On my other site, the MA-NH High School Basketball Report, I have plenty of coverage that I have done and will be doing on this weekend's state tournament. On here I'll make this one post with my thoughts on what I saw this weekend. Here goes...
Congrats to the State Champs
17U - Granite State Jayhawks
16U - NH Rivals
15U - NH Rivals
14U - NH Rivals
13U - Bishop Elite
12U - NH Rivals
11U - NH Fastbreak
Jayhawks vs. Bishop Elite in 17U Division
This was the talk of the weekend. Especially the 77-76 upset victory for Bishop Elite over the Jayhawks in pool play Saturday night. Bishop Elite led for most of the game, with the lead being somewhere between 3-8 points most of the way. The Jayhawks hung tough though. Even without Connor Green who was on vacation, you knew that the Jayhawks had the talent to make a run. They did, and they took a 76-74 with about 10 seconds left. David Madol had a big game for the Bishop Elite, so on the last play the Jayhawks did the right thing and double teamed him to force someone else on the team to beat them. Madol found Keene big man Taylor Russell at the top of the key who drilled a three at the buzzer to give Bishop Elite the win.
Bishop Elite is a new AAU program that just got started last fall, this is their first ever spring/summer AAU season. This was a big win for the program, as they got strong play from not only Madol and Russell, but also Samy Abdalla (West), Shomari Morgan (Memorial), Theo Speas (Keene) and Jared Fahmy (Bedford). Many people have questioned whether Madol playing for Bishop Elite was breaking any rules, because he also plays for the Mass Rivals elite 17U team. However, the Rivals did not have a 17U team in this tournament. Bishop Elite was the only team that Madol played for this weekend. He has played in other tournaments with Bishop Elite before, and has practiced with them multiple times. I was the tournament's director, and as far as I know he was eligible to play for them.
It was clearly not the best game the Jayhawks have played, but they still got strong play from Sean McClung (BG), Joe Bramanti (Andover), Steve Spirou (Pelham) and Mike O'Loughlin (Milford). McClung hit a pair of big shots in the second half, although he injured his back and did not play in either of the Jayhawks games on Sunday.
The Jayhawks avenged the loss on Sunday by defeating Bishop Elite 60-45 in the 17U championship game. In this game Coach Dunham's team was re-focused and was on a mission after losing the day before. They had control of this game virtually the entire way.
In the title game Speas suffered an unfortunate leg injury. It happened in the first half and he did not return.
The best team ended up winning the title, but the pool play round was a bit bizarre. There were only the 17U teams, with the other being the Sports Zone Spartans. In pool play each team played the other two once. Bishop Elite beat the Jayhawks by one, which was definitely an upset. Then after beating the Jayhawks somehow Bishop Elite lost to the Spartans by 12. The Spartans are a tough, scrappy team, but clearly didn't have as much talent as the other two teams. Give them credit though for beating a good Bishop Elite team. Then on Sunday morning the Jayhawks beat the Spartans by about 30, go figure!
Key players for the Spartans were Ezra Hodgson (Conant), Ryan Lange (Goffstown) and Brandon Shea (Goffstown).
Weekend Capped Off in Style
The final game of the weekend was the 16U championship. The NH Rivals had a star studded lineup including Noah Vonleh, Showly Nicholson, Javon Williams, Devin Gilligan, Ryan Gauthier, Matt Cimino and Alec Brennan. They clearly the favorites, but the Bishop Elite team gave them all they could handle. Bishop Elite was a tough squad that battled hard and didn't back down all game. They were playing without the injured 6'9" Sylvere Aluko, but still had a solid team with Gabe LaCount (Central), Chris Light (Pinkerton), Richard O'Brien (Bedford), Tyler Gendron (Merrimack), Bryan Courtemanche (Merrimack) and Trevor Glassman (Bedford).
I was impressed with Light's play in this game, he had one stretch where he had 3 nice buckets in a row and scored them in a variety of ways. I was also impressed with O'Brien, who is a tough, gritty player who didn't back down and went toe-to-toe with the heralded point guard Nicholson.
As expected, Vonleh was the best player on the floor. Since this is a NH site though, I'll try to keep it to the NH kids. Nicholson and Gauthier were the other two Rivals who really looked good out there. Gilligan also made some strong play around the basket.
The Rivals ended up winning this game, but Bishop Elite has nothing to feel down about. They played right with those guys the entire game. It was a well played game, and a great way to end the weekend.
Another player in the 16U division that I will give recognition to was Marcus Swedberg from the NH Sharpshooters. Swedberg is definitely an unknown player to most, because he is from Moultonborough High and in Class S. But this kid is a player. He's only a sophomore, he's 6'5" and has the ability to score and rebound at the rim as well as put the ball on the floor and go by people. He's an underrated player, and someone worth keeping an eye on over the next couple of years.
Give Credit to Spartans 15U
I thought it was obvious the Rivals had the best 15U team, and that the second best team was the NH Titans. The Rivals won the bracket, but the Seacoast Spartans gave them all they could handle in the championship game. he Rivals had another star studded team, with guys like Brennan, Mike Auger (Hopkinton) and Sam Dowden. But the Spartans were a scrappy team that played hard and played together as a team. They were a very well balanced team that included Matt Barr (Exeter) and Phil Boyatsis (Dover).
The Titans were another good team in this pool. They had freshmen Will McInerny (Bedford), Zach Simmonds (Souhegan), Brandon Len (Souhegan) as well as eighth graders Eric Gendron (Merrimack) and the 6'7" Collin McManus (Bedford).
Auger continues to improve his game and skill set. He's just about 6'5" and now has the ability to make strong, athletic drives to the basket in addition to his dominating inside play.
14U Division Shows Future = Bright for NH Hoops
I know I normally just report on high school players. And in the 14U division it's all eighth graders and a few seventh graders. But after seeing some of these teams play it is obvious that the future is bright for NH basketball. There were three 14U teams in particular that were very impressive. The Rivals, the NH Fastbreak and the NH Titans. These three teams are all loaded with talent. With the kind of talent NH has in grade 8 right now the future is definitely bright for NH.
On the Titans I was impressed by McManus and Gendron, as well as Trevor Knight, CJ Boykin and they also had another kid who is 6'1" and has a good inside-outside game. Plus they have the 6'5" Roger Larrivee who didn't play this weekend.
The Fastbreak had three players who look like they're about 17, but they're all indeed just 14 years old. These guys will all make impacts at the high school level, and they were led by Manny Latimore.
The Rivals beat the Fastbreak in overtime for the championship. The Rivals have 5 or 6 kids who are legit ballplayers, many of which are headed to Pinkerton next year (Latimore is also going to Pinkerton). The Rivals were a well balanced unit led by Andrew Lechner (headed to Pinkerton) and Ben Judson, who will be repeating 8th grade next year.
12's and 13's
The Bishop Elite 13U team is a force. The 13U pool had about 10 teams in it, and Bishop Elite won by about 20 in the title game. That just shows how good they are. They were led by Oumaru Kante, who took over in the championship game. Other key players were Wenyin Gabriel and Zack Jones.
As dominant as the Bishop Elite 13's were, the Rivals 12's were just as dominant. This has to be one of the top 12U team in the area. Geo Baker, Caleb Green and Jacob Coleman are names to remember in a couple of years once they get into high school.