Our 'Holiday Tourney Tour 2011' continued on Wednesday night at the Capital Area Holiday Tournament. It takes place at the New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord, and features the boys and girls teams from 8 different Concord-area schools.
On Wednesday night it was the semi-finals on the boys side, with four Division II schools in action. In the first semi-final is was Bishop Brady who was able to defeat Merrimack Valley for the second time in the last week, winning it 46-43. The second game was also fun to watch but much more lopsided, as Pembroke topped John Stark 69-44.
Keep reading for recaps of both games.
Game 1: Bishop Brady 46 Merrimack Valley 43
This was a close, exciting game between Concord-area rivals. After the top 4 or 5 teams Division II is pretty wide open, so these teams both have a shot at possibly getting a home playoff game. They just played each other last Thursday night, with Bishop Brady winning by 15. This time it was closer, primarily due to 1st half foul trouble for Bishop Brady.
"Jourdain Bell and Dylan Thomas both had 2 fouls in the 1st half" said Bishop Brady head coach Mark Yeaton. "Their guards are fast, scrappy and are good at forcing turnovers. So without Jourdain and Dylan in there so much I was actually happy to only be down by 2 at halftime."
Merrimack Valley led 22-20 at the half, but it was that duo of Bell and Thomas which took over in the 2nd half. Bell showed why he is possibly the best freshman in NH, as he not only has freakish athleticism but he has a motor that never stops running and is a very unselfish player as well. In addition to his 12 points, Bell also had 8 assists, as he made a number of great dishes in the open court, including a few no-look passes that got the crowd into it. Bell also had 7 rebounds and 4 steals.
Thomas was also a big factor in the 2nd half for the Giants. The 6'5" senior showed the ability to play inside or out, attacking the rim off the dribble and battling inside for boards. He had a team-high 16 points, including 10 in the 3rd quarter alone.
Merrimack Valley was led by a group of small but fast and tough guards, led by senior Justin Abbott. Not only did Abbott have a game-high 17 points but there is no question that he is one of the top 5 defenders in the entire state as well. He constantly pressures the basketball, he has quick hands and is able to force his opponent to take tough shots and also get a number of steals and deflections.
In the 2nd quarter particularly Bishop Brady was struggling to get the ball across half court let alone get into their offense, and that was due to the defensive pressure of Abbott, along with his back court mates Ryan Otis, Eric Mirante, Dylan Baer and Ryan Head. Otis is only a sophomore and has could be one of the division's top point guards over the next couple years, while Mirante can really shoot the basketball.
MV was able to take not 1 but 2 three-point attempts in the game's last 10 seconds to try and force overtime but they both misfired and Brady was able to hold on for the win. Also playing well in the win for the Giants was junior forward Steven Desmarais, who had 10 points and 5 rebounds.
Pembroke 69 John Stark 44
No surprise here as the heavily favored Spartans win it going away, with their typical fast-breaking, up-tempo style of play which forced lots of turnovers on defense and turned them into layups and three-point attempts on offense.
Sophomore sharpshooter Patrick Welch had a slow start shooting-wise in the 1st quarter, but he got better as the game went on. Welch scored a game-high 21 points, but it really was a team-effort for Pembroke as Rene Maher, Jordan Williams, Matt Persons, Kent Noyes, Tyler Morrison, Brad Rhoades and freshman Andrew House all played well.
Pembroke went up 30-9 at halftime, as they did a nice job cleaning up the rebounds and forcing turnovers on defense. John Stark really struggled offensively in the 1st half, but ended up scoring 35 points in the 2nd half so it was a totally different story for the Generals in the 2nd half compared to the 1st. Part of it was the Stark trio of Nicolas Lloyd (team-high 10 points), Joe Nelson (9 points on 3 threes) and Ben Knapton (9 points) started to shoot the ball better. Part of it also was that Pembroke stopped pressing when they got up by a lot of points.
John Stark 6'8" big man Zach Grattan had a tough game, as he was being played very physical inside by both Morrison and Williams. Maher suffered an injury late in the game and had to leave, but he really did a nice job running the point up until then. He controlled the tempo and knew just when to dish the ball and when to take it himself. Houde is a freshman with a high upside. He doesn't get many shot opportunities when he's out there with the starters, but fans got a glimpse of the 6'3" wing player's potential after the starters were taken out late in the game. Houde made a pair of very athletic slashes to the rim, finishing in traffic.
Stark might have been out-matched talent-wise, but you have to give them credit because they never gave up and just kept playing hard out there. Lloyd is only about 5'8" but he's quick, can handle the ball, shoot it off the dribble and plays with heart. Despite being down 30-9 at halftime the Generals won the 3rd quarter 23-16.