Sunday, March 20, 2011

Granite Games 2011 - Event Recap

The Granite Games took place on Sunday at NHTI. The event was ran by the NHBCO (New Hampshire Basketball Coaches Organization) and featured the top senior players (boys and girls) from across the state in all 4 divisions.

This article includes my thoughts on the event, brief game recaps of all 4 games, plus video highlights for the D-I vs. D-II boys game. If anyone would like a copy of the full game tape with play-by-play for this game, email nhnotebook@yahoo.com



Thoughts on the Event
It was a great event and I was glad to be able to be there and cover it. You get to see some good basketball, the kids are presented with their all-state awards and able to be recognized for the excellent seasons, and seemingly every coach from across the state was there and as well as the parents of the senior players. It was nice to chat and reminisce with the coaches and parents looking back at the season, and back at the careers of the seniors. I enjoy the relationships I have with so many of the coaches and parents almost as much as I enjoy covering the games themselves. Thanks to all of them for their support of the site!

More than anything though, this event recognized the all-state players for a good season. And it gives all of the top senior players one last hurrah and is a nice way for them to end their careers before heading off to their college teams or wherever they end up going.

Another thing that I liked about the event was the use of a shot clock in the games. Not that anyone is going to hold the ball for 2 straight minutes in an all-star game, but it did help to create more of an up-tempo game which was fun to watch.

I also liked the atmosphere in the gym. I was there all day, for all 4 games. And it was a who's who of NH high school basketball. All of the top players (girls and boys) from all across the state, along with the coaches and parents were there. Of course it was the last game for all of these seniors, and many of them grew up playing with or against each other on high school, AAU teams, at showcases, etc. So before and after games it was nice to see people gathering, taking pictures, socializing out in the hall where the couches and food were, etc. Great atmosphere, and the programs the NHBCO put together for the event were also top notch (although I accidentally left mine at the gym!).

I do think though that some of these games lost some of their luster with there being no NH/VT Rotary Games this year. In the past the NHBCO used the Granite Games as a tryout for which players would make the NH roster to play in the rotary game vs. Vermont. It gave the Granite Games more meaning, and gave the kids something to play for. Now with no Granite Games this year they are simply exhibition games with nothing really at stake. But it still nice to have all the seniors be recognized and play one last game.

And while it was a great atmosphere inside, the gym at NHTI is definitely a little small for an event that draws so many people. It really got overcrowded at times over by the admission table. Many people standing and watching since there wasn't enough seats for everyone.

Now, on to the game recaps.


D-I vs. D-II (boys)
Well, this was definitely the most entertaining game of the evening. Check out the video highlights at the top of the article for all of the top plays. It was definitely hard to narrow it down, as the whole game was basically one long highlight reel. It was expected to be a close game, but looking at the rosters you would have to say that D-I had a deeper team and should win it by a few points. That's exactly what happened, as the D-I all-staters took it 133-129.

That's right, 133-129. Lots of offensive firepower was on display, and not a lot of defense was being played. David Madol (Manchester Memorial) had a game-high 28 points, and Connor Green (Bishop Guertin) had 27. Yes, these 2 stars were both on the same team in this game. You also had the likes of John Wickey (Manchester Central), Shomari Morgan (Manchester Memorial), Sean McClung (Bishop Guertin), Joe Gallant (Salem), Mike Colby (Londonderry), Zach Stevens (Trinity), Caleb Donnelly (Alvirne), Brian Cronin (Spaulding) and Dover's Morgan Faustino and Kenaan Al-Darraji. Top to bottom it was a stacked team for D-I, there's no getting around that.

At a couple of points the lead for the D-I team got to by 10 or 11 points. They led at the half 74-63. But the D-II team, led by Milford's "Big 3" of Jamie Holder (14 1st half points), Mike O'Loughlin (team-high 23 points, including a personal 6-0 run late in the game to cut the D-I lead to 113-111. And Mike Mitchell who was simply a wizard out there with the basketball in his hands. Mitchell put on a show, especially in the 2nd half. He had 8 points, and must have had at least 10 assists. He had 1 terrific pass on the break to Riley McCarthy (Portsmouth) for a layup, and then another great play where he hustled after a loose ball, jumped up like he was going to shoot the ball, drew a help side defender and then made a great pass in mid-air over to Steve Spirou (Pelham) for the layup. The crowd was very quiet for this game, but when it got loud it was usually because of a great play by Mitchell.

Green was hitting some shots from WAY outside, and at one point the D-I team went on a 12-2 run, with all 12 points coming on three-pointers by a BG player. Green hit 3 of them and McClung hit 1. All 4 shots came in about a 1 minute span. Guertin head coach Jim Migneault was coaching the D-I team, and it had to be bittersweet for him knowing this is the last time he'll be able to coach that talented duo.

Then you also had Madol who had at least 4 or 5 slam dunks in this game, and continued to show the ability to play the game above the rim, and with athleticism that could end up getting him a basketball scholarship down the road. Madol plans on playing at a prep school next season.

Another nice thing about this game was that everybody got into the scoring column. At one point early in the 2nd half I looked at my notes and noticed there were 4 players who hadn't yet scored - Al-Darraji, Stevens, Colby and Seth Cordts. Then all 4 players scored in the span of about 2 minutes.

While Milford's "Big 3" all had big games, it was a couple of guys you wouldn't necessarily expect to stand out who did which also contributed significantly to the D-II team only losing by 4. McCarthy and Alex Wageling from Goffstown both played some terrific basketball in this game. McCarthy had 16 points, over 10 rebounds and a blocked shot. He doesn't get a lot of hype, just quietly goes out there, works hard and does his job. And Wageling had 18 points on the game, second only to O'Loughlin on the D-II team. All of Wageling's points came from three-point range, as he really got hot shooting the basketball. Adam Goodwin (Oyster River) also had a nice game with 14 points and 8 rebounds.

At halftime the following awards were presented: D-I Player of the Year - Madol, D-II POY - Spirou, NH Mr. Basketball - Green, D-I Coach of the Year - Rob McLaughlin (Salem) and D-II Coach of the Year - Dan Murray (Milford).


D-III vs. D-IV (boys)
Entertaining game, it was D-III vs. D-IV but there was definitely a good amount of talent on display. This game was very close in the beginning, but then ended up getting a little out of hand with D-III winning it 97-61.

Early on it was a back-and-forth game with a handful of lead changes. As expected, Adrian Edgerly (Newmarket) and Ben Hill (Pittsfield) were leading the way for the Division IV team to keep them in it. Edgerly was able to get to the basket and get to the line. Hill had a nice match-up in the middle for much of the game with Conner Torrey (Mascoma). D-IV led 4-2, but then D-III made a 7-0 run, led by a pair of Bow players - Josh Faber hit a three from the top of the key and then Connor Hill made a superb move on the break, spinning and then finishing with the left hand for 2.

It was all tied up at 21-21. Then Josh Morgan (Campbell) hit a pair of threes from WAY beyond the arc which really seemed to swing the momentum over to the D-III team. After one three by Morgan it gave D-III a 38-24 lead. Then Anuj Vadalia (Derryfield) made a nice and-1 finish in transition to help keep the D-IV team in the game.

The depth of the D-III all-stars started to take over as the game wore on, and they just kept increasing their lead. Ezra Hodgson (Conant) and Mikey Martel (Mascenic) also played well.

At halftime it was announced that Torrey won D-III Player of the Year and his coach at Mascoma, Jim Barry won Coach of the Year.


D-I vs. D-II (girls)
Another entertaining game with a lot of talent on the floor. Just looking at the rosters before the game you would have to think that the D-II team would actually have a pretty good shot a win. They had the game's 2 best players on their team (Danielle Walczak of Oyster River and Kennett's Allie Wagner), plus 2 other players who you could argue are just as good as anyone on the D-I roster (Katie Cullerot from John Stark and Wagner's Kennett teammate Melissa Frase).

But it wasn't meant to be. Walczak suffered a high ankle sprain in the Bobcats quarterfinal playoff game vs. Kennett (who else?) so she didn't play. And Wagner also didn't play. So even though D-II had a number of other quality players (like Sara Romano from Lebanon, Christan Wojtas of Souhegan, Portsmouth's Susie French and Megan Hardiman of Merrimack Valley), the Division I team was just too deep and too talented. They win it 100-77.

Cullerot played an excellent game for the D-II team to keep them in it for most of the way. And Hanover wing Emma Rosen also played well. But when you have Caitlin Ackerman (Nashua South), Savanna Butterfield (Londonderry), Samantha Corcoran (Winnacunnet), DJ Purcell (Alvirne), Katherine Harris (Pinkerton), Rachael Carter (Merrimack), Emilee Marro (Trinity) and Ashley Gendron (Manchester Memorial) all on the same team. Well let's just say a team with all of those girls on it is not very likely to lose.

Carter had a nice drive and and-1 finish on the break, Harris had a strong all-around game and Purcell was also impressive. French also capped off a strong senior season with a nice performance in this game as well. Yes it was an all-star game, but you had to be impressed with the ball movement and unselfishness, especially on the part of the D-I team.

At halftime Walczak won the award for Ms. Basketball as well as D-II Player of the Year (for the 2nd straight year). Butterfield won D-I POY, and for Coach of the Year Dover's Dan Casey won it in D-I while Joe Raycraft from Merrimack Valley won it in D-II.


D-III vs. D-IV (girls)
The D-III all-staters won it 71-57. With a star studded lineup that included Brooke Springfield (Conant), Kristen Hrubowchak (Campbell) and Angie Michalski (Inter-Lakes) you had to consider the D-III girls heavy favorites in this one. All 3 of those girls are top 20 senior prospects in NH. Not surprisingly they jumped out to a 20 point lead, as 2 players who are both 1,000 point scorers and battled against each other in the last 2 title games (Springfield and Hrubowchak) were now on the same team. Kendra Toellner (Bow) also played well for the D-III team.

The D-IV team got better as the game went on though, and did a nice job of hanging in there and cut the lead down to 14 when it was all said and done. 2 players who impressed me for D-IV were Kelley Collins (Groveton) and Taylor Fiore (Epping). Collins went to the basket hard and was able to get to the line, while Fiore showed some good strength, athleticism and versatility.

At halftime of this game Springfield was named the division's Player of the Year for the 3rd consecutive season. Campbell head coach Shawn Flynn won D-III Coach of the Year. Derryfield's Bethany Kalliel, who is only a junior, took home Player of the Year honors for D-IV.

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