The story of this year's tournament was the dominance of the Bishop Elite program. Based out of Manchester and run by Memorial JV coach Sudi Lett, Bishop Elite entered 4 teams into the tourney - all 4 of them won the championship for their respective age group. They won the 13U, 14U, 16U and 17U titles.
All in all, I was impressed with the basketball that I saw over the weekend. Due to other commitments I wasn't there as much as I would have liked, but I still got a chance to see all of the top teas and players in action. The best competition was in the 14U and 16U pools, and I saw plenty of those pool's top teams.
Here are the video highlights for Bishop Elite's 17U, 16U and 14U championship teams, followed by my tournament recap.
10U (4th Grade) - NH Spartans d. NH Fastbreak
11U (5th Grade) - NH Spartans d. NH Fastbreak
12U (6th Grade) - NH Spartans CAMPBELL d. YMCA Manchester Wildcats
13U (7th Grade) - Bishop Elite d. NH Spartans MACKEY
14U (8th Grade) - Bishop Elite d. Portsmouth Elite
15U (9th Grade) - NH Spartans d. Granite State Thunder
16U (10th Grade) - Bishop Elite d. Granite State Raiders
17U (11th Grade) - Bishop Elite d. Next Level Basketball
Considering the fact that the 8 players on the Bishop Elite were also the 8 best players in the 17U pool, it was no surprise that they're the team that took home the trophy. The Bishop have an all-star team made up of the top juniors in NH, including Gabe LaCount (Manchester Central), Logan Kesty (Bishop Guertin), Tyler Gendron (Merrimack), Wol Majong (Trinity), Devin Gilligan (Souhegan), Trevor Fahmy (Bedford), Anthony Muccioli (Nashua South) and Chris Light (Pinkerton).
All 8 of the Bishop Elite players were impressive and despite being a team loaded with individual talent they still did a nice job of sharing the basketball and setting each other up for good looks. They might not have gotten too big of a challenge this past weekend, but this is a Bishop Elite team that has high aspirations, and will now look to see how they stack up against some tougher competition around the country.
LaCount and Gendron really played well for Bishop Elite. LaCount played the game at a fast pace, constantly pushing the tempo and creating plays off the dribble. He was able to get by his man at will and made some nice dishes and also hit the outside jumper. Gendron continues to show a versatile skill set and was most effective when he ran the floor and finished on the break. He also had a smooth stroke from long range, especially for a 6'4" kid.
Other standouts for the Bishop 17's were Gilligan and Kesty. Gilligan made plays off the dribble and had some strong finishes inside. Kesty showed a well rounded offensive arsenal, looking for his shot but also creating for his teammates.
Bishop Elite's toughest competition in state's was runner-up Next Level Basketball. This is a team that normally has the likes of Zach Stevens (Trinity), Mike Lombard (Proctor Academy), Skyler Mitchell (Coe-Brown) and Frankie Beane (Hopkinton). When I saw the 2 teams square off on Saturday none of those 4 guys were in uniform for Next Level. If they were it would have been a much closer game. 4 players who did play well in that game to keep the score at least respectable against the talented Bishop Elite squad were Matt Dean (Gilford), Kohl Meyers (Kingswood), Jonathan Fitzgerald (Mascoma) and Tyler Morrison (Pembroke).
The other 2 teams in the bracket were the Lakes Region Rebels and NH Fire. The Rebels were coached by Plymouth State Assistant Coach Kyle Taylor and were led by Moultonborough High sophomore guard Drew Swedberg. The Fire are a team made up of Milford and Conant players, and were led by Conant High sophomore guard Jake Carlson.
This was a very competitive pool, with a lot of games that were fun to watch. In the end it was Bishop Elite defeating the Granite State Raiders in the final, but the NH Spartans, NH Titans and NE Storm were all very strong teams as well.
The championship-winning Bishop Elite team included Mabor Gabriel (Trinity), Tong Akot (Memorial), Zoubel Iradakunda (Memorial), Majak Wenyin (Memorial), Joel Mayola (Memorial), Zach Grattan (John Stark), Nicolas Lloyd (John Stark), Troy Pelletier (Manchester Central), Richard O'Brien (Brewster Academy), Brandon Malloch (Merrimack) and Trevor Glassman (Bedford).
The Raiders were definitely one of the top teams in the pool, and with guys like Rene Maher (Pembroke), Pat Welch (Pembroke), Matt Persons (Pembroke) and David Hampton (Lebanon) many considered them to be the favorites to win it. After all, no other squad had 4 guys who can handle the basketball and shoot it like them.
However the Bishop Elite team was bigger and deeper, and that was the difference. The Raider's weakness was their lack of size, and Bishop Elite had Gabriel and Grattan who are both 6'7". The Raiders also relied heavily on their starting 5 (which also included Jordan Williams from Pembroke), while Bishop Elite could go 9-10 deep and just keep coming at you with guys were were quick, athletic and skilled.
One of the best games of the tournament took place on Sunday between the Raiders and the NH Titans. The Titans were led by the small but talented back court of Brandon Len (Souhegan) and Dawson Dickson (Trinity).
Both of them played very well in this game, and the Raiders had a cold shooting 1st half. The Titans led for the majority of the half before they started to heat up and took a 26-25 lead at the break.
In the 2nd half the intensity really picked up and both teams really gave it everything they had. Pat Welch caught fire shooting the ball to begin the 2nd half, as did David Hampton and Matt Persons. They took a 9 point lead, but then the Titans just kept fighting back. Len made a great play late by picking up a loose ball, and with 2 defenders on him he went hard to the basket for a terrific and-1 finish. Tyler Ford (Souhegan) also made some nice plays on both ends of the floor for the Titans. He's a good defender and this past season he was the MVP of the Souhegan JV team. Dickson also hit a big three-pointer late to make it a 1 possession game.
But then Rene Maher made a big time play in the game's last minute, driving to the rim, slicing through the Titan's defense and making a nice and-1 finish. The Raiders then hit some free throws at the end to seal the
Other good teams in the 16u pool were the NH Spartans and NE Storm. The Spartans are a good, scrappy team. Matt Barr (Exeter) played well during the weekend, as the team's go-to scorer. He was strong with the ball, even when he was being pressured defensively. The team's floor general is Jack Mackey (Portsmouth), a tough, hard nosed point guard who leaves it all out on the floor. Malcolm Woodliff (Portsmouth) is an athletic 6'1" wing player who can slash to the rim and make plays. And if there was one player at the tourney who had the most people saying, "Hey, who is that kid?" It would be the Spartan's center, Caleb McKearen. McKearen is only a sophomore but he is 6'7" with good athleticism and the ability to run the floor and block shots. Unfortunately he goes to Mt. Zion Christian Academy, and according to Lebanon coach Keith Matte that school no longer has a basketball team. He is a litchfield resident though, so he could go to Campbell. If he did the Cougars would have a very talented young nucleus with McKearen, Max Gouveia, Jesiah Wade and Jacob Morgan. McKearen definitely has lots of potential though, and could be a scary player down the road if he keeps working on his offensive skill set.
The NE Storm made it to the semi-finals before falling to the champs Bishop Elite. Windham native Doug Gemmel (Central Catholic) played well, as well as Gouveia, Steven Toscano (Bishop Guertin) and Andrew Ruffen (Salem).
The NH Spartans won the title by defeating the Granite State Thunder. The Spartans were led by guards Chris Doyle (Winnacunnet) and Nick Mackey (Portsmouth). They played good team basketball and even though they were a smaller team than the Thunder they used their quickness to their advantage. The Thunder had 6'8" center Collin McManus (Bedford). McManus still has some work to do, but he played hard, rebounded well and looked for his shot on offense. Cam Meservey (Bedford) also played well, by slashing to the rim from the wing and also made a nice play defensively by hustling back on defense and blocking a shot from behind on the break.
Another player who had crowds buzzing was Jesiah Wade (Campbell). Wade turned heads with his athleticism and explosiveness. Another team that struggled a little bit was the NH Fire, made up of players from Milford and Conant. They did get strong play though from Conant guards Kyle Charland and Robert O'Brien.
The teams in this pool are made up of kids who are still in the 8th grade. And while normally I prefer to keep this site focused strictly on high school sports, I have to make an exception here. That is because of how impressed I was with some of the teams and players in this bracket. If what I saw from this pool is any indication, the future of NH basketball is VERY bright. Many of these players will be making an impact on their varsity teams as early as next season, if not then definitely by their sophomore year.
Like the tournament as a whole, the story of this pool was the Bishop Elite Team. On Saturday I saw these guys score 48 points - in the 1st half! They did it against a tough, scrappy Granite State Gladiator team, which included 6'1" forward Luke Rosinski (son of Pinkerton coach Pete Rosinski).
The Bishop Elite 14U team was led by their "Big 3" of 6'0" Jourdain Bell, 5'11" Oumaru Kante and 6'2" Kabongo Ngalakulondi. All 3 of these guys showed the ability to break the man down off the dribble, once they got there they made some acrobatic finishes at the rim and they can all shoot it from deep as well. They're a scary trio to face, and it's hard to believe that all 3 of them are only in 8th grade. They're very quick and explosive and are able to play the game at a speed that is just too fast for their opponents. Bell and Kante are both very talented combo-guards who are nearly impossible to guard 1-on-1. Bell is already very strong physically and Kante can really handle the basketball well.
Ngalakulondi meanwhile reminds me a lot of a young Noah Vonleh. Even though Ngalakulondi is a little shorter than Vonleh was when he was 14, he is definitely built stronger than Vonleh was at that time. And as far as skill sets go, Vonleh was definitely more developed than Ngalakulondi as far as his inside game and rebounding go, but Ngalakulondi has developed his perimeter game quicker than Vonleh has. Ngalakulondi already has good form and touch on his outside shot, and the ability to put the ball on the floor and go by people. Vonleh didn't develop those skills until later down the road. Both players have tremendous athleticism, and they both have those long strides as they drive to the basket.
According to Coach Sudi Lett, Bell will be going to Concord High, Kante will be attending Manchester Memorial and Ngalakulondi is headed to Manchester Central.
2 other standout players for the Bishop Elite 14's were 6'2" wing player Wenyin Gabriel and 5'9" guard Wade Gop. Gabriel is a tough match up because of his ability to shoot the ball and also put it on the floor for a kid his size. Gop is a tough, fearless competitor who is lightning quick. He can also shoot the ball from the outside, has a good handle and plays tough defense on the ball.
The other 8th grader at the tournament who had crowds buzzing was 6'2" Ian Sistare. Sistare made headlines during the winter when he scored 66 points in a middle school game. This was my first chance to see Sistare play, and the kid definitely has game. He has a strong frame, good fundamentals and can slash to the basket with either hand, utilizing an effective spin move and also showing a nice pull-up jumper. He plays for the NH Wave AAU team, coached by Trinity High freshmen coach Matt Lemieux. Even though Sistare is from Peterborough he will be attending Trinity in the fall.
One of the best games in the 14U pool was between Portsmouth Elite and Granite State Raptors. It was a fun game to watch and was played at a high level. Portsmouth Elite ended up pulling out a hard fought win. The Raptors have a talented back court though which kept them in the game the whole way. They have 5'6" point guard Austin Franzen (going to BG in the fall) and 5'9" combo guard Dominic O'Neil. The player with the highest upside in this game was 6'3" forward Devonn Wilson-Miles, an athletically gifted player who ran the floor and blocked shots. Brett Hansen from Deerfield who is a very good point guard.
Other 8th graders to watch out for next year would be Andrew Davidson from the NH Wave and Ryan Brown from the NH Spartans.