsewhere in Class M, Newfound beats Inter-Lakes 62-58. Newfound was 5-7 going in, while Inter-Lakes was 9-3 before tonight. And finally, White Mountains beat Berlin, 38-36 in a low scoring affair. Before this game White Mountains was 4-7, while Berlin was 11-1! With so much talk about parity in Class L and Class I this season, it's nice to see upsets in Class M too!
Other Notable Scores
Bishop Guertin 60 Alvirne 52
Memorial 63 Exeter 46
Spaulding 75 Keene 70
Central 55 Concord 35
Londonderry 63 Goffstown 43
Pinkerton 64 Timberlane 48
Souhegan 66 Kingswood 63
Portsmouth 69 Coe-Brown 57
Pembroke 50 John Stark 38
Pelham 44 Hollis/Brookline 36
Lebanon 69 Laconia 14