On Friday night at Southern New Hampshire University, the Manchester Central boys basketball team made a statement to the rest of Division I that they are a team to be reckoned with. They were missing two of the key players (Dylan Lafond and Dawson Dickson) and they were still able to beat Bishop Guertin and Nashua North (two of the division's top teams). They won the two games by a whopping 38 points, and as a result they were crowned the champions of the BST Summer League for 2011. The Little Green left very little doubt that of the 20 teams in the league they are the best one.
Central ran BG out of the gym, beating the defending D-I champs 61-38 for the title. In the two semi-final games which were played earlier in the evening, Guertin defeated Prospect Mountain 71-42, while Central advanced to the final with a 67-52 win over Nashua North.
Championship Game: Manchester Central 61 Bishop Guertin 38
BG came out firing, jumping out to an 8-0 lead early on. Senior wing player Cooper Paul led the way, playing with a lot of energy, making plays defensively and attacking the rim on offense. Also helping BG was the fact that Central guard Gabe LaCount started the game off on the bench. By the time LaCount entered the game his team was down 14-8.
From there, Central started to take over. Junior wing Noah Edmunds made a pair of big steals, getting out in the passing lanes and making plays on the other end. Isaiah Joseph knocked down a three, Christian Ortega asserted himself in the paint, bullying the G defenders on his way to 15 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Junior guard Stephen Gomez made a great play with a drive and terrific dish inside to LaCount for a basket. Gomez had Guertin guard CJ Boykin all over him defensively but he was still able to make the play. Then Gomez drove to the basket, drew a second defender, found LaCount in the corner for a buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of the 1st half. Just like that Central was up 30-21.
In the 2nd half Central pushed the lead to double digits, and they just kept on rolling. Ortega, Joseph, Junior Brown and sophomore Adrien Stillwell dominated the paint for the Little Green. Those four guys were getting all the rebounds, and abusing which ever BG defender was guarding them at the time. Also playing well for Central was 6'1" junior wing Troy Pelletier, who slashed to the basket, hit pull-up jumpers, and was able to score the basketball outside, inside or in the mid-range area.
This is a very fast Central team, and they're also very deep. LaCount, Brown, Pelletier, Stillwell, Gomez, Edmunds, Joseph and Ortega were all standout players on Friday night. Add in Lafond and Dickson and you have squad who has 10 players who would all start for pretty much any team in the state.
"They're all hungry, and they're all working hard" said Manchester Central head coach Doc Wheeler. "We just need to get them making better decisions with the basketball."
For BG it was clearly not one of their better games. They got out-worked and out-muscled inside, Central was also a quicker team, and BG struggled to get quality shot opportunities.
Semi-final 1: Bishop Guertin 71 Prospect Mountain 42
Prospect Mt. was in the game early, as they only trailed 11-9 following a 6-0 run. Forward Jay Mousseau had a very nice game inside for the Timberwolves, scoring, rebound, taking charges and blocking shots. He will definitely be one of the better big men in D-III this winter.
But BG was just too fast, too deep and too talented for Prospect Mt. The Guertin press was very successful, as they forced at least 20 turnovers by Prospect Mt.
Nate Chartrand played very well in this game for BG. He made some nice moves with the basketball to get inside and was able to finish against taller defenders. He didn't force anything but picked his spots when to take shots. CJ Boykin also played well for Guertin, going coast-to-coast for a nice finish on the break.
Zack Drouin made back-to-back nice takes, taking it strong to the rim and finishing. He finished up a very good summer, and looks to be a first team all-stater this winter. Prospect Mt. was playing without one of their better players in Austin Perrin in this game. And they were playing without three other key players (Logan Roberts, Ethan Henderson and Logan LaRoche for the majority of the summer.
"It was a good summer for us" said Tom Bourdeau, who enters his first year as the team's head coach. "We'll get Logan Roberts back and have a good front line with him, Perrin and Mousseau, plus Zack and Pat in the back court. We'll be alright."
Semi-final 2: Manchester Central 67 Nashua North 52
North put up a good fight in this game, and they even had a 31-24 2nd half lead. But in the 2nd half it was all Central, as they were able to come back and outscore the Titans 43-21 from that point.
Central was playing without Lafond and Dickson, while North was missing Mike O'Connor, Jake Mellin and Justin Carter. Anthony Farmer suffered an ankle injury early in this game and didn't return, and that also hurt North's chances.
Senior guard Dezron Wilson really had a nice game for North in this one. He made some nice finishes inside, a number of smooth passes and also had a strong drive along the baseline early on which got North back in the game after they went down 6-0 initially. After a three by Javon Williams it was all tied up 10-10.
Troy Pelletier had a very good game for Central, making some strong drives to the basket and finishes against contact. Gomez also hit a big three for Central to put them up 37-36, which really got them going.
Ryan Gauthier played well for North, making a nice pass to Williams for an and-1 finish, then going coast-to-coast on the break for an and-1 basket of his own. He also made a nice crossover on LaCount, creating space for a pull-up jumper from just inside the arc. Gauthier did however, take some very questionable shots, and went 1-on-1 too much.
In the 2nd half Central was running up and down the floor hard while North was tired. Central was playing team basketball while North was going 1-on-1 every time. That was the difference. Central is very tough defensively and is going to force teams to turn it over to them all winter.