Tuesday, July 12, 2011

BST Summer League - 7/11/11 Recap


On Monday night the NH Notebook made its first appearance of the summer at Rivier College to check out the BST Summer League's Southern Division. Highlighting the night's action were a dominating performance by Nashua North (and a talented sophomore guard who is transferring to North) and terrific battle between Milford and BG.

It was Alvirne vs. Groton-Dunstable, Milford vs. Bishop Guertin, North vs. Raymond and Windham vs. Keene. Here is the recap of all 4 games.

Alvirne vs. Groton/Dunstable
This was a good win for Alvirne. Groton is a good team with a lot of players back from last year including 6'1" point guard Kyle Romich who was the best player in the gym. Groton gave them a good battle, but Alvirne was still able to pull out a 43-32 win. And they were able to do it without one of their best players (6'5" forward Jim Tomaswick) in the lineup.

Alvirne jumped out to a 21-11 lead early. Groton made their runs and tried to get back in it, but Alvirne did a nice job against their full court press to not turn the ball over and continue to play tough defense and get quality looks on offense.

Leading the way for Alvirne was their senior back court duo of Tony Beaulieu and Sean Dunn. Both players are athletic, they can handle the basketball well and they can shoot it. They're both in very good shape and will be one of the better back courts in Division I this winter. Beaulieu made a strong drive to the rim and finish, while Dunn hit a smooth pull-up jumper on the break from 18 feet which helped put the game on ice.

The Broncos also got strong play up front from 6'4" junior Tyler Livingston, Britton Doyle and Alec Yoksh. Livingston once again showed good versatility, playing inside or out. He made a nice spin move, drop step and finish inside with his left hand. Doyle is a good defender, while Yoksh hit a nice turnaround jumper, stepped out and drained a three, and grabbed some tough boards as well.

It was a good win for an Alvirne team that I expect to be a top 10 squad this winter in D-I.


Bishop Guertin vs. Milford
Yes, Milford graduates their top 5 best players from their back-to-back D-II championship teams. And Bishop Guertin was missing their 3 best returning players (Logan Kesty, Brad Holler and Joe McCarthy were all absent for this one). But it was definitely an intense, hard fought battle nonetheless.

These teams might not be in the same division. And all of those Jayhawk players (like Mitchell, McClung, St. Lawrence, O'Loughlin, Green) might be gone. But make no mistake, this is still a very fierce rivalry.

This game went down to the wire, and the last 5 or 6 minutes of it was as exciting as any basketball I've seen all summer. Milford had a double digit 1st half lead, and they were ahead in this game for virtually the entire game. But in the end it was BG who was able to pull out a last minute comeback win, 45-43.

The 1st half was all Milford. They were playing some terrific basketball, getting after it on defense, forcing BG to turn the ball over or take very difficult shots. 6'4" junior forward Jarad Asselin is not only tall but he has very long arms, and he was very active defensively. As a result he was getting his deflecting a lot of BG passes and forcing lots of turnovers. They used him in the back court on their 3/4 court trap and BG really had some problems getting the ball cross half court against it. Jovi Philbrick, Richie Moore and Logan Barlow were also playing tough defense for the Spartans and sophomore big man Ben Smith did a nice job on the boards.

Asselin also made some nice plays on offense as well, making a nice baseline drive and finish, then finishing inside off a very nicely executed pick and roll, with Jarad Lakin making a nice pass to Asselin on the play. Lakin and Asselin then both hit back-to-back three-pointers. Everything was going Milford's way, and as Guertin called timeout the Milford players went to the sidelines all pumped up. Milford was playing good basketball, and BG was not. The Spartans led 26-17 at halftime. That's right, folks. Bishop Guertin only scored 17 points in a half!

Once again though, they were playing without their 3 best players in Kesty, Holler and McCarthy. You take the 3 best players off any team and they simply won't be as good. But it does look like this year's Cardinals squad isn't quite as deep as the teams they've had in the past 2 or 3 years.

The 2nd half was a much different basketball game. BG came out fired up, and THEY were now the ones who were flying around the court defensively, pressuring the basketball and forcing turnovers left and right. Guertin really picked up their defensive intensity in the 2nd half, and that was the difference in the game. They were able to slowly get the momentum on their side, and they started to get some easy baskets on offense because of their stingy defense.

BG went on a 7-0 run to start the 2nd half, and just like that they were only down 26-24. Smith made a nice move inside for Milford for a basket. Then Cooper Paul came right back for Guertin, pushing the ball the length of the floor in transition and finishing with a very nice floater in the lane. Paul was instrumental in BG's 2nd half comeback, playing hard and making plays on both ends of the floor.

Also playing well for the Cardinals was Nate Chartrand, Jeff Lunn, Jordan Corbin and Steve Toscano.

The intensity in the gym really picked up down the stretch, and it had the feel of a regular season game rather than a summer league one. Toscano sliced through the Milford defense for a layup, putting BG up 36-34. Then Kevin Poulter hit a three for Milford to put them back on top 37-36. Just seconds later Chartrand answered back for BG with a three of his own from the top of the key to to make it 39-37 Cardinals with 3:18 left to play. Back and forth we go!

Then sophomore guard Ross Bridges drilled a three of his own from the corner, putting Milford back on top 40-39. After a pair of free throws BG went back up 41-40. Then Smith converted a big and-1 finish inside for Milford. After the free throw was good the Spartans led 43-41 with 1 minute left in regulation.

Paul was then able to break free for a layup on the break to tie it up at 43-43. Then Milford turned the ball over against the BG press, giving Guertin the ball with one last chance to win it.

With 20 seconds left to play, BG worked the ball around the perimeter, with Milford going all out on defense to try and stop them. Paul got the ball on the wing with only about 5 seconds left. He drove to the basket and got into the paint, drawing 3 Spartans defenders. Lunn was left open under the basket, and Paul made a superb pass across the lane, finding Lunn for the go-ahead layup with 1 second left, putting BG up 45-43.

Milford had one last shot to tie or take the lead with 1 second left on the clock. Asselin heaved up a shot from half court. The ball slammed off the backboard and nearly went in. But it bounced out, and Guertin walked away with the comeback victory.

Would BG have won this game by much more than 2 points if they had all their guys there? Of course. But if it was a blowout neither team would have benefited from it nearly as much as they did. Playing in tight, close, hard fought games like this is how teams get better. And with BG's "Big 3" being absent it forced their other guys to step up. So if their stars get injured or after this season when their seniors graduate the other players will be ready to step in and be better prepared for those moments because they got experience in games like this.

As for Milford, both times I have seen them play this summer they've played in games that went down to the wire. First was the Windham game at the BST's Kickoff Weekend which went into double-OT and now this. There's a lot of youth and inexperience on this Spartans team. They need games like this to get better.


Nashua North vs. Raymond
This game was not exactly as close as the previous one. Both teams were missing key players, but North really ran away with this one (literally). The Titans jumped out to a quick 22-2 lead. They led 52-16 at halftime, and ended up winning it 77-34.

North has a ton of depth, they have a ton of speed and they have a ton of talent. They were led by electric point guard Ryan Gauthier, who continues to play as well as any player in the state this summer. The 5'11" senior tallied 10 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds and 4 steals. He's in great shape, with a strong frame, good athleticism and excellent quickness. He made some outstanding passes, both in the half court and on the break. Gauthier also made a nice crossover dribble to create space, then drained a three at the buzzer at the end of the 1st half.

Anthony Farmer led North in scoring with 16 points, and did a nice job of leading or finishing on the break, attacking the rim, grabbing boards and forcing turnovers defensively.

This North team just has great team speed. They have 10+ kids who can all get up and down the floor in a hurry, they get right in your face on defense and force turnovers. And when they get a defensive rebound or a steal they immediately look to run get easy baskets on the other end. They played this game without Javon Williams, Jake Mellin, Liam Burke, Adam Fay and Parker Jamerson (all returning varsity players) and they still manged to run Raymond out of the gym.

Others who played well for the Titans in this game were Mike O'Connor, Dezron Wilson, Justin Carter and Jordan Lates. O'Connor is a good rebounder at 6'3", and he also runs the floor well. For a bigger player he also handled the ball well on the break and showed a solid mid-range jumper. Wilson and Carter are both younger players with good speed and continue to get better. Wilson is a good ball handler, while Carter got out on the break and finished effectively.

Lates meanwhile is a transfer from Hollis-Brookline. He played JV last year at Hollis, but definitely looked like a varsity player on Monday night. The 5'4" sophomore guard is very quick, has a good handle and does a nice job of always keeping his head up when dribbling the ball, especially on the break. He had a nice spurt late in this game, when he drilled a three from the wing, made a nifty drive and dish for a score and also made a nice drive to slice through the Raymond defense and hit the floater in the lane - all in about 2 minutes.

It clearly wasn't Raymond's best game of the summer. But to be fair, they were playing without 4 of their starters, including their 2 star players Joe Morin and Jordon Richard. As a result they had a lot of inexperience out there on the floor. Raymond only had 6 players, compared to 13 players for North. Raymond is a Division III team that was playing without 4 of its starters (they were also missing 5 of their top 8 players) and they were going up against a North team that is quite possibly the favorite to win the Division I title. So the final score for this game really shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

Considering all of that Raymond actually didn't play that bad as the game went on. Tyler Peer was hustling all over the court, and played as hard as anyone in the gym. Ben Sytulek made some some drives and finishes inside. And overall Raymond just kept battling out there and playing hard, even after going down by 30+ points. They didn't worry about the score or get discouraged, they just kept working and making plays. This game will make them a better team. Every week in this league Raymond is going up against teams that are better than anyone they will play in Division III this winter. They know wins and losses in summer league doesn't matter, it's the winter that matters. The more games they play against teams like North, BG, Trinity, etc. they will be that much better this winter when they go up against their D-III schedule.

As for North, they're undefeated on the summer at 6-0 and playing with a lot of confidence right now. If I had to pick my top 4 teams in Division I right now it would be:
1) North
2) BG
3) Trinity
4) Central

Yes, it's still very early, but if I had to pick the 4 teams who will make it to Durham in March it would be those 4. North has a lot of talent, and if they can all stay healthy and play together as a unit they'll be scary for anyone to play.


Keene vs. Windham
Keene led this game for most of the way, but Windham (only a second year varsity program) definitely gave them a good battle. In the end, Keene won it 39-36 in another game that went right down to the wire.

Mike Diorio (who missed most of last season with an injury) made a nice drive to the rim, flipping the ball up towards the basket for a nifty finish to get Windham off to a good start early. Meanwhile for Keene, leading the way for them early was Hunter Downs who hit a pair of threes and a mid-range jumper, as he scored all 8 of his points in the 1st half.

One thing that Keene definitely has going for them is their interior defense and rebounding. In this game they had 3 different guys who were all about 6'4" who they rotated in and out of the lineup. Their bigs might not have much offensive skill, but defensively they were very active in this game, using their long arms to block, deflect and alter shots. They made it very difficult for Windham took get any offense inside. They also rebounded the ball well, limiting the Jaguars to one shot per possession most of the time. Taylor Lawrence led Keene with 11 points.

Also playing well for Windham was junior guard Danny Cannone, who continues to be a good spot up shooter and is also one of the best defenders in the Class of 2013. Andrew Lowman showed good versatility for Windham, as a 6'3" kid who can play inside and out. He made some good hustle plays and finishes inside. Joe Lorenz was very active on both ends of the floor for the Jaguars as well.

Diorio made a nice steal, laying it in on the other end to put Windham up 24-23. Lowman then made a good second effort, grabbing his own rebound and putting it back in. Matt Shamon also played well for the Jaguars.

Nick Fiel played tough defense for Keene, and did a nice job of running the point for the Blackbirds. He also hit some clutch free throws down the stretch, as Keene was able to hold on for the 39-36 win.

Windham could definitely surprise some people in D-II this year. But they are still trying to build the program up, and they will be playing a lot of sophomores and juniors. Keene meanwhile got this win on Monday night, and they do play hard but they also look like a team that could have a hard time winning games week in and week out in Division I once again.

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