Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dover and Portsmouth Girls Hoops Battle it Out in Preseason

It might have been just a preseason scrimmage that doesn't count in the standings. But judging by the number of people in the stands, the intensity on the court and the level of play of the game you would have sworn it was a regular season contest.

The girls basketball season tips off next Friday night for both teams, and on Thursday night Dover (Division I) and Portsmouth (Division II) battled it out for 4 quarters at Portsmouth High in preparation of the season. Both schools earned home playoff games last season in their respective divisions, and if tonight was any indication they both have a pretty good shot to be just as good this winter as well.

All 4 quarters were very close, with Dover winning 2 of them and Portsmouth winning the other 2. The combined score for all 4 quarters was Dover 52 Portsmouth 47. Here's a breakdown of both teams.

D-II is Just as Good As D-I This Year
This season I expect Dover to finish somewhere in the 6 - 8 range in D-I, and I expect Portsmouth to end up in that same exact range in D-II. Not only did Portsmouth win 2 of the 4 quarters vs. Dover tonight, but the biggest lead either team had at any one time was just 4 points - that shows that these are 2 pretty evenly matched teams. All of this only reaffirms that this season D-II is just as good as D-I. True, it's a good bet that once again nobody in any division will be able to beat Winnacunnet (the Beattie Bunch enters the season with a 77 game win streak), but after that if you were to rank the next 10 best girls teams in the NHIAA 5 of them would probably be from D-II. Ok, now back to the Dover vs. Portsmouth game!

Mahan Primed for All-State Season
I'm not sure how Dover point guard Allie Mahan didn't make the all-state team last year, but she's got a shot to be a first team selection this season. Mahan (pictured above) was clearly the best player in the gym on this night, playing a solid all-around game to lead the Green Wave. Mahan is arguably the best defender in the state, and in this game she made life difficult for Portsmouth's best offensive player Markey Flewelling. Mahan was also very effective offensively in this game as she hit threes, pushed the ball quickly up the floor before making some nice dishes on the break and also made some strong drives to the rim.

Two other girls who really played well in this game for Dover were senior guards Julia Wise and Christine Zubkus. Both players hit outside shots and also battled inside for points and rebounds. With Mahan, Wise and Zubkus, Dover has 3 of the top perimeter defenders in D-I.

The Green Wave got strong inside play from sophomore forward Molly Wotton, who was active on the boards and hustled after loose balls all game. Other contributors for Dover were Shannon Goff, Madison Wheaton, Abby Tilton and Katie Boyatsis. Tilton (only a freshman) is a 5'4" guard who is quick, hit the outside shot and also hit a nice teardrop in the lane.

As usual, Dover is a tough, scrappy, hard nosed team. They play a half court game, patiently moving the ball and working for shots on offense and really getting after it on defense pressuring the basketball. They have good shot selection and they don't turn it over much. Their MO is their defense and physical play. They will certainly contend for a top 8 seed once again in D-I, as head coach Dan Casey looks to take his girls to the quarterfinals for the third straight year.

Flewelling, Clippers Were Up to the Challenge
So I said all those nice things about Dover, but Portsouth actually won 2 of the 4 quarters. That means the Clippers are also a strong team, and one that D-II teams will have to worry about this winter. Portsmouth is also more of a half court team, but they definitely did look to run more than Dover did tonight. They have a star senior guard of their own, Markey Flewelling who ran the point and made some nice passes in transition. Faith Jenkins, Christina Jones and Phoebe Collins all got out on the break and finished nicely in transition before Dover was ale to get back on defense. Jenkins was one of the top 6th men in the state last season, and this year looks to take on an even bigger role as one of the main scoring options along with Flewelling. Jones, a returning starter, is an athletic wing player who does a little bit of everything.

Collins and 6'2" junior center Alicia Brown gave the Clippers solid play off the bench. Collins is a steady point guard, and having her in the lineup allows Flewelling to move over the the 2 guard position. While Flewelling has the court vision to play the 1, Portsmouth really needs her to be more of a scorer and she can get better looks when playing the 2. Brown is still developing her game, but she's definitely gotten better since last season. She's more coordinated now and has better moves inside. Collins and Brown would start for a lot of teams in D-II, so the fact that they come off the bench for the Clippers means they're in pretty good shape.

The other 2 starters for Portsmouth were forwards Madeleine Nossiff and Devon Parker. Look for them to be 2 of the division's biggest surprise players this winter. Parker was a varsity player last season but saw very limited playing time, and Nossiff wasn't even on the varsity roster last year. But make no mistake, they are both good players and will play key roles for the Clippers this year. Parker is a 5'9" junior who is athletically gifted and can play either the 3 or the 4. In other words she has the versatility to play inside or out on the wing. Parker hit the 18 footer, put the ball on the floor and went to the rim with some strong takes and also battled inside for rebounds. Speaking of rebounds, Nossiff was the best rebounder in the gym on this particular night. She was also the best shot blocker and the most physical inside player. Nossiff is 5'11" and gives the Clippers a strong inside presence.

Portsmouth has a new head coach in Dan Parr, who was previously the coach for the St. Thomas boys team for the past several years. He was going to retire, but instead was convinced to take the Portsmouth girls job by the school's AD Russ Wilson. Parr replaces former head coach Eric Chasse.

Look for Both of These Teams to Have Winning Records in 2011-2012
For a preseason scrimmage both teams had to be pleased with the way they played this evening. The star guards for both teams (Mahan for Dover and Flewelling for Portsmouth) certainly stood out. The returning key players also played well (Wise for Dover and Jenkins for Portsmouth). What I will remember most from this scrimmage though (besides the fact that it was a packed gym with good intensity to the game) were 3 players who made BIG impacts on this game even though I had never heard of them before. You had Zubkus for Dover, and for Portsmouth you had Parker and Nossiff. All 3 of them were very pleasant surprises. They might not have been impact players last year, but they will be this season, no question about it.

In D-I girls it's Winnacunnet, Bishop Guertin, Londonderry and Manchester Memorial who are a notch above the rest. In D-II it's Souhegan, Bedford, Windham, Lebanon and Hollis-Brookline who are the favorites. However after those top teams Dover (in D-I) and Portsmouth (in D-II) are as good as anybody else and will certainly be battling for a top 8 seed this winter.

Are you ready for some basketball?!

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