Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Exeter Team Weekend 2011 - Event Recap

This past weekend 24 teams (16 varsity and 8 JV) took part in the Exeter Team Weekend 2011. It was a pool play style tournament which took place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Exeter High School. Many of the top boys basketball teams in the state competed in it, including teams like Bishop Guertin, Trinity and Dover, although there were teams from all 4 NHIAA divisions, including 1 team from Maine.

Teams played 6 games in 3 days, so it was a very good chance for them to get a lot of games in and against good competition and find out which of their players are in shape.

The NH Notebook was present at Exeter High on Saturday to cover the action. We saw 11 games on Saturday, including 15 of the 16 teams that were there. Here's our event recap.

First Things First
Before I go on, I must say - this was a really nice event. They had 3 games going on at all times, the games were on time, it was well organized. Exeter coach Jeff Holmes deserves credit for running it so well.

One thing teams might worry about with a summer tourney like this is going there only to end up playing the same teams they play against all summer long in summer league or teams in their division during the winter. That way you don't get stagnant, and you don't tip your hand to your rivals. In a tourney like this you would like to switch it up a little. Get some good, competitive games in, without playing the same teams all the time. But on Saturday I saw Lebanon play Winnacunnet, I saw Exeter play Moultonborough, I saw Pelham play Sanford (Maine) and I saw Portsmouth play Trinity. Now honestly, when other time would any of those match-ups ever happen? The answer is never, and that's one of the major reasons I enjoyed taking in the action on Saturday so much.

Now, on with the recap...

Championship Game: Bishop Guertin 62 Trinity 44
They met in the championship game of the BST Summer League last year, they met in the Division I championship game in Durham this past March. And now they meet once again in a championship game, this time in the Exeter Team Weekend. There should be no doubt who the 2 most dominant boys basketball teams in D-I have been over the past 12 months. On Saturday afternoon BG made it 3-0 in championship games vs. Trinity, as they beat the Pioneers 62-44.

The Cardinals went on a run early in the 2nd half, and it was virtually over with over 6 minutes left to play. BG went undefeated on the weekend, and with the win over Trinity they establish themselves as one of the definite favorites to win the D-I title next March. If they do, it would be their 2nd title in a row, with this one being even more impressive because they are graduating their entire starting lineup from this past winter's championship team.

BG might not be as deep as they were over the last couple years, but there's no question that once again they are quick, they will force turnovers on defense, they have shooters and they have players who will attack the rim, especially in transition.

One thing that definitely hurt Trinity in this game though was the absence of 6'7" center Andrew Lauderdale. Lauderdale suffered a sprained ankle in the semi-finals vs. Portsmouth, which was played right before the the title game. He is one of Trinity's starters, but had to sit this game out entirely. Sophomore wing player Carmen Giampetruzzi was also absent for trinity, so they were definitely not as deep as usual.

Still, even with those 2 players out you had to be expecting a closer game. Senior guard Brad Holler banked a three-pointer in off the glass, then converted an easy layup on the break after a Trinity turnover, giving Guertin their largest lead of the game, 37-26. They didn't look back from there. Senior guard Logan Kesty made a nice back-door cut and finished at the rim for 2, and the route was on.

The difference in the game was tempo. Trinity is a half court team, they want the game to be played at a slow pace. They want to work the ball around the perimeter, work it inside, and patiently work for open looks. They know they can compete with BG in a run-and-gun type of game. But unfortunately for the Pioneers, that's exactly the type of game BG made it.

Early on it was a close game, with Kesty and Trinity guard Jake Hamel exchanging three-pointers. Holler then hit a trey of his own from WAY behind the three-point line. Trinity 6'10" center Silvere Aluko then made a big time block from behind in transition. Then incoming freshman Ian Sistare made a nice drive-and-dish play to find Patrick Keefe under the basket for 2. The Pioneers were right in the game at that point, but then BG made their run.

Cooper Paul played tough defense, really gets up and down the floor in a hurry, and finished well on the break. Fellow starters Joe McCarthy and Nate Chartrand also played well for Guertin. Providing depth off the bench were Jordan Corbin, Jeff Lunn and Steve Toscano, for a BG team that was playing without one of their better reserves in sophomore guard CJ Boykin.

Coach Jim Migneault has to be pleased with the way his squad is playing right now. And as for Trinity, they are definitely not a team that is used to giving up 62 points in a game. Lauderdale is a physical player, and a good rebounder and defender for them. His absence definitely hurt. But still, many of BG's points came off turnovers, and trinity turned the ball over far too much in this game. They really had trouble with the Cardinal's intense defensive pressure, which they brought all game long. Travis Descoteaux and Dawson Dickson are both transferring out of the program, and Wol Majong is being ruled ineligible to play. Those would have likely been 3 guys who had have done most of the ball handling this winter for Trinity. So now coach Dave Keefe has to find some new answers in the back court, in addition to hoping that Lauderdale's injury isn't serious.

Semi-finals: Bishop Guertin over Nashua South
Give South credit, they didn't back down against BG and they battled with them all game until Guertin started to pull away at the end and hold on for a double digit win.

South actually led this game for a good amount of time in the 1st half. They were getting strong play on the perimeter from senior guard Anthony Muccioli and junior forward Jack Preston. Muccioli is in great shape, he is a very quick player and hit a nice three-pointer off the dribble. The 6'4" Preston is a rapidly-improving inside player who got position in the post and attacked the basket also did a nice job on the boards.

South is a tough defensive team, but BG was still able to get points on the board. Holler drained a silky smooth three off the dribble, then Paul made a nice take to get to the rim and finish.

It was a fast paced game, with both teams getting after it on defense and pushing the ball on offense. Purple Panthers junior guard Cody Wyatt made a nice drive and finish to try and keep South in the game. South sophomore point guard Tim Preston also played well, running the point and distributing the basketball effectively, even against the stingy BG defense. The 5'9" Preston is another quick guard who really played hard out there.

Guertin made a run in the 2nd half to put the lead up to around 10-15 points. The 6'4" Lunn drove to the basket from about 15 feet away and made a nice strong finish. Then Holler made a terrific pass on the break down court to Kesty for an easy layup.

Semi-finals: Trinity over Portsmouth
Trinity won this game 51-43. Trinity was able to slow the pace of the game down enough so it was to their liking, and they really played some tough defense which really made it tough for Portsmouth to get into a rhythm offensively. Pretty much every shot the Clippers took was contested, nothing came easy. It was a very impressive defensive effort for Trinity.

At the same time, you have to consider the fact that Portsmouth was playing pretty severely shorthanded. Kyle DiCesare, Greg Tsougranis and Charlie Duprey were all starters for Portsmouth last winter and will all be seniors this season. But none of them were in action on Saturday. Also, Terrance Herbert averaged over 10 points per game last year as a sophomore for the Clippers before leaving the team late in season. And he wasn't there either.

Yet Portsmouth was still able to make it to go 3-0 in pool play (including a 20 point win over Campbell) and advance to the semi-finals where they gave Trinity all they could handle. That should tell you just how deep this Portsmouth team is. They were led by senior guard Kamahl Walker and other returning varsity players Jeremy Eiholzer, 6'3" Jake Lehoux and 6'4" Alex Rigazio. The the Clippers also had a pair of talented guards in the lineup who weren't there last season but were both big contributors over the weekend. Billy Lane, who is one of the top football players in the state returns to the program after taking a year off from basketball last winter. Lane is a quick, explosive guard who attacked the rim and also hit a nice step-back three. The other talented newcomer in the Portsmouth back court is 5'9" guard Jack Mackey. Mackey played JV last year, but he has proven himself on both the AAU circuit (with the NH Spartans) and also over the weekend that he is clearly a varsity level player. he is a pass-first guard who can handle the ball against defensive pressure, makes the extra pass and always looks to push the ball in transition. Lehoux and Rigazio give the team some much needed size and rebounding underneath. Lehoux also showed the ability to step outside and shoot the basketball.

In the end though, Trinity though was just too much for a shorthanded Portsmouth team. Sistare, Jake Hamel, Mabor Gabriel, Lauderdale and Hunter Viscarello all played well for the Pioneers. Viscarello played excellent defense as usual, and Sistare continues to show why he he will be one of the top freshmen in NH this winter. Aluko also made some nice plays for Trinity down the stretch. He made a nice put-back off an offensive rebound, keeping the ball high and going back up strong with it. Gabriel and Sistare both made nice baskets inside on runners late in the game to seal the win.

Portsmouth didn't give up though. They trailed by 11 with just over a minute left, but only about 20 seconds later they were able to cut the Trinity lead to 6. The Clippers are a feisty bunch that never gives up.

Lauderdale injured his ankle with under a minute left, as Mackey went hard to the basket and went up with the ball, taking it right at the 260+ lbs. Lauderdale. The 2 players collided pretty good, as Lauderdale tried to take the charge. Mackey was slow getting up but was ok. He's a very tough kid. Lauderdale though suffered a sprained ankle and had to sit out the title game vs. Bishop Guertin.

Now here's a brief look at what we saw from the other teams who participated in this weekend's tournament...

On Saturday I saw them beat Alvirne in a close, hard fought game. Then after that they made a statement by going up against a good Pelham team and crushing them 70-45. The only game they lost on the weekend was to Trinity. Spaulding was a very tough team for anybody to play this past season, and you can expect the same to be true this upcoming winter.

Leading the way for the Red Raiders was 6'4" junior forward Dominic Paradis. Paradis has been starting since he was a freshman, but really looks like he's on the verge of a breakout year. He was on the court for the first time since suffering a broken hand 3 months ago, but you would have never guessed it from watching him play on Saturday. He went head to head with Alvirne big man Jim Tomaswick and led Spaulding to the win, at one point making a very nice drive and dish to a teammate for 2. Then against Pelham he really put on a show. Paradis was assertive, looking for his shot and scoring at will, inside and out. With Brian Cronin graduating it's on Paradis to be THE go-to guy for this team, and he knows that. He faced up from the perimeter and knocked down the three, knocked down the mid-range jumper, went by his defender off the dribble, converted a smooth turnaround bank shot, and also made a nice blocked shot from behind. He missed a few weeks during this past season with mono, and he missed the last 3 months with the broken hand. If he can stay on the court, get bigger and continue to work on his game watch out.

Also playing well for Spaulding were returning varsity players Luke Roberts, Nick McGregor and Ryan Todd. Roberts is a scrappy player who ran the point for the Red Raiders. he is quick, a good defender and did a nice job of controlling the tempo and getting the team into their sets. McGregor was a little inconsistent but is definitely a player who can make things happen out there. He's a versatile 6'2" forward who can play inside or out. Todd is a physical 6'2" forward who brings toughness and rebounding to the table, and is also a good defender.

This is once again a Spaulding team that will compete for a top 8 seed in D-I.

They were playing without one of their best players and they still only barely lost to a very good Spaulding team. Sean Dunn, a senior guard who has been very productive for the Broncos so far this summer was not playing on Saturday. Tony Beaulieu had a very good game for Alvirne however, and they gave Spaulding a very tough game.

Beaulieu had a nice game for Alvirne and was a very tough player for Spaulding to match up with. The 6'0" guard is in great shape and was able to step outside and knock down the three ball off the dribble and also got to the rim at will where he used his strength to finish against bigger defenders. He was especially tough to defend in transition.

Tomaswick also played well for the Broncos. Shortly after making a very athletic move along the baseline to score inside he went out of the game with an injury, but he soon returned to action. Tyler Livingston continues to show good versatility, as he was able to shoot and handle the basketball out on the perimeter for a 6'4" kid and also battled underneath for boards. If Dunn was in there I wouldn't have been surprised if Alvirne had beaten Spaulding. They will certainly both be teams to watch this winter.

Yes, they may have ended the weekend with a disappointing 70-45 loss to Spaulding in a game where you definitely had to expect a closer game. But they still went 3-2 in the tourney, and word on the street was Pelham was the team who gave Bishop Guertin their toughest game of the weekend.

On Saturday the Pythons played a very close, competitive game vs. Sanford High, a team from Maine. It was a close, hotly contested game throughout, with Pelham winning it 54-47. The best way to describe that game? Physical. These teams were beating each other up pretty good. Nobody is going to ever accuse either of them of being soft. When you play against Pelham this upcoming season, you better bring a helmet because you're going to need it. They don't have anybody over 6'0", but what they lack in size they make up for with toughness. They're a bunch of small, quick, scrappy players who are going to get right in your face and not allow you to have any easy baskets.

Derek Defranzo, Brett Bailey, Erik Nystrom and Anthony Spirou are all returning starters. Jake Vaiknoras, Brian Finney, Kevin Cheam and David Bronson are all returning varsity players. They don't lack experience, that's for sure, especially since they made it to the D-II semi-finals last year in Durham where they gave eventual undefeated champs Milford all they could handle. Finney, Defranzo and Bailey are all VERY tough, physical players. Bailey and Spirou can both hit the outside shot. And Defranzo is a potential first team all-state player.

They definitely have some things to correct from the Spaulding game, but it's hard to argue with anyone who sees Pelham as a top 5 team in D-II this winter. The Pythons are perennially a top 5 team in the division after all, which is VERY impressive when you consider they're its smallest school.

I had already seen Dover play quite a few times this summer, and once again on Saturday I saw a good team that is young but has a group of hard working players who get after it on defense. Offensively they are still a work in progress, as they don't have the shooters are offensive firepower they have had in past years. But they're a hard nosed group, and if they keep working that will come as well.

Their final game of the weekend was a close, competitive game against a team they figure to be close to in the D-I standings this winter - Londonderry. The game went down to the final minute, and was a 1 or 2 possession game for virtually the entire game, but Dover was able to hang on for the win.

At one point early in the game all 5 Dover players got right up on their man, denying the ball, getting in passing lanes, and pressuring the basketball. It was the most intense defense I saw anyone play all day. The Green Wave defenders were talking, they were loud and they were really getting after it. The Londonderry player who had the ball had nowhere to go with it. Just then I glanced over at Dover head coach Mike Romps, he was watching his team and when he saw that defense he couldn't help but let out a little smile. The Londonderry coach was then forced to call a timeout, and the Dover players ran to the sidelines all pumped up.

Leading the defensive charge for Dover were Phil Boyatsis, Grant Faustino, Mike Wons and Colin Shaughnessy. Mike LeBlanc then made a nice pass inside to set a teammate up for a basket.

Like Dover, Londonderry is another team that is very young. Last year they relied VERY heavily on the play of their seniors, especially Mike Colby, Nick Martinez, Ian McMullen, Troy Mansfield and Tyler Ball. That's right, their 5 best players are all graduating. That's why it is VERY impressive that the Lancers were able to beat a tough Campbell team, then come THIS close to beating Dover.

How did they do it? Well, simply put, Londonderry might not be the biggest, the fastest or most skilled team out there. They might not have a lot of varsity experience. But they play as hard as anybody, they play smart, unselfish TEAM basketball, they're well coached and they're fundamentally sound. JR Winn did play well for them, and Ben Flanders was red hot shooting the basketball from the outside. Flanders hit 4 threes in the Campbell game alone, and he may have hit more than that but I was bouncing around watching 3 different games at once.

One game that I had a close eye on was Winnacunnet vs. Lebanon. I was initially drawn to this game because I had yet to see Lebanon play so far this summer. And I kept watching because, well, it was a fun game to watch. Both teams are young, but they played an entertaining brand of basketball. It was a guard-oriented game, with lots of outside shots, good ball movement, pressure defense and both teams pushing the ball up the floor and forcing tempo at every opportunity. It was a close game throughout, with Winnacunnet pulling out a nice win. It was a fast-paced, high scoring game, with the Warriors scoring 62 points which had to be encouraging for such a young team.

Even though Lebanon was missing some key players, Winnacunnet had to feel good about the win because Lebanon is expected to be a top 5 team in D-II and Winnacunnet was able to beat them even without their center, 6'6" senior Christian Oweifie in the lineup.

Picking up the slack for the Warriors was there trio of talented sophomore guards, Chris Doyle, Rich Ruffin and Sam Knollmeyer. Doyle continues to have a very productive summer, as he scored the basketball inside and out in the Lebanon game. He made a nice hesitation dribble drive and finish at the rim, and also stepped out and drained the outside shot. Ruffin is an explosive point guard who pushed the ball on the break and made a nice floater in the lane. Junior Malcolm Woodliff-Bulloch is wing player who is fast, athletic and always looking to run and make plays.

Lebanon looked like a good team when I saw them play vs. Winnacunnet. They were probably a little disappointed to lose that game against a young and shorthanded Warriors team, especially giving up 62 points to them. But Lebanon was playing without 2 of their top 4 returning players in Zander Morrill and Matt Cowles, as well as returning varsity player Tyler Silver. If those guys are in there for the Raiders it would have likely been a different game.

Still, Lebanon is a team that was able to play at a fast pace, they have players who can handle the ball, shoot it, they played hard and also got inside scoring and rebounding from Mark Davidson. The story for Lebanon though (not surprisingly) was the play of junior guard David Hampton. Hampton is clearly one of the best returning guards in NH high school basketball, and he was the best player on the floor in the game vs. Winnacunnet. He showed a very good handle, and was able to score the basketball at will. He's a tough player to guard because he has the ability to pull up at any time from anywhere on the court and hit the three right in your face, and if you play up on him to take away his shot he'll drive right by you and go to the rim. Hampton hit threes in this game and also made a nice and-1 finish in traffic.

I already knew Hampton was a talented player before this weekend. He scored 28 points on Souhegan over the winter, he scored over 20 to lead Lebanon to an upset win over Pembroke early in the season. This performance was impressive but nothing new. The Raiders did have one player however who played as well in this game as I've ever seen him play. That was Davidson, and the 6'2" senior forward really played well. He did a nice job of gaining position on the low block, and when he got the ball he made some nifty post moves showing some good footwork. He made a very nice up-and-under move, made the mid-range jumper and got after it on the boards.

Hampton and Davidson both played very well in this game. And when they get Morrill and Cowles in there this is definitely a team that can make some noise. After all, they haven't had a losing record since the early-1990's.

In my recap of this year's boys basketball AAU state tournament, I mentioned 6'7" junior center Caleb McKearin, who has been attending and playing at Mt. Zion Christian Academy. However that school no longer has a basketball team. McKearin is a Litchfield resident though, and this weekend he was playing for Campbell.

"It is not official yet whether Caleb is going to come to Campbell" said Campbell head coach Pat Roye.

Still, Cougars fans were able to get a glimpse of what their team might look like if the raw but athletic big man does come to their school. McKearin is a player that definitely needs work, but his potential is obvious. He is athletic, can run the floor well and can block/alter shots defensively. He also made a nice pass inside to Max Gouveia for 2. What he has to work on is using his size to his advantage more on offense. In Campbell's game vs. Londonderry, he was 6 inches taller than anyone Londonderry had. He should have sprinted down the floor and put his hands up, got the ball inside and put it in the basket. Too many times he was standing in the paint on offense with his hands down at his side. One time when I did see him get his hands up and call for the ball it was an easy 2 points for him.

Gouveia, Jacob Morgan and Jesiah Wade also played well for Campbell. In the Londonderry game Gouveia made a nice drive, spin move and pull-up jumper in the lane. With McKearin, Morgan, Wade and Gouveia all being underclassmen the Cougars could really be a scary team in D-III in the next couple years.

Exeter had a tough season last year going 6-12, but they are only graduating 3 seniors so most of the squad is back. Matt Barr and Tyler Russ give the Blue Hawks a pair of talented, athletic guards. And Chase Poutre and Elliot Cross give them a pair of bruising, hard working inside players who can rebound the ball, post up and also shoot it from the mid-range are. Barr continues to play some great basketball, and is a combo-guard who can score from anyone on the floor, handle the ball against pressure and plays the game at a fast pace. Another player to watch out for on Exeter is 6'5" sophomore center Max Medley. Medley is long and athletic, his skills are raw but he has lots of potential. Him, Barr and Russ could really be fun to watch over the next couple years if they keep working hard.

At the end of the season I said Moultonborough would be the favorites to win the 2012 Division IV title. And after seeing them play 2 games on Saturday (and play up in both) I still feel that way. The Panthers gained some valuable experience by testing themselves against some stiff competition. They took on Alvirne, Portsmouth and Campbell in pool play and then Exeter. There's a chance that all 4 of those teams are better than anyone they'll play in D-IV this winter, so coach Matt Swedberg was smart to bring his team down.

They didn't just show up and play those big schools, they played well. Marcus Swedberg has a very good shot at being the division's Player of the Year, his younger brother Drew is a tough as nails point guard who is also a likely all-state player. And 2 other returning varsity kids who also played well were senior forwards Nick Sindorf and Travis Baier.

The 6'7" forward Marcus Swedberg is a versatile big man who can score inside at will and also knock down shots. He did both with regularity at this event. Drew Swedberg played physical, he shot the ball well from the outside and also played tough defense. Sindorf is a returning starter and at 6'4" he gives the team even more size up front. And Baier is a scrappy player who plays hard, brings toughness and does a little bit of everything.

These guys may have lost more than they won this past weekend, but when they go and play their D-IV schedule this winter they might just go unbeaten.

I didn't get to seem them play too much on Saturday, but word around the gym was Hollis is a much improved team that was giving everyone they played a hard time.

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