Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dover/Portsmouth Scrimmage Recap

While the majority of the hoops teams in the state have already begun their regular season schedules, the boys teams in Divisions I and II don't get started until this Friday. In the meantime many of them are scrimmaging each other in order to be more prepared for when things really get started on Friday night.

On Sunday night, while the Patriots were busy pounding away on the Bears, Dover (Division I) made the short drive over to Portsmouth to take on the Clippers (Division II). Here's how it went.

1st Quarter: Portsmouth 19 Dover 13
2nd Quarter: Dover 15 Portsmouth 14
3rd Quarter: Dover 10 Portsmouth 8
4th Quarter: Portsmouth 19 Dover 7
5th Quarter: Dover 8 Portsmouth 5
Final score: Portsmouth 65 Dover 53

Scrimmage Recap
This game might not have counted in the standings, and they might have reset the score at the end of each quarter. But you would never have guessed it judging from the intensity that the players and coaches brought to the table. Before tonight these were two teams who I expected to be among the top teams in their respective divisions. This opinion was solidified after taking this game in. Portsmouth cemented their place as the #2 ranked team in Division II, while I still like Dover as the #6 ranked team in Division I.

While some of these quarters were high in scoring, what I stuck with me the most about this scrimmage was the defense. If you are a fan of good, hard, tough, in-your-face defense with players diving on the floor for loose balls and taking charges left and right then I hope you were at this game because it was right up your alley. I counted not one but EIGHT charges in this game - don't try to tell me that scrimmages don't matter.

Portsmouth took an early 13-4 lead in the 1st quarter. I was really impressed with their man-to-man half court defense. All 5 guys were really getting after it and pressuring their man. Dover was also playing some tough defense. But Portsmouth was able to put 19 points on the board in the quarter, as they took a 19-6 lead at one point. They were able to do this with their best returning player, Kyle DiCesare on the bench. Instead Portsmouth was led by 5'10" junior guard Kamal Walker, who is a transfer from Worcester, MA. Walker asserted himself offensively, getting to the rim, pulling up off the dribble and hitting shots and he was also dangerous in transition. Also playing well out of the gate for the Clippers were guards Greg Tsougranis and Terrance Herbert.

Portsmouth was up 19-6, but Dover made a 7-0 run to end the quarter. Senior guard Kenaan Al-Darraji has shaken off the football rust nicely, as he was able to drive hard and make shots from the outside. Also key in the run was sophomore forward Mike LeBlanc who was able to stretch the defense by making shots from the perimeter. Senior forward Morgan Faustino played tough defense inside and also rebounded the basketball well.

The 2nd and 3rd quarters were very evenly matched. Coach Mulvey from Portsmouth and Dover coach Mike Romps both began toying with lineups, and getting their benches some playing time. Tsougranis was playing well for the Clippers, he has definitely gotten better since last year (he's also grown 2 inches and is now 6'0"). DiCesare finally got into the game, playing about 3 minutes in the 2nd quarter. Portsmouth 6'3" junior Charlie Duprey and Dover forward Kyle Wilson both drew charges, and Dover senior guard Bubba Mahan played some tight, lock-down defense on Walker.

In the 3rd quarter Duprey and senior forward Riley McCarthy both drew charges for Portsmouth, while Faustino started to come alive offensively for the Green Wave. Both teams really toyed with lineups in this quarter. Both teams went 12-13 players deep in this game, but in the regular season I expect they'll both rotate about 7 guys in and out. So this would clearly be a different game if these teams met during the regular season. But it was good for the bench players to get some time, and with the intensity both teams brought it was definitely a nice tune-up for the season.

Then came the 4th quarter. And man, Portsmouth sure looked like a team in mid-season form in this quarter. For the first 6 minutes of the quarter they went with a lineup of DiCesare, Walker, Duprey, Tsougranis and Herbert. Dover had mostly starters or key bench players in. Over that 6 minute stretch the Clippers outscored the Green Wave 15-2. Portsmouth was playing suffocating defense, forcing turnovers and getting easy baskets on the other end. They would push the ball up ahead to Walker, and he was making some nifty moves on the break. Earlier on in the game he made a nice step-through move to go by a defender, and then this time in transition he made an outstanding spin move to elude a Dover player, got to the rim and finished it. DiCesare also got in a rhythm, showing a solid all-around game. The 6'2" junior wing attacked the rim, hit shots, grabbed boards and found the open man. Herbet and Tsougranis both continued to play well and are looking like very nice role players for this team. Herbert, a 5'11" sophomore guard, showed a nice shooting stroke from beyond the arc.

Coach Mulvey took that lineup off the floor with 2:32 left in the quarter, with his team ahead 15-2. For the rest of the 4th quarter and beginning of the 5th quarter it was Porsmouth's bench Dover's starters and key reserves. As a result, Dover started to get some momentum back. Green Wave sophomore guard Colin Shaughnessy really stepped up with some good, hard, on-the-ball defense, and he also had a nice finish in transition.

In the 5th and final quarter, both squads continued to play tough man-to-man defense, with no basket coming easy. Al-Darraji had a nice finish on the break. Then Duprey took his 3rd charge of the game. You had to like the effort and intensity, especially on defense by both of these teams. Portsmouth in particular was doing a nice job of forcing the Dover players to dribble the ball towards the corners in the half court offense. They would then bring a double team, and the Green Wave player would then pick up their dribble and throw the ball away, either out of bounds or into the hands of a Clippers player to begin a fast break going the other way. This was Portsmouth's recipe for success in their big 4th quarter, but they also did it effectively in the 5th frame. Herbert had one stretch where he was hustling all over the court, diving on the floor for loose balls and going hard after rebounds. Tsougranis then took a charge for Portsmouth. Dover took the 5th quarter though, 8-5.

The final score was Portsmouth 65 Dover 53.

Final Thoughts
Two very good teams battling it out. Not a bad way to get ready for the season, not bad at all. I saw Portsmouth at the beginning of last year and they are definitely further along as a team right now than they were back then (and last year's team was pretty darn good!). That's scary news for the rest of Division II. Walker (their new point guard) is a very good player who is lightning quick who can go by people off the dribble, has a good pull-up jumper and quick hands on defense which he used to force a number of turnovers. DiCesare is the Clippers best player, and even with him on the bench they still jumped out to the 19-6 lead. If anyone has a chance to beat Milford this year, it's Portsmouth.

As for Dover they will definitely be a tough team, especially defensively. But they don't have as many weapons on offense this year. Last year they had Burt, Al-Darraji, Faustino and Duffy who could all light it up from the outside and go for 20 points on any given night (Burt even scored 30+ a couple times). They just don't have quite as much firepower this time around. Not many teams Dover will play this year in D-I will be as good defensively as Portsmouth, though. So this was a good test for them heading into the season.

This Friday night Dover plays Trinity while Portsmouth takes on Pembroke in the season opener for all D-I and II teams. This Sunday night scrimmage was a very nice tune-up for both Dover and Portsmouth heading into those games. Bring on the season!

Lastly, I want to clear up the situation with DiCesare and his status going into the season with regards to a possible suspension. In order to protect Kyle, I do NOT want any false rumors or ridicule being posted by anyone on here.

"He did break the athletic contract" said Coach Mulvey.

That is all Mulvey wanted to comment on the issue, so I will respect his wishes and I hope everyone else will do the same. Let's try to remember these are just kids. Let's leave it at that.

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