Thursday, March 8, 2012

Championship Weekend Preview

It is a shame that the quarterfinal games are at the home of the higher seeds now rather than having them all played right in a row at a neutral site so fans can see all 4 of them in one day rather than having to pick which one they want to see. On Friday night not only are the Division I boys basketball games being played on the same night but in 4 different gyms (which is a shame) but these 4 BIG games are also being played on the same night as the Division II girls championship game. So you have 5 HUGE games being played Friday night but fans will only be able to see 1 of them.

With that being said, I do have to give the NHIAA credit because once again they scheduled it so that the girls D-I/D-II and boys D-III/D-IV championship games will all be played during the same weekend and at different times - so fans will have the ability to see 4 different championship games this weekend. The only way it would be better would be if all 4 of them were in the same gym like it was last year when all 4 games were right in a row and they were all at SNHU.

Instead you have the girls D-II title game Friday night at SNHU between Souhegan and Kearsarge, and on Saturday you have Littleton vs. Moultonborough at 1 pm in the boys D-IV final at Plymouth State followed by a doubleheader back at SNHU with Berlin vs. Prospect Mt. in D-III boys at 5 pm. Then the weekend concludes with BG battling Londonderry at 7:30 in the girls D-I final. The NH Notebook will have complete coverage of all 4 games. Here's a brief look at what to expect in each game.

Girls Basketball Division I Championship: #1 Bishop Guertin (20-1) vs. #3 Londonderry (19-2)
The top 2 teams in the NH Notebook's preseason rankings were Winnacunnet and BG. The 2 regular season meetings between BG and Winnacunnet were the 2 best games of the regular season. Kirsten O'Neil for Winnacunnet and Meghan Green for BG were the tp 2 POY candidates. BG and Winnacunnet both finished with 17-1 records, and they had to go to the 10th tie-breaker to determine the #1 seed. Most people thought that it wouldn't matter which team got that #1 seed because either way it would be BG and Winnacunnet in the finals. Only problem was someone forgot to tell the Londonderry girls about all of this.

Londonderry was flat out the better basketball team on Wednesday night, and they beat Winnacunnet to end their 5 year run as D-I champs. BG ran the Lancers out of their own gym during the regular season meeting between these 2 teams abck in December, but clearly Londonderry is a much different basketball team now. It is quite an accomplishment that Londonderry is here considering they graduated all 5 starters last year and only have 1 senior on the roster.

BG also has just 1 senior on their roster. Of the 10 regular starters for these 2 teams only 1 of them (Lndonderry's Lindsey Bolduc) is a senior. In other words the chances are pretty good that this will be the D-I title game not only this year but next year as well, especially considering the other 2 final four teams Memorial and Winnacunnet both graduate their best players (O'Neil and Amra Elezovic).

One other note - the health of Megan Kerutis. Kerutis (who is one of the top freshman players in NH) suffered a concussion in the last week of the regular season in BG's loss at Winnacunnet and has not played since. If she is able to return it would give Guertin a nice lift. Either way, the match up to watch in this game is at the point guard position between Jamie Sherburne from BG and Londonderry's Aliza Simpson, who are currently the top 2 sophomore players in the state.

Wit that being said, Winnacunnet deserves a lot of credit for the 5 year run they had, winning 77 consecutive games. In 2010 they graduated 4 starters and 8 seniors

Girls Basketball Division II Championship: #5 Kearsarge (17-4) vs. #6 Souhegan (17-4)
Kearsarge may be the higher seed, but they are BIG underdogs in this one. In the post-game interview for the Kearsarge vs. Windham semi-final game sophomore point guard Morgan Church guaranteed that she would play in the championship game, despite suffering a knee injury late in the semi-finals. Well you have to applaud Church's determination, but there are some things you can't control - like a torn ACL. That's what happened to Church, and as a result she will be out of the lineup for the Cougars tonight. Kearsarge would have been the underdogs either way, but now Souhegan are BIG favorites to win this game and repeat as D-II champs.

If Souhegan does win not only would it be their second straight championship, but it would mean head coach Jeremy Faulkner would have won 2 titles in his first 2 eyars as coach - not a bad way to start your tenure at a program! It would also be a fitting end to a spectacular career for Jane White. The Bentley bound point guard has scored over 1,000 points, she should easily win D-II Player of the Year and a win tonight would give her and the other 3 senior starters on the Sabers (Ceara McNamara, Tori Forrest and Ashley Tighe) 2 titles to end their careers. If Kearsarge wants any chance in this game, they will need to contain White and make the other Souhegan players beat them. The Cougars will also need Brittney Paige and Anna Cahill to have big nights shooting it from the outside. Win or lose, it has been quite a run for the Kearsarge girls. Nobody expected them to make it this far so they deserve a lot of credit.

Boys Basketball Division III Championship: #1 Berlin (20-1) vs. #6 Prospect Mountain (16-5)
Berlin is definitely the favorite in this one, but it should be a great game. Both teams rely heavily on the production of their starting lineups and if there is a weakness for either of them it is depth. And especially since they're playing on a college sized court you can expect a half court game and the team that protects the basketball and executes better in the half court will be the winner.

Prospect Mountain's advantage is their size, as they start 3 players who are 6'3" or taller in Logan Roberts, Austin Perrin and Jay Mousseau, or as their known to their teammagtes as 'RPM'. Berlin's advantage is their experience, as this is their third straight trip to the final four. Prospect Mt.'s kids are playing just their second game at SNHU and first title game while Berlin's core group of players are playing in their 5th final four game and second championship game. They have the experience and they also haver the division's best player in Curtis Arsenault. Asrsenault is on a mission to win the title this eyar as a senior after coming up just short each of the last 2 years.

Boys Basketball Division IV Championship: #1 Moultonborough (21-0) vs. #2 Littleton (20-1)
Not sure if anyone is aware of this fact, but no other girls or boys basketball team in NH, regardless of division is currently on a longer winning streak than the Moultonborough boys. That is because they're the only undefeated team in the state.

On Saturday afternoon the Panthers will try to complete the undefeated season and win their second title in the last 4 years. They are the favorites to win this game, but only by a slim margin because Littleton is also a very tough team. Tough to know what to expect since these teams didn't play each other during the regular season, but they are clearly the 2 best teams in the division so it should be a close, hard fought battle.

The 2 best players in D-IV will be squaring off in this one, as Moultonborough's Marcus Swedberg goes against Sam Brammer for Littleton. The one who plays better and leads their team to victory should win the division's Player of the Year award.

These teams have very different styles - Moultonborough has the size while Littleton has the speed. Moultonborough will have to slow the tempo down and pound the ball inside to the 6'7" Swedberg and 6'4" Nick Sindorf, while Littleton will try to pressure the basketball on defense and spread the floor and have Brammer attack the basket on offense.

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