Monday, November 29, 2010

2010 Oyster River Preseason Jamboree - Event Recap


This past Saturday seemingly every girls basketball team in New Hampshire gathered at Oyster River High School in Durham to kick off their seasons by taking part in the 2010 Oyster River Preseason Jamboree.

Games started at 8:25 in the morning and didn't end until 8:45 at night. There were 18 teams (mostly from Divisions I and II) and each team played 3 games. Games consisted of one half of basketball. There were 27 total games played. I was on hand for all 27 of them.

Here's a brief scouting report on all 18 of the participating teams based on Saturday's action, and how each of them is looking as we approach the start of the season.

The teams are listed in order of how well they played at this event...

1) Trinity
3 impressive wins for the Pioneers. They beat Bedford 21-9, they beat Campbell 16-7 and they beat Merrimack Valley 23-18. They were in control of the Bedford game the whole way. They were tied with a Campbell 7-7, and then outscored a very tough Cougar team 9-0 the rest of the way. That was the game where I was most impressed by Trinity. With senior guard Emilee Marro, senior forward Emily Martin and junior guard Lia Nawn they have some very good individual talent, but when they're at their best is when they get up and down the floor and share the basketball with each other to set up easy looks. They did that very well in the Campbell game as well as the beginning of the MV game. Against MV they were actually up 21-8 before taking their starters out. Trinity's other 2 starters were Paige Heslin (unselfish player who compliments the 3 stars very nicely) and Hannah Willard (scrappy player, VERY underrated defender). The Pioneers weren't a very deep team though, and when they went to their bench teams were able to get back in games. 6'0" forward Emily Bourque did come back from knee surgery, although she played very limited minutes off the bench. Unfortunately, senior guard Jasmine is still expected to miss most if not all of the season with a torn ACL. Still, this team has the talent to be a top 3-4 team in Division I. Marro and Nawn give this team 2 of the best shooters in the state and Martin is a versatile inside player who doesn't force anything and is fundamentally sound.

2) Lebanon
A lot of these were teams I've already seen a few times either during summer league, summer tournaments or fall leagues, but this was my first look at Lebanon. I like what I saw, and with no Frase in the lineup for Kennett that makes Lebanon the favorite in Division II (Class I). The Raiders went 3-0 on the day, including quality wins over both Alvirne and Pinkerton. In their third game they clobbered Portsmouth 28-14. Their win over Alvirne was a hard fought victory and it was the game of the day. I liked the way Lebanon talked on defense to communicate with each other. I was also impressed with the rebounding and post moves of their sophomore forward Trina Scheie. Scheie, along with senior guard Sara Romano, sophomore guard Moriah Morton and junior guard/forward Colleen Taylor give the Raiders 4 very talented players who are talented, have well rounded games and all play well and unselfishly with one another. They also have 3-4 role players who are tough, disciplined, good defensively and compliment the others very nicely. Teams just started practicing in the last week or so, but this is clearly a team that is already in mid-season form. One other thing I liked about them was their shot selection. In their 3 games they took MAYBE 2 three pointers. They do a very nice job of moving the basketball and running their sets in order to get high percentage looks instead of settling for the outside shot.

3) Souhegan
Souhegan looked as good as anyone at the event, and if they had their whole team healthy and playing they probably would be the first team listed here. The Sabers went 3-0, with a 29-11 win over Nashua South, a 25-7 win over Concord and a 26-9 win over Kennett. They definitely had the largest margin of victory of any team there, cruising past all 3 of their opponents. But South and Concord were 2 of the worst teams there, and in the Kennett game the Eagles played without both Melissa Frase and Allie Wagner. It really would have been nice if they played Wagner in that game, as her and Souhegan's Jane White would have have been an excellent match up to see. Instead Wagner sat the game out, and as a result none of the 3 teams the Sabers played had anyone who could match up with White. She was able to run the show and do whatever she wanted out there, driving the rim and hitting shots at will. Senior guard/forward Christan Wojtas was also productive for Souhegan, hitting shots, defending and rebounding well. The Sabers are playing a fast up-tempo style of basketball, which is fun to watch and led by new head coach Jeremy Faulkner. This team looked very good, and they would have looked even better but the Cordts twins, Lauren and Taylor both sat out with injuries, and Tori Forest had to leave after the team's first game. When team has all of their key players healthy and playing together they're as good as anyone in the state, let alone in Division II.

4) Alvirne
Division I is pretty wide open this year, where there's 7 or 8 teams who all have a legit shot at winning it. Alvirne is one of those teams. They went 2-1 on the day, with the 1 loss being a hard fought 13-10 decision to a very good Lebanon team. Their 2 wins were both blowouts, as they beat Kingswood 27-4 and the rolled past Portsmouth 33-11. Senior guard Deanna "DJ" Purcell is a legit Player of the Year Candidate, and she once again played well on both ends of the floor. Purcell is one of the best shooters in the state, and combined with senior guard/forward Katie Donovan to form a very tough to stop combo. Those 2 play off of each other very well, and supporting them were guards Taylor Carbone and Deanna Trearchis. Freshman guard Sandi Purcell (DJ's little sister) is good enough to start for this team, but she sat out on this particular day. This is a talented team with good team chemistry and good shooters. If they can get production inside watch out.

5) Oyster River
Another team that was very impressive was Oyster River. They went 3-0 on the day with a 24-13 win over Kearsarge, a 15-5 win over Concord and a 17-10 victory over Salem. I would have liked to see them play some tougher teams to get a better gauge of how good they were, as none of the teams they played are in the top 12 in these rankings. Nonetheless, the Bobcats have the best player in the state and also the biggest team. 6'1" forward Danielle Walczak (headed to Division I UMaine) was once again very impressive in all facets of the game. She is an extremely skilled and polished low post player. For the Concord game Oyster River went with a starting lineup of 6'1" Danielle Walczak, 6'0" freshman Brenna Walczak (Danielle's little sister), 5'11" Kelsey Brown (the #2 ranked sophomore in NH) and 5'9" guard Riley Maynard. They also had a girl who's about 6'2" or 6'3" who saw very limited minutes off the bench. None of their key players are under 5'7". That folks is a VERY big team. The Bobcats are definitely a half court team, but they can also get and out and run in transition. Their "Big 3" of Walczak, Brown and Maynard all played very well. One thing I liked also was that they realize what their strength is as a team and they play to it. They know that Walczak is their best player and she can score at will in the post. And they design their offense around getting her the ball and they get it to her in a good position to score. Some teams have dominant bigs but they don't take advantage of it because they don't get them the ball. Oyster River is not one of those teams. They have a good game plan and they stick to it. That's why I expect them to make it to SNHU for the final four come March.

6) Kennett
Kennett is a team that could have easily been #1 on this list. But they have 2 superstar guards (Melissa Frase and Allie Wagner) and Frase is out with a torn ACL and Wagner sat out the game vs. Souhegan, which Kennett lost 26-9. With both of them in the lineup though they're scary. Even in the 2 games where they just had Wagner in there they were VERY tough to beat, as they beat Salem 20-7, and they beat Concord 27-17. When Wagner was in there she was really on her game. She's the #3 ranked player in the Class of 2011 (with a full ride to Division II Merrimack College), and can shoot, handle the ball, pass and defend as well as anyone in the state. Sophomore forward Lauren White and senior guard Sam Meader played well in a supporting role. Frase is expected back sometime in January. If her knee can get back to 100% for the playoffs, this team could be cutting down the nets for the 2nd straight year.

7) Pinkerton
Another team that is definitely has some talent, but isn't terribly deep right now. Pinkerton is led by senior guard Katherine Harris, who is not only the best defender, but she is also the most unselfish player in the state. She has some solid supporting players with her, and when they're playing good, tough, team basketball they can play with anyone. Their weakness though is that they don't have a go-to scoring option, so they are also susceptible to scoring droughts. In their 3 games on Saturday they went 2-1, with a 20-17 loss to Lebanon, a 29-16 win over Coe-Brown and a 14-13 win over Portsmouth. Harris is a fun player to watch, as she plays hard every minute of every game, has great knowledge of the game, is always in "attack mode" offensively and is even better on defense. In the backcourt with her is fellow senior Danielle Kimball who is a very good and underrated shooter. Playing well inside on Saturday were Mariah Bonneau and Sarah Goodwin. The Astros did rely heavily on their starters though, so depth could be an issue when the regular season rolls around. They would be deeper if they had sophomore guard Liz Laing, but she's out for the year with a torn ACL.

8) Campbell
A very tough, skilled, well coached team that will give Conant all they can handle in Division III and would also compete well if they were in D-I or II. They were playing without senior guard Kristen Hrubowchak (who has scored 1,000 points in 3 years) and they STILL looked like an impressive team on Saturday. While Hrubowchak wasn't there, the other 2 members of the Campbell "Big 3" were. Juniors Becca Arnone and Liz Pettis showed that they are both already in mid-season form Campbell beat up on Kingswood 34-13, lost 16-7 to Trinity and they beat Coe-Brown 19-13. Pettis displayed a much improved outside jump shot that she was hitting at will, in addition to handling the ball and defending well. You also have to like the way Arnone plays the game. She hustled everywhere, played hard every minute and took charges on defense. She's a good low post scorer, rebounder and an underrated passer. Campbell's game with Trinity was one of the better games of the entire day. It was played at a high level, and with good intensity right off the bat. The Cougars also have a number of solid role players, including the Framarini twins, Marissa and Aly and also Abbie Houlne. I was impressed by the way they were executing their half court sets as well as their baseline out of bounds plays (BLOB's). It was the kind of execution that you typically don't see until later in the season, not after 1 week of practice.

9) Bedford
A solid team that played hard and is definitely a team for the future. They could end up being a top 8 team in D-II this year, but over the next few years they could turn into a very dominant squad with their talented younger players. The Bulldogs played well in a 16-13 win over Spaulding, lost to a good Trinity team 21-9, and pummeled a decent Merrimack Valley team 29-6. All in all a very strong showing for a Bedford team that is very young and played without one of their better players in junior guard Katie Prothro. Bedford has an extremely talented freshman class. They have 2 of the top 3 and 3 of the top 6 freshmen in the state with 6'1" McKenzie Brown, 5'10" guard Ali Glennon and 5'7" guard Rachel Collins. 2 other freshman are also expected to play key roles in Bailey Marshall and Haley Driscoll. The McGown sisters (senior guard Molly and sophomore guard Maggie) also played well for Bedford. In these games though I was most impressed by the play of Brown, Molly McGown, Collins and Marshall. For a 6'1" freshman Brown showed a very good shooting touch around the basket. McGown shot the ball well and Collins and Marshall both played hard on both ends and played smart team basketball. This is a very young team, but they're tough and disciplined.

10) Portsmouth
This was my first look (this season at least) at Portsmouth. I was expecting a little more out of them, although in their defense they were playing without possibly their best player in senior guard Ali Beauregard, who is out with a sprained ankle. Beauregard was on crutches. They struggled at times without her in there, although they did get better with each game they played. The Clippers lost 33-11 to Alvirne, lost 28-14 to Lebanon and then lost 14-13 to Pinkerton. Yes they went 0-3, but with games against Alvirne, Lebanon and Pinkerton they had a VERY difficult schedule. With Beauregard out it was senior guard/forward Susie French who led the way for Portsmouth. She started off slow, but got better with each game (just like her team). They missed not having Beauregard in there, but they welcomed junior guard Markey Flewelling back into the lineup. Flewelling has missed the last 2 years with knee injuries, but returned on Saturday and played well. Freshman Phoebe Collins started and saw lots of playing time in all 3 games for the Clippers.

11) Merrimack Valley
MV looked like a middle of the road team who will have some nights they will be able to play with anybody in D-II but some nights where they'll get blown out by people. They beat Spaulding 22-17, lost to Bedford 29-6 and they lost to Trinity 23-18. The player who really stands out for MV is 5'10" Megan Hardiman, a senior guard/forward who played well and showed a versatile skill set in all 3 games. 5'5" guard Jordan Filion also played well for the Pride along with Hardiman, as well as freshman forward Mary Mullen. Those 3 are a solid core to a team. But they aren't very deep and they struggled at times when they went to their bench. Hardiman (pictured above) is a very good, underrated player though and she always plays hard. She is a tough match-up due to size and skill set. She's 5'10" with a strong frame, has the size to battle under the boards but can also run the point, and can also put the ball on the floor and drive or pull up and hit shots.

12) Spaulding
Tough squad that plays hard and plays as a team. And senior guard Aly Towle is a very good player who can handle the ball and score inside or out. But unfortunately after Towle this team definitely lacks some scoring punch. Spaulding lost a close, hard fought battle to Bedford 16-13, they lost 22-17 to Merrimack Valley and they beat Kingswood 18-8. They might finish in the lower half of D-I, but new coach Karen Malsbenden and her staff will have this team well prepared for every game. And Towle is a fun player to watch, because there's nothing flashy about here game, she just goes out there and competes, is fundamentally sound and is above average in all facets of the game.

13) Kearsarge
Another middle of the pack team. They might not have the most talent, but Kearsarge plays the game hard and they play it the right way. The Cougars went 2-1 on the day with a 13-12 win over Nashua South, a 24-13 loss to Oyster River and a 15-14 win over Salem. I'm not saying Kearsarge is a top 8 seed in D-II, but they're not a bad team at all. Not the greatest offensive team, but they are very good defensively. A player to watch for this year and down the road for them is freshman guard Morgan Church. She is an excellent defender and is also tough around the basket. Church plays as hard as any freshman in the state.

14) Salem
Salem is one of those teams that has a really good low post player but they're just not quite able to take full advantage of it. Senior forward Jenn Bujnowski is 6'2, is very skilled, runs the floor, rebounds well and has smooth moves on the low block. But Salem struggled to get the ball to her in the post on Saturday. She needs to touch the ball within 10 feet of the basket on nearly every if not every possession. The Blue Devils went 0-3 on the day, losing 20-7 to Kennett, dropping a 15-14 decision to Kearsarge and going down 17-10 to Oyster River. Freshman wing Emily Hickey got solid minutes for Salem and has some good potential for this year and in the future.

15) Coe-Brown
Scrappy team that played hard ad was well coached. They went 1-2 on the day with a 19-13 loss to Campbell, a 21-17 win over Nashua South and 29-16 loss to Pinkerton. They have some shooters and spread the floor well on offense. They also return all but 3 players off last year's team. So they could definitely surprise some people later on in the year.

16) Nashua South
This is a team that looked very good at times over the summer, and even won the BST Girls Summer League, which included teams like Campbell, Trinity, Bishop Guertin, Manchester Central and Bedford. But on Saturday they played without their star forward Caitlin Ackerman, who was out with a sprained ankle. They were also missing forward Julie Fierley. They were lost without Ackeman in there, and went 0-3 on the day. They lost 21-17 to Coe-Brown, lost 29-11 to Souhegan and went down to Kearsarge 13-12. 3 losses to teams in the division below them, and 2 of those teams probably won't even be top 10 teams in D-II. The good news for them is that the injury to Ackerman doesn't appear to be serious. She should be a go for the regular season. But some of the guards will have to step up in order to keep teams from double and triple teaming her all year.

17) Concord
Both the boys and girls teams at Concord have gone winless over the last 2 years. It's not easy to turn a program around, especially in Division I. But the Crimson Tide are doing their best. Now Concord did go 0-3 and lost all of their games by 10 points or more. But in their defense they did have possibly the toughest schedule of anybody at the event as they had to play Kennett, Oyster River and Souhegan. Ouch! They might be struggling right now, but give the coaching staff credit for staying positive and encouraging their girls to keep at it and working hard.

18) Kingswood
Another team that had a rough go of it on Saturday. Kingswood lost 34-13 to Campbell, lost 18-8 to Spaulding and got squashed by Alvirne 27-4. A tough day at the office for the girls from Wolfeboro. But they played hard and kept battling despite being down by a lot of points. They have a big girl Brittany Roy who is 6'0" who rebounded well and showed some potential. Roy is a junior who also ran the floor well and is a good shot blocker. The Knights also had a guard who played as hard as any player I saw all day. She was taking charges and diving after loose balls all over the place.

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