Monday, January 10, 2011

Updated Power Rankings - Girls Basketball

Over the next few days the team rankings will be updated for both the boys and girls. I will be ranking the top 20 teams in the state, regardless of division.

As always the rankings are much more than just wins and losses. I look at factors like common opponents, injuries, strength of schedule, margin of victory, recent play. And most importantly what I have seen from the teams myself, either in person or on film. In the end of course the rankings show good good each of the teams are RIGHT NOW. So that if at any given time two of them matched up on a neutral floor the favorite would be the higher ranked team.

Here are some of my thoughts on the teams along with the current rankings.

Winnacunnet and Londonderry Continue to Roll
Winnacunnet is still the #1 ranked team in the state. Not only are they undefeated, but they have 3 wins over quality D-I teams in Alvirne, Trinity and Timberlane. All 3 of those teams are legit contenders for a top 8 seed in D-I, and Winnacunnet still beat each won by 15+ points. It appears the only teams who would have any chance against them are Londonderry and maybe Pinkerton. What's most impressive about the Warriors is that they only have 1 senior starter (Sam Corcoran) and 1 other senior contributor off the bench (Kiel DiPetro), so next year they should be even better, although Corcoran is critical to the success of this year's squad.

As for Londonderry, they certainly did seem beatable when BG pushed them to the brink and only prevailed 58-55. And right now it looks like the 3 quality teams I mentioned that Winnacunnet beat by 15+ points are just as good as BG. The Lancers have had a fairly soft schedule thus far, with games vs. Keene, Concord, Salem and Spaulding. They're in the midst of a very difficult schedule right now though, with South, Memorial, Pinkerton, Dover, North and Winnacunnet all in a row. That's 6 straight games against potential top 8 teams.

Pinkerton is the only other unbeaten in D-I. They've also had a fairly soft schedule, but they do have double digit wins over both Trinity and Timberlane. The also made it to the championship game of the Greater Lawrence Holiday Tournament before losing to Andover. Andover just might be the best high school girls team in all of New England, and Pinkerton gave them a pretty good game.

Parity and Inconsistency = Keywords
Parity because other than Winnacunnet and Londonderry, it's pretty wide open. With the other 18 teams ranked on the list, if you took any 2 of the teams and matched them up there's no telling what would happen. That's what I cal parity, and it makes the season fun. At the same time, there have also been some blowouts among these teams. 2 examples of this are Portsmouth and BG. Last week Portsmouth BARELY lost to Oyster River (#3 ranked D-II team in preseason) and then days later they lost by 20 to Merrimack Valley (not even a top 8 team in preseason). Then you also have BG, a preseason top 5 team who pushed #2 ranked Londonderry to the brink losing 58-55. But then last week they lost by 20 to Alvirne. Bottom line, the 20 teams ranked here are all very good squads, and teams 3-20 are all pretty evenly matched. But many of these teams are young and inconsistent. The teams that can win consistently and against good teams will be the ones ranked higher as the season goes on.

Injury Updates in D-II
Markey Flewelling has played all season so far for Portsmouth. She is healthy and playing very well. This is notable because Flewelling (pictured above) missed all of last season with knee injuries. She's a junior guard who played at Winnacunnet as a freshman before transferring to Portsmouth. I was impressed with her ability to slash to the basket and also make outside shots in their game vs. Oyster River last week. More good news in Clipper Land is that they should finally be getting senior guard Ali Beauregard back in the lineup soon. Beauregard suffered a high ankle sprain on the first day of practice and has yet to see the court since. She did average 14 points a game though as a junior, so when she comes back, along with Flewelling and senior Susie French Portsmouth is definitely a team that will be able to make some noise down the stretch.

Another player expected to return from injury soon is Melissa Frase from Kennett. Frase tore her ACL over the summer while playing in an AAU tournament, but hopes to return to the lineup later this month. Even without her in the lineup, Kennett has gone undefeated so far, although they have had a very soft schedule.

Finally, Souhegan continues to have injury woes of their own. On the very first day she was cleared to play and returned to practice after suffering a torn ACL, Sabers senior guard Taylor Cordts once again injured the same knee. It was the third time she has torn her ACL, and Cordts is out for the year. This is very unfortunate news, as it must be very frustrating to work your way back from an injury only to re-injure is again. This is news you hate to report, best of luck to Taylor in the future. Souhegan's other injury plagued star was also out of the lineup last week. Tori Forrest, who recently returned from a knee injury of her own, was out last week with a back injury. She hopes to back in the lineup for the Saber's big game with Hollis on Tuesday night.

North Emerging as Surprise Team
Early on in the season the surprise team (and by that I mean teams who were playing far better than their preseason ranking) were Timberlane and Pinkerton. Nashua North has officially joined them in that category. They crack my top 5 teams, as Rocky Oliver has his girls playing very good basketball right now. In their last 3 games the Lady Titans have beaten BG, Alvirne and Timberlane. They won all 3 games by at least 8 points, and beat a good, experienced Timberlane tea 53-35. If you count all 4 of their holiday tourney games North has won 6 games in a row. Their next 3 games are against Keene, Concord and Salem, so look for them to make it 9 wins in a row pretty soon. One of the keys to their success of late has been the play of senior guard Tori Sousa. Sousa, who hasn't played basketball since she she was a freshmen, won co-MVP honors at the Nashua North holiday tournament.

Some BIG Games on the Docket This Week
There's a few games on the schedule this week that really jump out at you. The 2 biggest games would be Conant vs. Campbell on Thursday night and on Friday night it's Pinkerton vs. Londonderry.

Conant/Campbell is a match-up of the top two teams in Division III. The two teams met in the last year's title game, with Conant prevailing in a classic. Both teams have 1,000 point scoring point guards as well, with Brooke Springfield for Conant and Kristen Hrubowchak for Campbell. Going into the season I expected both teams to be unbeaten heading into this contest. But Campbell lost by 5 to a Somersworth team that has 2 losses. While that loss takes some of the luster away from this game, you can bet it will still be a terrific battle on Thursday night in Litchfield.

Then on Friday night you have #2 ranked Londonderry vs. #3 ranked Pinkerton. Not only are they 2 of the top 3 teams in the state, but they're also big rivals.

Other key matchup-s this week include Souhegan vs. Hollis, Londonderry vs. Memorial and Winnacunnet vs. BG. All 3 games will be played on Tuesday night.

Without any further ado, here are the current top 20 girls basketball teams in NH:

1) Winnacunnet
2) Londonderry
3) Pinkerton
4) Lebanon
5) Nashua North
6) Alvirne
7) Manchester Memorial
8) Hollis-Brookline
9) Souhegan
10) Bishop Guertin
11) Kennett
12) Oyster River
13) Conant
14) Campbell
15) Timberlane
16) Merrimack Valley
17) Portsmouth
18) Dover
19) Trinity
20) Nashua South

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