Memorial, Central, Dover and Merrimack were all winners today on Day 1 of the Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament (QCIBT). This is the most competitive holiday basketball tournament in the state, featuring 6 of the top 7 teams in boys Division I.
Here's a recap of all of the day's action over at Memorial High, plus video highlights of the Trinity/Memorial game and a post-game interview with Player of the Game David Madol.
Madol and Morgan Lead Memorial Past Trinity
This was the game of the night. This game might not count in the standings. Some might call these holiday tourney games "glorified scrimmages." But let me tell you, anyone who was in the gym tonight for this one would beg to differ with those people. This game absolutely had a playoff atmosphere to it. The place was PACKED, standing room only. Not only did you have two Manchester city rivals going at it, but you also had the #3 ranked team (Memorial) playing against the #4 ranked team (Trinity) in D-I. On top of that you have 2 Memorial players (David Madol and Tim Laniyan) who were playing against their former teammates at Trinity.
Madol showed why he is the #1 ranked player in the NHIAA's Class of 2011 with a very impressive performance. The 6'6" forward scored a game-high 28 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked 3 shots. He scored the basketball in a variety of ways - off the dribble, from long range, on the break, from the mid-range area, from the free throw line. He was consistently good all throughout the game.
Madol brought the house down with a thunderous slam dunk in the 1st quarter. Memorial senior guard Dylan Haines got a steal around half court and went to the basket. He laid the ball of the backboard for Madol, who jumped up and while in mid-air caught the ball and threw it down with authority. The gym went NUTS, and 2 minutes later the place was still buzzing after the play by Madol which showed a combination of athleticism and power.
Memorial led 14-13 after a back-and-forth 1st quarter. Trinity made a little run to start the 2nd quarter, and opened up a 25-17 lead (their largest of the game). Pioneers 6'10" junior center Silvere Aluko made an athletic play to catch the ball in traffic on the break, turn and finish it all in one motion. Also helping the Trinity run was the fact that Memorial was settling for the outside jump shot instead of taking the ball to the rim. Trinity has Aluko, 6'7" sophomore Mabor Gabriel and 6'7" junior Andrew Lauderdale and head coach Dave Keefe had 2 of his 3 "trees" out there at all times. And when your opponent always has 2 guys on the floor who are 6'7" or taller it makes it very difficult to get any offense at all inside. I'm telling you right now - it's not just Memorial. EVERYBODY that Trinity faces is going to have trouble scoring the basketball in the paint.
Also helping Trinity's cause in the 1st half was the fact that they were whistled for FAR fewer fouls than Memorial. With 4:04 left in the 2nd quarter Memorial had already been called for 9 team fouls, compared to just 1 for Trinity. It was the same story in the 2nd half as well. Late in the 4th quarter Trinity had only been called for 3 team fouls compared to 10 for Memorial.
Memorial answered right back though with a 6-0 run of their own to cut the Trinity lead to 25-23. Then the 3rd quarter ended up being the difference for Memorial. Crusaders 6'1" senior wing Shomari Morgan had a quiet 1st half due to foul trouble. But he came alive in the 2nd half, and ended up with 17 points on the game. Morgan and Madol really started to hit on all cylinders in the 2nd half and were too much for Trinity to handle. The Crusaders took a 41-32 lead with 20n seconds left in the 3rd quarter after yet another big dunk by Madol.
"David and Shomari carried us" said Memorial head coach Mike Fitzpatrick. "Nick Wheaton also had a big three in the 2nd half."
Memorial opened up its largest lead early in the 4th quarter at 45-32. Trinity refused to give up though. Wol Majong, (a transfer from Central), really started to assert himself offensively for the Pioneers. He drilled a three which cut the Crusaders lead to 47-43 with still 4 minutes left. Majong finished with 10 points on the game. Leading Trinity in scoring was Gabriel, who had 14 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. Not too bad for a sophomore who played JV last year.
In the 2nd half Madol again got the place buzzing. He was able to get the ball on the break and looked like he had another open dunk attempt. But he missed it and the ball went flying back to the other end. Mere seconds later Trinity got it back and threw it over to Gabriel, who slammed it down himself. Then later Madol went up in the air to grab an offensive board, and while in mid-air tipped it in with his left hand, plus got the foul.
It was a good win for Memorial. Not only did they beat a good Trinity team, but they did it without one of their key players. Senior point guard Rodney Martinez sat the game out with an injured wrist. Martinez is one of only 4 players on Memorial's roster who has gotten any significant varsity playing time prior to this year. The others are Madol, Morgan and senior wing Hervens Desire.
Central Holds on For Win Over West
Central got big games from 6'7" senior forward John Wickey (16 points and 10 rebounds) and 6'1" junior guard Gabe LaCount (game-high 18 points) who combined for 34 of the Little Green's 49 points on the game. And Central defeated West 49-42.
Central started the game off on a 10-0 run, behind tenacious defense and good ball movement. LaCount knocked down a pair of threes and senior point guard Joe Stisser took a charge. West answered back with a 9-0 run of their own to make it a 10-9 Central lead.
2 of the most athletic players in the state were matched up in this game - West senior Quintin Hunter (the human pogo stick) and Central junior Junior Brown. Unfortunately the match-up didn't last long, as Hunter injured his leg in the 1st quarter, left the game and did not return.
Given the fact that they played the majority of the game without one of their top players, the Blue Knights did a nice job of hanging around and giving the #2 ranked Little Green all they could handle. Senior guard Zac Clancy gave West a lift off the bench by netting 8 points in the 1st half, including a pair of threes in the 2nd quarter. Senior guard Samy Abdalla had a quiet 1st half, but really came live in the 2nd. Abdalla really showed some explosiveness, made some strong drives and finishes at the rim and also got in the Central passing lanes to get some steals.
One thing that really hurt West though was the fact that they missed a number of easy shots inside. Having the big man Wickey in the paint (as well as Brown) ready to come over and block shots definitely played a role. But there were still at least 5 or 6 shots in the paint that the Blue Knights could have easily converted.
Meanwhile the combination of Wickey and LaCount was simply too much for West. Both players were really on their game and both of their games really compliment each others well. They are also both unselfish players who will make the extra pass to an open teammate before forcing a shot of their own. This good ball movement, along with the overall team speed that central possesses results in open looks all over the floor for this team. Wickey and LaCount were also able to get open looks because Central essentially has 2 point guards out there all the time with Stisser and Dylan Lafond. Both can handle the ball against pressure well and find the open man.
West made a run and cut the Central lead to just 43-40 with 3:37 left in the 4th quarter as Abdalla was really lifting his game. The Little Green defense picked the intensity back up from there, holding the Blue Knights to just 2 more points the rest of the way.
Dover Blows Out Bow
Dover defeated Bow in a route 65-43. Both teams had all of their key players there, playing and healthy. After both starting guards for Bow (Erik Michaud and Connor Hill) were injured to begin the season they were both in there for this game. So were fellow senior starters Ryan Hill and Josh Faber. But it wasn't enough, as Dover was on fire from long range all game. The Green Wave were led by senior guards Kenaan Al-Darraji (18 points) and Bubba Mahan (16 points). Michaud and Connor Hill did a nice job of driving to the rim and trying to make plays, but the Dover defense was just too much.
Merrimack Slips By Exeter
On paper you would think this would be a big blowout win for Merrimack. Merrimack is the #5 ranked team, while Exeter is the #16 ranked team in D-I. However the Tomahawks were playing without their best player, Dimitri Floras. Without Floras in there, this game ended up being closer than expected.
6'4" junior wing Tyler Gendron had a big game for Merrimack in Floras' absence. He is really looking like a breakout player for this year, and when him and Floras are both on their games the Tomahawks will be very tough to stop. Also playing well for Merrimack was Gendron's little brother Eric, who is only a freshman.
Leading the way for Exeter, and helping to keep them close was 6'0" sophomore guard Matt Barr. Barr is a pure scorer, and he finished the game with a team-high 17 points.
3:00 Exeter vs. Bow
4:30 West vs. Trinity
6:00 Dover vs. Merrimack
7:30 Memorial vs. Central