Tuesday, July 26, 2011

BST Summer League - Central Division Quarterfinals Recap

On Monday night at SNHU it was the quarterfinals for the BST Summer League's Central Division. 8 good basketball teams were in action, with the 4 winners to advance to the semi-finals on Wednesday night.

It was Memorial vs. Prospect Mt., Dover vs. Central, Merrimack vs. West and Concord vs. Trinity. Here's the recap of each game.

Manchester Memorial vs. Prospect Mountain
Prospect Mountain got a nice win in this one to advance to the Central Division semi-finals on Wednesday night. There are a couple different ways you can look at this game. On one hand it's a very nice win for Prospect, a D-III team who lost in the 1st round of the playoffs this past spring to be able to defeat a talented D-I team in Memorial, especially considering the Timberwolves won this game by the convincing final score of 50-34.

On the other hand this is a Memorial team that was playing without many of its best players. Majak Wenyin, Tong Akot, Zoubel Iradakunda, Oumaru Kante, Mike Torres and Joel Mayola were all absent from the Crusaders lineup. That left memorial with a VERY young team, with their top players all being incoming freshmen.

Still, you had to be impressed with what you saw from Prospect Mountain in this game. I said earlier in the summer that Timberwolves senior guard Zack Drouin has a very good chance at being a first team all-state player this winter in D-III. Well, he definitely played like it on this night, pouring in a game-high 21 points. Drouin had a terrific game, getting his teammates involved but also looking for his shot. He had 5 rebounds, 4 steals and 4 assists to go with his 21 points. Drouin was hitting the outside shot, making strong drives to the rim and played very tough on-the-ball defense as well. He's 6'1" and has a high release on his shot, which allows him to get his shot off anytime he wants, since typically he's being guarded by players much shorter than him. Drouin played nearly the entire game, but was still playing great ball at the end of the game. He put the game on ice late by running off a screen, catching the ball on the wing, facing up to the basket from the left wing and then driving hard right past his defender before finishing at the rim over the help-side defender.

Last year Raymond sent a message to the rest of Division III that they were a team to be reckoned with when they won the BST's Southeast Division Championship and then went toe-to-toe with Trinity before falling to the Pioneers by 3 points. Prospect Mountain has a chance to be the 2011 version of Raymond, as the Timberwolves are now 7-2 on the summer.

You could tell Prospect Mountain really wanted to win this game, as new head coach Tom Bourdeau played his top players for nearly the entire game. Drouin, Pat Cassidy, Jay Mousseau and Austin Perrin all saw big minutes. Drouin was the game's best player, and Cassidy, Mousseau and Perrin all played as well as anyone Memorial had. That's why Prospect got the win.

The Timberwolves played good team basketball, helping each other out on defense and moving the ball well on offense. They're a hard working, disciplined squad.

Cassidy is a scrappy guard who made some nice passes inside to Mousseau, drove the lane and hit the outside shot. Mousseau was a very effective inside player, finishing well inside and getting after it on the boards. He had about 15 points and 10 rebounds in this game. Perrin meanwhile is an inside bruiser. Drouin, Cassidy and Mousseau took most of the shots, but Perrin was content to grab boards and play tough, physical defense.

As for Memorial, their future remains bright despite the loss. They have as good of a 5 player freshman class as NH has seen in quite some time. Yes they are young, but Jourdain Bell, Kabongo Ngalakulondi, Oumaru Kante, Wenyin Gabriel and Wade Gop are names NH basketball fans will be hearing A LOT over the next 4 years. Kante wasn't at this game, but the other 4 were. The 4 guys from Prospect Mt. I mentioned might be better today, but they're juniors and seniors. These guys from Memorial just graduated middle school. Give them a couple years and nobody is going to want to play them. Bell had a bunch of shots barely rim out on him in this game, he could have easily had 15-20 points. His explosiveness, athleticism and leaping ability are off the charts and he had some nice drives late in the game. Ngalakulondi had a nice drive and and-1 finish, scoring on two defenders and also stepping outside and knocking down a nice outside shot off the catch. Gabriel runs the floor well and hit some nice baseline jumpers, while Gop displayed a smooth crossover and stroke from beyond the arc. This group of kids not only play together with Memorial, but they also play together on the Bishop Elite AAU team, which just got back from competing in 14U Nationals. They play together year round and will be a fun group to watch develop over the next few years.

It will be interesting to see how Prospect Mt. is able to do on Wednesday night in the semis vs. Trinity. It will give us a better idea as to just how good the Timberwolves are and where they might stack up in D-III. As of right now Berlin is the clear cut favorite, while Conant, Mascoma, Prospect Mt., Raymond, Hopkinton and Campbell are all in that next tier.

Dover vs. Manchester Central
This was the best game of the night, no question about it. It was played at a high level and at a fast pace. It was a close, hard fought game from start to finish and it was a very fun game to watch. These are 2 schools who are perennial top 10 teams in D-I, and you can expect them both to be there once again in 2011-2012. In the end, Central picked up a 38-35 win.

All of that is even more impressive considering both of these teams were playing without key players. Central was missing their best player Gabe LaCount, and junior Troy Pelletier, who are both down in Florida competing in AAU Nationals with Bishop Elite. Dover meanwhile was missing leading scorer Mike LeBlanc.

Central went with a starting lineup of 5'8" Dylan Lafond, 5'7" Dawson Dickson, 5'5" Stephen Gomez, 6'3" Junior Brown and 6'2" Isaiah Joseph. Dover meanwhile started 6'1" Mike Wons, 6'3" Grant Faustino, 6'0" Billy Carroll, 5'11" Colin Shaughnessy and 5'6" Carter Moore.

Early on in this game it definitely a defensive battle. Both teams were using their quickness and aggressiveness on defense to really frustrate the other. As a result, points were hard to come by, with no basket coming easy.

Central was definitely the favorite going in, but you have to give Dover credit as they fought hard, battling all the way to the final buzzer before barely losing. The Green Wave might not have a go-to-guy, they might not have the shooters or the offensive firepower they've had in years past with guys like Alex Burt, John Boyatsis, Morgan Faustino, Kenaan Al-Darraji and Rory Duffy. Those guys could flat out shoot and score the basketball. This version of Dover is a team that will have to grind out wins. They are physical, tough and scrappy. They don't shoot nearly as many threes as they did in years past, but instead they move the ball around, work it inside and then back out, they feed the post and then kick it out, they have their guards drive and kick it back out, they patiently work for an open look. They're disciplined, fundamentally sound and very tough on defense.

Shaughnessy is a tough as nails point guard. He had one of his fingers bandaged up, and could really only dribble the ball with one hand but he still went out there and played, and played well. he is a very good defender. Carroll does a little bit of everything, plays tough defense, can shoot it, and had a nice steal and finish on the other end in the 1st half of this game. Wons is a tough player, who rebounds well and has a high basketball I.Q., while Faustino battled inside all game long and ran the floor well for a big man.

Brown had a nice game for Central, scoring in double figures and really asserting himself offensively and on the boards. With LaCount and Pelletier both out of the lineup, Brown was often times looked to in the post as the go-to-guy.

This game got even better in the 2nd half. Shaughnessy made a nice take, cutting the Central lead to 23-22 with 14:55 left to play. Minutes later Carroll hit a big three-pointer to put the Green Wave up 29-27. Central came right back however, as Gomez made a terrific baseline drive and dish inside to Brown for two points inside to tie the game up at 29-29.

Dover would then re-take the lead, but then the Little Green would once again answer back as Dickson drilled a three from the top of the key to put Cenntral up 36-36 with 1 minute left in the game.

Central was then able to break the Dover press, creating a 2-on-1 break in the process. Brown dished the ball over to Joseph for the layup, and the 38-35 lead for Central with 12 seconds left.

Dover had one last chance to tie it and send it to overtime. But Carroll's three point attempt at the buzzer was no good, and central came away with the win.

A key player off the bench in this game for Central was 5'6" incoming freshman Brett Hanson. Hanson had been playing with Concord all summer, but he will officially be attending Central instead. Hanson is a quick point guard who can handle the basketball well, is fearless, can drive to the rim, hit the outside shot and create for his teammates as well. He's one of the better incoming freshman in the state. It's a tough loss for Concord, and another talented guard for Doc Wheeler to develop at Central.

With so many new players in the Little Green lineup, it does seem like they are still getting used to playing with one another. Dickson is transferring from Trinity, Gomez is coming over from West, Lafond is entering his second year at central after transferring from Trinity, Joseph is another newcomer to the team, and now Hanson comes over after playing with Concord for most of the summer. Sometimes Central might look a little out of sync at times, but once they get used to playing together, watch out. They will be a very scary team, with their speed and tenacity on defense. Gomez is possibly the quickest player in NH, Lafond is one of the best defenders in the state, Dickson is a talented young guard, Pelletier is a versatile player who can play inside or out. Brown is one of the most athletic players in the state and also a very good defender. LaCount is a possibly D-I Player of the Year. And Joseph (an incoming junior forward) is a player not many know about. He's a long, athletic forward who battles in the paint, is very active on both ends of the floor and can also step outside and knock down the three.

Merrimack vs. Manchester West
Merrimack was playing without 3 key players, including their 2 best players (the Gendron brothers) as well as Bryan Courtemanche, yet they were still able to pick up the win over West 44-40.

To be fair to West, they were playing without key players Ivan Ilic and Breno Pena. But the Blue Knights did have their 3 best players in Aaron Martin, Travis Descoteaux and Carl Jacques.

But it was Merrimack who was able to get the comeback win. West led for most of the game, led by the strong play of Martin. Martin was scoring the basketball inside and out, and making it look easy. martin a a strong, athletic 6'3" player with a versatile skill set and he's already been a varsity starter for 2 years before this season. He had 15 of the Blue Knight's first 21 points.

Descoteaux also did a nice job of getting to the rim off the dribble and also grabbing offensive rebounds. Martin hit a three to put West up 21-17 with 2:10 left in the 1st half, then blocked a couple shots defensively.

Merrimack just kept hanging around though, as they were led by Jared Peabody, Kyle Richardson, Brandon Malloch, Jeff Giannelli and Brad Jarry. Malloch did a nice job of creating his own offense, and Jarry was very active on the boards and had some nice finishes inside. He got a put-back to go inside late, giving the Tomahawks a 36-35 lead.

Jacques then really picked up his play, making back-to-back steals, converting an and-1 finish on the second one. Martin then made a nice offensive rebound and put-back to cut the lead to 42-40 with 28.9 seconds left. But Merrimack was able to knock down their free throws down the stretch and hold on for the 44-40 win.

Merrimack is a better team, but both of these squads will have a shot at being top 10 teams in D-I this year. A lot of Merrimack's hopes hinge on the health of sophomore guard Eric Gendron. Gendron was one of the best freshmen guards in NH last winter, and with Dimitri Floras going prep he will looked upon to do a lot of the ball handling and scoring for this team. But he broke his wrist a few weeks ago, and it's uncertain when he'll be able to return to action. Merrimack will need him in the lineup to have a shat at making it to Durham come March.

Trinity vs. Concord
Trinity won this game by double digits as expected, with the final score being 58-36 Pioneers. They won it going away, despite the fact that they were playing without their "Tri-Towers" of Silvere Aluko, Andrew Lauderdale and Mabor Gabriel.

It definitely hurt Concord hat they were playing without junior Christian Iozza, and Hanson wasn't there either since he will now be attending Central. And even though Trinity was missing their big guys they were still too deep and too talented for Concord to handle, although the Crimson did hang around in this game for most of the way.

Early on Concord was right in the game, only down 10-7. And even in the 2nd half they were only down 33-26. But Trinity made a run late in the game to put it away. They had well balanced scoring, with contributions coming from various sources, including Jake Hamel, Carmen Giampetruzzi, Ian Sistare, Hunter Viscarello, Pat Keefe and Romeo Masuku. They had a small lineup, but they still manged to do ok on the boards. They stuck to their game plan, and played good, solid Trinity basketball. ore than anything, they played hard, played as a team and played very stingy defense. Kaleb marquis was able to pour in 18 points in the loss, but nobody else was able to really get in much of a rhythm for Concord.

Marquis did have a solid game though, and continues to be good at creating space for his jump shot with nifty dribble-drive moves. The loss of Hanson will hurt this team, because he was playing the 1 which allowed Marquis to play off the ball at the 2 where he's more effective.

For Trinity, Viscarello played very good defense, once again showing why he's one of the state's top defenders. Keefe did a solid job on the boards and hit a nice pull-up jumper on the break, Masuku is arguably the team's most improved player from last year, Hamel did a little bit of everything and Giampetruzzi is in excellent shape and also showed a smooth shooting stroke.

Trinity is playing as well as anyone in the state right now.

Wednesday night's Schedule
Semi Finals - Wed July 27th:
6:00 pm Trinity vs Prospect Mt.
7:00 pm Central vs Merrimack
8:30 pm Championship

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