Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Memorial Girls Win SNHU Summer Slam

Southern New Hampshire University hosted their 6th annual SNHU Summer Slam tournament, with 12 girls high school basketball teams from NH participating. It was a 3 day event, with the action concluding on Tuesday night.

The majority of the top teams and players in the NHIAA were there, there was some great games all around, and it was a nice way for them to end their summer basketball seasons.

When it was all said and done it was Manchester Memorial who won the tournament's championship, as they defeated defending Division II champs Souhegan 28-19 in a defensive battle.

Memorial Over Souhegan in Championship Game
No, that is not a typo. It was really Memorial 28 Souhegan 19. Both teams were playing their third game of the day and 7th game in 3 days. They were tired, and it was a very slow paced game. Souhegan's offense was hurt by the fact that Jane White and Ceara McNamara were both in foul trouble. It was a hard fought game with no basket coming easy. Plus the games at this tournament all around were low scoring, because they were playing two 18 minute halves, running time.

Make no mistake, these are two very good basketball teams. I don't see either of them losing many games this winter. They both have VERY good starting lineups. Memorial with Allie Hartford, Amra Elezovic, Ari Dimou, Danielle Fletcher and Peace Kabari. And Souhegan with Jane White, Ceara McNamara, Tori Forrest, Ashley Tighe and Mickenzee Larrivee. This may have only been a summer tournament, but it was obvious that both teams were playing to win, as the starters played the vast majority of the game on both sides.

Memorial jumped out to a 13-2 lead early in this game, and that was the difference. Elezovic and Hartford compliment each other very well. Not many teams out there have two different players who can handle the ball as well as these two. They can both also shoot it very well, and they did a nice job of setting each other up for open shots. Elezovic hit a three-pointer off a nice drive-and-kick by Hartford, then Elezovic went coast-to-coast for an and-1 finish, and then she drove and kicked it out to Hartford for a three. Just like that it was 9-0 Memorial.

Kabari was also making her presence felt for the Crusaders. The 5'6" guard is only going to be a freshman, but she is VERY good. She made a offensive rebound and put-back to put the Crusaders up 13-2. Then she made a nifty drive to get into the lane, banked a shot off the glass. It should have been an and-1 play, but she official called Kabari for a charge. Tough call, but still a very nice play by Kabari, who is one of the most athletic players in the state as a freshman.

Dimou and Fletcher also played well fro Memorial. Both players had big and-1 baskets in the 2nd half to hold off a Souhegan team that was making a comeback. They are both good defenders and fit in very nicely with the other starters.

After a tough start to the game, Souhegan cut the Memorial lead to just 17-13 in the 2nd half. Forrest and Tighe were both playing very well for the Sabers, stepping up with White and McNamara both in foul trouble. The 6'0" Forrest was active on the boards and made some nice moves and finishes inside. Tighe had some nice steals on defense and was also assertive on offense, making some nifty moves of her own.

Souhegan was right back in the game, but then White fouled out with about 4 minutes left. McNamara fouled out soon after that. Memorial would add some free throws down the stretch for the 28-19 final.

It was a team effort for Memorial, and head coach Jack Quirk has to be very pleased with the way his team is playing right now. There were 12 good teams at this tournament, and his squad was the last one standing. The Crusaders will no doubt be contenders to make it back to SNHU for the Division I final four this winter. In the semi-final game vs. Londonderry, Hartford played as well as anyone played all weekend.

As for Souhegan, they haven't been playing any summer league ball and only 3 of their players (White, McNamara and Forrest) played AAU basketball this year, so the fact that they made it to the championship game is impressive stuff. They had a pair of tough losses on Monday night to Campbell and Hollis-Brookline, but they came back on Tuesday night and defeated both of those teams in order to advance to the final. White had a tough game in the final, but she was outstanding in the quarterfinals vs. Campbell and in the semis vs. Hollis. The Sabers were undefeated D-II champs last year, and they will once again be contenders to win another title.

Londonderry and Hollis-Brookline Both Make Semi-Finals
If not for injuries, there's a pretty good chance that Londonderry and Hollis would have been the two teams who met in the championship game, and the beginning of this article would be all about them, rather than Memorial and Souhegan.

You hate to see anyone get injured, especially in a tournament like this which has no baring on the regular season standings. But unfortunately Londonderry and Hollis both saw arguably their best player go down with an injury. Londonderry senior guard Lindsey Bolduc injured her ankle just a few minutes into the Lancer's semi-final game vs. Memorial and did not return to action. Londonderry was also playing without their other starting guard, Aliza Simpson. Bolduc and Simpson are the only two returning rotation players Coach Fagula has. With both of them out of the lineup, Memorial won it 31-19.

Londonderry still had a very good showing at this tournament, as expected. In addition to Bolduc and Simpson, the Lancers also got strong play from Jamie King, Devon Hickey, Katherine Mary, Casey Evans-Driscoll, Kirsten Enwright and Elisabeth Caron. Londonderry will once again be a very deep basketball team.

As for Hollis, they had to play their semi-final game vs. Souhegan without senior guard Katie Stopera, who also injured her ankle. The injury happened near the end of the Cavalier's previous game vs. Bishop Guertin. According to Hollis head coach Bob Murphy, she was taken to the hospital to have the ankle looked at.

With Stopera in the lineup on Monday night, Hollis defeated Souhegan 24-15. On Tuesday night with no Stopera they lost to Souhegan 38-26. There's no question she makes a big difference for the Cavaliers. She is a very quick two-guard who plays the game hard, does all the little things well and plays unselfishly. The first time they played Souhegan, Stopera came down on the secondary break with the ball driving on Jane White. She drove to the rim, backed up, put the ball through her legs, made a nifty crossover dribble move and right by White for the layup. It was a great move and really got the Hollis fans into it.

Hollis also got strong play from point guard Kelsey Berry, Jillian Gillis and Olivia Gillis. Berry was effective at driving and kicking the ball out to the open man, and she also hit the outside shot when left open. The Gillis twins are both tough, hard nosed players who defend well, can handle the ball and also shoot it.

Hollis has been playing good ball all summer, and their "Big 4" are all going to be seniors this season. They're definitely a team to watch out for. However in the semis vs. Souhegan they were exposed inside, as the Sabers dominated the boards. Souhegan has a pair of 6-footers with Forrest and McNamara, and Hollis had a tough time matching up with them inside. The Cavalier's 4 best players are all guards and only about 5'8". Still, they will definitely be a team that will won a lot of games this winter.

Trinity Defeats Keene in One of Monday's Best Games
On Monday night, Trinity and Keene met in a pool play game. It was a match-up of two teams who both figure to be close to each other in the standings. And as expected, it was a very close, competitive, hard fought basketball game. Trinity ended up with a 31-29 win. Trinity senior guard Lia Nawn hit a pair of clutch three-pointers late and that was the difference.

Trinity came out firing, taking an early 17-8 lead. Nawn did a nice job of distributing the basketball to her teammates while also looking for her own offense. She hit a three-pointer which made it a 17-8 game.

Keene would then get right back in the game, going on a 8-0 run to close within 17-16 at the half. Ashley Clough did it all for the Blackbirds. She made a nice offensive rebound and put-back early on. Then she caught the ball at the foul line, drove strong to the basket with her left hand and finished strong at the rim with her left. Then Clough made a nice move to get to the basket, missed a shot inside but got her own rebound and laid it in. Then she pulled up from 15 feet and knocked down the mid-range jumper.

Meanwhile, senior guard Hannah Willard was quietly having a nice game for Trinity. She was playing some great defense, and then she hit a big three-pointer after Keene cut the lad to 17-16.

In addition to Clough, Keene also got strong play from senior forward Cailey White and sophomore forward Allison Yeaw. White is 5'11", is athletic and rebounds well. Yeaw hit some big shots in the 2nd half to keep the Blackbirds in the game. Keene even took a lead late, as Yeaw hit a baseline jump shot to make it 28-28 Blackbirds.

That's when Nawn would take over, hitting a three to tie the game up at 28-28, then only about 20 seconds later she drilled another shot from beyond the arc to put Trinity up 31-28. Clough would then make a nice blocked shot on defense, but it was too late as the Pioneers were able to hold on for an exciting 31-29 win. When these two teams meet during the regular season you can bet Keene head coach Eric Matte will make sure someone sticks to Nawn like glue so she's not left as open as she was when she hit those daggers on Monday night.

Dover Gives Londonderry All They Could Handle Tuesday Night
One of the best games of the night on Tuesday featured Dover and Londonderry. Dover head coach Dan Casey has to be pleased with the way his team played. Despite being the considerable underdogs in this contest they battled the Lancers all game and nearly pulled out the win against a team that most agree will be a top 4 team in D-I this winter. Londonderry was missing Aliza Simpson in this game, while Dover was missing senior wing player Julia Wise, who are both among the top returning players for their teams.

Leading the way for Dover was 5'6" senior guard Allie Mahan, who had a terrific game. She drilled a spot-up three from the top of the key, then made an outstanding move to drive baseline and finish with the reverse layup underneath. After those two plays she had the crowd buzzing, and the Green Wave led 13-9.

Then Jamie King started to heat up, hitting a couple shots from the outside, and Londonderry led 14-13 at halftime. To start the 2nd half Lindsey Bolduc made a great play. She made a steal on defense on one end of the court, then took the ball the length of the floor with a head of steam before finishing strong at the rim.

Mahan continued to play well for Dover, on both ends of the floor. She made a nice steal in the back court before quickly laying it in for 2 points. Mahan then made a nice dribble-drive move to get to the basket, where she got fouled and knocked down a pair of free throws.

Londonderry was very tough on the boards, with strong inside play from Kirsten Enwright and Casey Evans-Driscoll. Dover played a good game, but Londonderry was able to hold on for the 32-27 win.

Mahan and Wise might be the only two returning rotation players for Dover, but judging from this game they will once again be a dangerous team and contend for a top 8 seed.

Campbell Also Had Strong Showing
On Monday night I saw Campbell beat both Keene and Souhegan in pool play. They beat Keene 41-39 before knocking off Souhegan 30-26. Campbell went 21-1 last winter en route to the Division III championship, and judging by their performance at this tournament they will certainly be contenders to repeat as champs.

Becca Arnone and Liz Pettis both played very well for Campbell. Arnone is a fun player to watch because she flat out plays the game the right way. She plays hard, she plays smart, she's an unselfish player who can pass the ball just as well as she can score it, and she's a winner. Pettis plays on the wing for Campbell, and physically she is just stronger than virtually any player she is ever matched up with. She used her strength to grab boards and finish inside, and she also shot the ball well from the perimeter.

Arnone and Pettis are two of the best players (arguably the two best) in D-III. Everyone knows about them. But on Monday night Campbell had another player who stood out, by knocking down shots, making nifty passes and showing a good feel for the game. It was 5'7" freshman guard Hannah Nield, and if opposing teams focus too much on Arnone and Pettis this winter then Neild is going to make them pay.

It looks like the teams to beat this year in D-III will be Campbell and Bow, who also has a lot coming back from last year.

Players to Watch For 2015
Neild is one of several incoming freshmen who have impressed over the course of the spring/summer. The others are Madalina Jeans (Windham HS), Megan Kerutis (Bishop Guertin), Val Martin (Pinkerton), Casey Evans-Driscoll (Londonderry) and Peace Kabari (Manchester Memorial). Then you also have 6'1" forward Erica Hadad, who is from Salem, NH but will be attending Central Catholic in Lawrence, MA. All 7 of these girls are definitely players to watch over the next few years from the Class of 2015. Player rankings for this class will likely be released in March.

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