Friday, February 11, 2011

Spaulding Boys With Good Win Over Central

Going into the season my top 2 teams in Division I boys basketball were Bishop Guertin and Manchester Central. Spaulding has now beaten both of them.

"I honestly think that no team is unbeatable this year" said Spaulding senior captain Brian Cronin, who helped lead the red raiders to a 42-39 victory over Central on Friday night in Rochester.

Watch out for Spaulding, folks. Yes they have 5 losses, but 3 of those losses came with starting forward Dominic Paradis out of the lineup. Paradis, a 6'4" sophomore, missed 4 games with mono. Spaulding went 1-3 in those games. They are 7-2 with him, including wins over BG and central, with the only losses coming to Salem and Memorial (2 very good teams). The only game the rest of the way that I can see these guys maybe losing is to Trinity in 2 weeks. And even if they lose that one they'll still be 12-6 (11-3 with Paradis).

Triumphant Return for Paradis
Most kids take MUCH longer than this to come back from mono. Often times it can take months to fully recover. But Paradis was back in just 2 weeks. Not only was this his first game back, but he was going up against 6'7" senior forward John Wickey for Central, who is one of the top 3 players in the entire state. Paradis more than held his own against the bigger, more experienced Wickey, dropping a team-high 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.

"He's one of the most dedicated players you're going to find" said Cronin about Paradis. "Dom is always in the gym working on his game. I love playing with him, he's a good kid."

Wickey was able to score a game-high 18 points and pull down 11 rebounds. But it wasn't easy.

"Our game plan against him was to double down on him and make him work for everything he had."

The rest of the team was quiet though, as Gabe LaCount was in foul trouble for much of the game. And when he was in there, LaCount was a non-factor. He had just 2 points on the game.

"Gabe was out of sync tonight" said Manchester Central head coach Doc Wheeler. Him and the rest of our guys have the problem that when things are going well we are good. But the second things don't go our way we don't respond well. We lacked cohesion and communication tonight. I give credit to Spaulding, though. They had a good game plan and executed it."

Who'd a Thunk It?
If someone were to tell me before this game that Brian Cronin would go scoreless for the first 3 quarters and only score a total of 5 points on the evening yet Spaulding would still win this game I would have told the they were crazy. Well that's exactly what happened. In his last 2 games Cronin dropped 24 points on Nashua North and poured in 26 vs. Merrimack. But tonight he was being guarded by hands down one of the best defenders in the state in Junior Brown. It was a tough match-up for Cronin, as the tight defense of Brown made it very difficult for Cronin to get any good looks at the rim. With so much of Central's defense focused on stopping Cronin, other guys (like Paradis, Nick MacGregor and Luke Roberts) were all able to step up and make plays.

Cronin did play solid defense all game long. And he hit a big three-point in the 4th quarter. Central led 31-28 after 3 quarters. Then on the first possession of the 4th Cronin caught the ball on the left wing. Brown gave him just a little bit of space. And even though he was scoreless and was 0/8 from the floor up until that point Cronin still took the shot - he drained it, and we were all tied up at 31-31.

Cronin's Streak = Still Alive
Cronin has now made 24 consecutive foul shots, dating back to the loss to Memorial back on January 22. He was 2/2 tonight. It is a very impressive streak indeed.

Speaking of Free Throws...
They were VERY crucial in this game. Spaulding shot very well from the line, especially down the stretch. Central shot poorly from the line, especially down the stretch.

"We shot 4/12 from the line and missed a bunch of layups" said Coach Wheeler. "On the season we're only shooting about 50%, it's been a problem all along for us. We need to get that number up to 70%."

One a crucial series, both teams had 1 and 1 chances in the game's final minute. Spaulding made both of their shots, while Central missed the front end of theirs. Paradis, Cronin, MacGregor and Justin Slattery all hit big free throws in the 2nd half for the Red Raiders.

With 2.6 seconds left, Wickey went to the line for 2 shots after he was able to grab an offensive board, go up strong with it and get fouled. Spaulding was up 40-38, so if Wickey made both shots we would likely be headed to overtime. Instead the senior missed the first shot. Now if I'm Central in that situation I would have had Wickey miss the second shot on purpose and hope you get the offensive rebound. Then you had 2 seconds left with the ball, in the front court, down just 2. But instead he made the second shot, the Little Green fouled Spaulding, they made both free throws. Now Central doesn't get the ball back until there's just 1.1 second left and central had the ball in the back court. A desperation shot from 3/4 court was no good. Game over.

Tremendous Defense Was Played on Both Sides
If you're a fan of tough, hard nosed, in-your-face defense you liked this game. I mentioned Brown is one of the best defenders in the state, and he is. But Slattery is also one of the best defenders in the state and he showed it once again this evening. The kid is simply a tenacious on-the-ball defender, wreaking havoc for whoever he covers. In the 2nd quarter, after a nice and-1 finish by Paradis tied the game up at 17-17, Slattery made a terrific steal around half court and then took it in for the easy layup. The 5'9" senior had 3 steals on the contest.

Noe Plays as Hard as Anybody in NH
Another player for Spaulding who deserves a special mention is Connor Noe. Simply put, this junior guard plays as hard as anybody in the state. The 2 best hustle plays I have seen all year have both come in the past week - Connor Noe has made both of them.

Last Saturday afternoon vs. Nashua North, Ian Christie had just hit a BIG three-pointer for Spaulding which tied the game all up at 62-62. North got the ball back with a chance to win it on the last possession of the 4th quarter. A North pass was tipped by a Spaulding player and it started to head out of bounds. Noe immediately sprinted towards the sideline to try and save the ball. He dove towards the ball, going out of bounds and slamming to the floor. He did manage to tip the ball back into play, but then it bounced back out of bounds off of his hand. Though the ball went back over to Nashua North it was an amazing hustle play.

In tonight's game it was a similar story. In the 3rd quarter (which went back and forth with Central and Spaulding trading the lead multiple times), a ball that was last touched by the Red Raiders was bouncing out of bounds. Noe sprinted over to it and dove head first into his own team's bench to try and save it. Again, this kid was laying it all out on the line to help his team. He is fearless.

Resilient Red Raiders
Not only was Paradis making his return to the lineup from mono, but Spaulding was missing 2 key guys from the lineup tonight. 6'2" senior forward Ian Christie is currently out with a concussion. And junior guard PJ Juneau is out for the year with an injured groin.

"Ian will be re-evaluated next week" said Spaulding head coach Tim Cronin. "They won't let him go to school until then too, which is isn't a good sign to me. With all of the injuries and adversity we have had though, we really rose to the occasion tonight. Our defense and rebounding were the keys."

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