Sunday, January 16, 2011

Updated Statewide Boys Basketball Power Rankings - 1/16


A new week brings a new set of rankings. Enjoy. Girls rankings will be posted in the next couple of days.

Salem and Spaulding Making Some Noise
Both teams showed they were for real on Friday night. Salem went on the road to Dover and gave the Green Wave a 47-27 beat down. Spaulding meanwhile went up against the previously #3 ranked Bishop Guertin Cardinals and pulled out an 84-78 overtime victory.

Many people questioned how good Salem would be this season. Former head coach EJ Perry, who led the Blue Devils to back-to-back Class L titles just a couple years ago and was widely considered one of the best coaches in the state left Salem to take over as the football coach at nearby Andover High in Mass. The team also graduated its best player from last yea in all-state guard Alex LaRosa. But you have to give credit to the program's new head coach, Rob McLaughlin. While this is his first varsity head coaching gig, McLaughlin was Perry's assistant for the past 15+ years, so he had a pretty darn good teacher. The Blue Devils might not have a ton of offensive firepower, but it's their defense and rebounding that's been winning them games. They're allowing an average of just 43.5 point per game, and they only gave up 27 to Dover. Salem players Jonny Klecan, Matt Cannone and Mike Lorenz are some of the better defenders in the state. Lorenz and senior Joe Gallant have been dominating the boards. And on offense you can't forget about the sharpshooting Jeff Meisser, who drained 13, that's right 13 three-pointers in a fall league game vs. Trinity.

Spaulding was the trendy sleeper pick in Division I heading into the season. I saw them scrimmage Somersworth before the season started. While I thought they looked like a pretty good team, they did graduate their best player from last year in Brad Mondoux, plus Glenn Roderick (who may have led the entire state in charges taken). But what I was impressed with that game, as well as in the Oyster River Holiday Classic finals where I saw them beat Portsmouth was the Red Raider's ability to pressure the basketball defensively and force turnovers. Their back court of Justin Slattery and Taylor Guilian might be small, but make no mistake they're lightning quick and tenacious on the defensive end of the floor. Slattery had 9 steals in the Somersworth scrimmage, and Guilian just plays the game with a ton of energy. If you struggle breaking the press you're going to lose to Spaulding, it's that simple. Connor Noe, PJ Juneau and Luke Roberts also do a nice job of pressuring the basketball coming off the bench. They provide the depth so that the Red Raiders are able to play that style of basketball and not get tired late in the game. Ian Christie is an underrated big man, and offensively they have Brian Cronin and Dominic Paradis who are both capable of going for 15-20 points on a given night.


Log Jam in D-II
Milford is still hands down the best team in the division. They still haven't won a game by less than 10 points. And on Friday night they went to Hanover and beat the Marauders (who were 5-1 going into that game) by 27, 75-48. However, after Milford you do have a log jam of teams. Besides Milford, there are 7 other Division II teams that are ranked, including Portsmouth, Souhegan, Pelham, Lebanon, Pembroke, Oyster River and Goffstown. These 7 squads are all pretty good and evenly matched.

Kyle DiCesare returns on Monday night vs. Kingswood from his 6 game suspension, and that is enough to rank Portsmouth as the #2 team in the division (right where I had them in the preseason. Watch out for the Clippers to really emerge over the next couple of weeks. Guards Kamahl Walker and Terrance Herbert have had to take on an increased role on the team with DiCesare out, and that experience has made them both better players. Now with DiCesare back in the lineup, watch out for this team. They play good defense, they play as a team and they're well coached.

But don't sleep on these other teams either. Their really isn't a whole lot that separates #8 ranked Portsmouth from #18 ranked Goffstown. Pembroke is currently ranked as the #6 team in the division, but I could see them ending up higher than that. It just shows the depth of quality teams you have at the top of the division. Lebanon is a team that could be dangerous, and is flying under the radar. They've only lost 1 game, to Kearsarge, but they avenged that loss to beating the Cougars by double digits last week. Lebanon also took Souhegan to overtime in a thriller in the Keene State Holiday Tourney. Then you have Goffstown, whose offense has been one of the biggest stories of the season so far. The Grizzlies have scored over 100 twice, plus they scored 87 against Bedford and 98 at Plymouth. Their lowest scoring output was 60 in their only loss of the season to Oyster River. I know that Goffstown has a talented back court with seniors Ryan Lange and Brandon Shea, but even I am surprised to see these numbers.


Rough Start for Last Year's D-I Finalists
Pinkerton and Winnacunnet both made great runs to last year's championship game. But both teams are really struggling so far this season, and may not even make the tournament. Pinkerton is off to a 2-3 start, including a loss to a Concord team that hadn't won a game since the 2007-2008 season. Their only wins so far are over Keene and Timberlane, both teams who missed the tournament a year ago. Obviously losing Zach Mathieu and Ben Proulx is big, as those 2 guys were relied upon heavily in the Astro's title run. I ranked them as the #9 team in D-I in the preseason though, because they did return a solid core group of players from that team, including point guard Chad Park, big man Alex Patrikis, defensive stopper Ryan Williams, plus Chris Light and Kevin Colbert. It just hasn't happened yet for this team though.

Winnacunnet meanwhile lost to Keene last week, and currently sports a 1-4 record. Their only win is over Timberlane. I saw the Warriors play quite a few times during fall league action, and while I knew they were a young team I knew they had a great coach and a player in Shaun Munson who not only had some big playoff performances last March but he has improved a lot since then. I thought they'd be at least a little better than this. But Steve Cronan, Sean Dolan and Spencer Cutting are still shaking off the football rust, 6'6" junior Christian Oweifie still has much developing to do and a pair of freshmen (Chris Doyle and Rich Ruffin) are seeing big minutes.

It's still early though! Neither of these teams had big starts last year either. Last season during the holidays Pinkerton barely beat Greater Lawrence Tech in the Greater Lawrence Holiday Tournament, while Winnacunnet was playing in the 5th place game of the Oyster River Holiday Classic. It's a long season, and it's not how you start but how you finish. Both Pinkerton and Winnacunnet were living proof of that last year. Other teams hoping to rebound from slow starts are Merrimack and Dover, and in Division II John Stark and Coe Brown.


Without any further ado, here are the updated Power Rankings:

1. Milford
2. Trinity
3. Manchester Central
4. Manchester Memorial
5. Salem
6. Spaulding
7. Bishop Guertin
8. Portsmouth
9. Souhegan
10. Pelham
11. Lebanon
12. Pembroke
13. Manchester West
14. Oyster River
15. Nashua North
16. Londonderry
17. Dover
18. Goffstown
19. Merrimack
20. Bow

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