Tonight I got my first look at Kingswood, and I saw Oyster River beat them 87-62. As a result, we have a VERY rare occurrence on our hands. In boys Class I, there is not one, not two, but THREE teams who are going into the tournament on winning streaks of 11 games or more. Think about it. It's an amazing stat. Three different teams in the same league finish the regular season on a winning streak of 11 or more games.
The three teams are Pembroke, Oyster River and Milford. Pembroke ends the season on a staggering 13 game winning streak. Oyster River, after their win this evening, head to the postseason having won their last 12. And Milford has won 11 in a row going into the playoffs. The Class I tourney begins on March 9. Yet the last time any of these 3 teams lost a game was way back in mid-January!
What is just as amazing is the fact that the last team to beat these 3 teams...is the SAME TEAM! It's Portsmouth! Milford, Pembroke and Portsmouth, all with winning streaks of 11 or more going into the tournament. And Portsmouth is the last team to beat all 3 of them!
This is GREAT for NH basketball. To have THREE teams playing at the top of their games heading into the tourney. There is no doubt in my mind that this is VERY good for NH basketball, and for Class I basketball specifically.
Just think, if the final four in Durham is Milford, Pembroke, Oyster River and Portsmouth? That would be awesome! No disrespect to the other 12 teams in the tournament of course. But just looking at it from a fan's perspective it would make for an amazing story and for some amazing basketball at Lundholm!
If that happened we would be headed to the final four with Pembroke on a 15 game winning streak, Oyster River on a 14 game winning steak and Milford on a 13 game winning streak. And oh by the way the fourth team in the semis would be Portsmouth who would STILL be the last team to beat ALL THREE of the others! What a story that would be!
Ok, Now Back to Tonight's Oyster River vs. Kingswood Game
This was actually a very close game in the first half, with Kingswood leading for most of the way. They had a 35-30 lead at one point late in the second quarter. The story of the first half was the point guard match-up. Oyster River senior Tommy McDonnell and Kingswood freshman Tate Jozokos put on a show. McDonnell had 14 first half points on his Senior Night, and Jozokos scored 13 in the first half, to match the number on his jersey.
In the second half McDonnell continued to play well, but Jozokos struggled.
"Robert Sack was the difference" said Bobcats coach Stuart Mitchell. "He changed the momentum of the game with his defense on Jozokos."
After going for 13 points in the first half, Jozokos scored just 2 in the second. Sack is not an offensive minded player, but he's a very good defender. A description that also fits senior wing Donovan Kelley. Kelley was a starter initially, but a shin injury sidelined him for most of the year.
"He hasn't played since the first Pelham game" Coach Mitchell explained. "He still isn't fully healed even now, but he's a senior so we wanted to make it special for him and we were able to get him into the lineup at the end."
Fortunately for Oyster River they were able to break the game open in the third quarter and made it a blowout early in the fourth. This allowed Mitchell to get all of the seniors, including Kelley, plenty of playing time.
So not only does Oyster River end the regular season on an 12 game winning streak, but 10 of those wins came without one of their starters. On the same not, how about Milford and Scott McCallum. Not a starter, but McCallum is the best player off the bench for the Spartans. He suffered a wrist injury, and he has been out of the lineup for almost all of the 11 games in a row that Milford has won. Heck, if you want you can also include Pembroke in this. Not an injury, but a transfer. Pembroke was only returning 2 players this year who got minutes on last year's final four team. One is Sheldon Benson, and the other was junior guard Taylor Vasquez. But Vasquez moved to Virginia right before practices started up. So not only are these three Class I teams on an unbelievable roll, but they've all been doing it without key players.
As for Kingswood
They have 4 talented scorers in Jozokos, senior wing Dylan Lovering, senior forward Kevin Smithwood and sophomore guard Kohl Meyers. All four are capable of going for at least 15-20 points on any given night. These guys wanna run, and they can fill it up. But they really struggle defensively. They weren't rotating over on help defense, and when he shot went up no one was boxing out or even going after the ball on the defensive glass.
I think they're a team that's a little lost right now. They're talented, but their confidence is definitely down after recent losses to Class I bottom feeders Kennett and St. Thomas.
"We just flat out got beat in those two games" explained Kingswood coach Dan Chick. "No excuses. We just didn't come ready to play then."
In a Class I tournament with about 10 dangerous basketball teams and 3 VERY dangerous basketball teams, they better come ready to play come next week.
Lastly, how good of an athlete is Tate Jozokos? I mean, besides having one of the state's coolest names, he is the starting quarterback for the Kingswood football team and the starting point guard for the basketball team...as a freshman! And I hear his best sport is actually lacrosse! Between his body type, build and overall athleticism, this kid does not look like a freshman. What cannot be argued though is the fact that Jozokos definitely has a bright future ahead of him.
On a Side Note
McCallum is scheduled to have the cast removed from his left wrist on Monday. And he is expected to return to the Milford lineup for their prelim. round game Tuesday night. This is a big boost for the Spartans. McCallum is a very underrated player, and he's a very important part of that team. He'll be back for Milford, and Kelley is back for Oyster River. Which means both squads will be at full strength for the tourney. I'm pumped! Are you?!?!