In a match-up between 2 of the best boys basketball teams in the state, Bishop Guertin went on the road and beat Manchester Memorial 79-74 on Tuesday night in Manchester.
BG was up 67-52 before Memorial went on a run to get the lead to 14-2 run to cut the lead to 69-66 with 1:56 left to play. Guertin held on for the win, as senior Sean McClung scored 24 points, including his 1,000th career point.
Good Win For BG
This game was sloppy at times on both sides with many turnovers. And while they missed a lot of free throws and gave up a lot of offensive rebounds to Memorial, overall Bishop Guertin played good basketball and is clearly one of the favorites to win the D-I title.
The 2 Keys to the Win for Cardinals
1) Speeding up the pace of the game...Memorial is a half court team. They rely on patience, executing their half court sets and slowing the game down. Guertin meanwhile is a team that plays at a fast pace, pushing the ball quickly up the floor and pressing teams full court (although tonight they only had 1 player in the back court pressing most of the time instead of all 5). In the 1st half (especially in the 1st quarter) the pace of the game was in Memorial's favor. But towards the end of the 2nd quarter and into the 3rd BG was able to speed up the pace, force some turnovers and get some easy baskets.
"You know I hear some people that say that when you get to UNH you can't play that type of fast-paced game" said Bishop Guertin head coach Jim Migneault. "But I disagree. We are giving up a lot of points defensively, and we need to get better at that. But if we play the game at our pace we'll outscore people. We're getting healthier, I like where we're at right now as a team."
2) Containing David Madol...It's no secret that Memorial forward David Madol is the best player in the state. He is a match-up nightmare with size, skill and athleticism. Which makes it all the more impressive that BG was able to hold him to just 2 points the entire 1st half and only 10 points for the whole game. They had guys like 5'10" Kyle Remillard and 6'0" Cooper Paul covering him all game, and while Madol did grab 9 rebounds he was held in check in the scoring column. The Guertin defenders used their speed to slow Madol down and prevent him from getting good looks. Madol once again showed the ability to play the game above the rim. But the Cardinals made him work for every point and rebound that he got. And it also didn't hurt that they were able to get him in foul trouble. Madol fouled out with 3:34 left in the game with his team trailing 67-55.
3) Depth...It's not all about Green and McClung, folks. Remillard, Logan Kesty (9 points), Cooper Paul, Mike Kelly and Nick Pyzocha all played very well this evening in supporting roles. This was a team that went 10 deep, and that was without Steve Cuipa and Joe McCarthy who were both out with injuries.
Green = Back to Old Self
Bishop Guertin senior Connor Green missed a couple weeks with an ankle injury. He came back on Saturday vs. Exeter, but saw limited minutes. Tonight though he was back to his old self, scoring a team-high 28 points. Green was effective finishing in transition and also showed a solid pull-up jumper.
McClung Will Remember This Night for a Long Time
He entered the game needing 15 points to reach 1,000 for his career. McClung scored 10 in the 1st half, and then late in the 3rd quarter he needed just 2 to reach the milestone. With just under a minute to play in the quarter he cut to the basket and caught a pass right in stride, laying it in off the glass with the left hand. The shot gave BG a 53-46 lead and sent the BG faithful into a frenzy. At the conclusion of the quarter the PA Announcer informed the crowd that the 6'4" senior guard had just scored his 1,000th point. Many of the fans in attendance then gave McClung a standing ovation. I'm sure he would have liked to do it at home, but nonetheless it was a nice moment.
Morgan, Missed BG Free Throws Spark Late Crusader Rally
McClung was the man of the hour. But after the game the player that everyone was buzzing about was Memorial 6'1" senior guard Shomari Morgan. Boy was he good in this game. Memorial may have lost this game, but it certainly wasn't because of Morgan. He put the team on his back, and when Memorial made their 14-2 run late in the game to close the BG lead to 69-66 the run was VERY largely due to the strong play of Morgan (Joel Mayola and Nick Wheaton also played well for the Crusaders). He was simply unstoppable offensively taking the ball to the rim, finishing and also hitting mid-range jumpers and free throws. Morgan poured in a game-high 32 points, including 20 in the 2nd half. Even after Madol fouled out, when BG's defense was now focused solely on shutting down Morgan, he continued to put the ball in the basket and get to the line at will.
Also helping Memorial's cause was the fact that Guertin missed a bunch of free throws. At one point in the 4th quarter they missed 6 foul shots in a row. Overall, BG shot 19/34 (56%) from the charity stripe.
Wheaton Hit 4 Big 3's to Keep Memorial in it
With most of BG's defensive attention geared towards Madol and Morgan, the Crusader's role players often got open looks. 6'1" senior Nick Wheaton took full advantage of the open looks he got in this game. He hit 4 BIG three-pointers in this game, all of which came at crucial times. Just when it looked like Guertin was pulling away and ready to put the game on ice he would keep them in it by drilling another trey.
In the 2nd quarter, right after BG had taken a 24-17 lead (their largest lead of the game at the time), Wheaton hit a three from the top of the key. And just like that Memorial was right back in the game. Later in the 2nd quarter, during a fast and furious end to the 1st half, the Cardinals went up 31-23 (once again, their largest lead of the game at the time) after some nice pressure defense by seniors Nick Pyzocha, Mike Kelly and McClung resulted in a Crusader turnover and Pyzocha (12 points) grabbed the loose ball and laid it in. But then what happened next? That's right, Wheaton hit another three to cut the lead right back down to 31-26.
The Bottom Line
These 2 teams will be there at the end. People doubt BG because they lost to South and Spaulding, they say that they give up too many points or that they don't have a point guard. But the fact is they are undefeated with Connor Green in the lineup. n the preseason the 4 favorites in Division I were Bishop Guertin, Manchester Central, Manchester Memorial and Trinity. Well BG has now beaten both Central and Memorial, and on Friday night they play Trinity. If they can beat Trinity (who lost tonight to Exeter in a shocker), you would have to consider them the hands down favorites.
For Memorial, they are still right there as one of the top 4 teams in D-I. Madol and Morgan are arguably the best 1-2 punch in the state, and Mayola and Wheaton are both emerging as solid role players. Also playing well tonight was 6'1" senior Timi Laniyan, who was one of 3 kids playing in this game who played for Trinity last season before transferring over the summer (the others are Madol and Kesty). Sometimes it seems like Memorial has 2 stars and the other guys just stand there and watch. If this team can get a little more cohesion as a unit then watch out.
Don't be surprised to see these same 2 teams meet over in Durham come March.