Wednesday, August 1, 2012

2012 SNHU Summer Slam - Event Recap

The 2012 SNHU Summer Slam wrapped up this evening, with the Londonderry Lancers winning the championship. The Summer Slam is a three day tournament featuring some of the top girls high school basketball teams in the NHIAA. It gives teams a chance to gel as a team over the summer, and build a foundation for their upcoming high school seasons this winter. The tournament took place at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester.

In addition to Londonderry, the other participating teams were Merrimack Valley, Manchester Memorial, Manchester Central, Trinity, Souhegan, Bishop Brady, Merrimack and Alvirne. I was in the house for all three days of the tournament, and here is what I was writing down in my NH Notebook while I was there.

NH Notebook's All-Tournament Team
Allie Hartford, Manchester Memorial - Hartford enters her fourth season as Memorial's starting point guard and she is playing her best basketball right now. She has developed a killer crossover dribble, got to the rim off the bounce at will and was not only able to score the basketball but also create shots for her teammates.

Sandi Purcell, Alvirne - Purcell has been starting since she was a freshman and last year was an all-state player - well she is even faster and more skilled this year. Purcell sliced her way through defenses with great quickness and determination. She constantly pushed the tempo and kept the pressure on defenses and also made some great passes. In one game Alvirne won 40-10, and Purcell had 30 of those 40 points for the Broncos.

Jaime King, Londonderry - The Lancers have a lot of good players, but King was their most consistent player. She was steady out on the perimeter, protecting the basketball and making good decisions. Then in the semi-finals vs. Memorial she drilled four clutch three-pointers to break the game open.

Jordan Filion, Merrimack Valley - MV has a ton of size, which is a good thing but it also means that all of the pressure of handling the basketball and running the offense is on Filion. She thrived in that role and also hit a number of big shots in the quarterfinals vs. Trinity.

Londonderry Wins the Title
It should come as no surprise that Londonderry won this tournament. I have written before that the four 'power teams' in 2011-2012 girls basketball will be Bishop Guertin, Londonderry, Bedford and Lebanon. Well, Londonderry was the only one of those four at this tournament. And even though they were playing without starting forward Casey Evans-Driscoll (still recovering from head surgery) and star point guard Aliza Simpson was only there one of the three days they still had enough depth and talent to win the championship.

The Lancers once again have a very deep squad. They were led by Simpson, Jaime King, Katherine Dzenis, Jenna Conroy, Elisabeth Caron, Brittany Roche, Noelle Lambert and Devon Hickey. All of these girls can play and they also play very well together as a TEAM.

There's no doubt they will be one of the favorites in D-I again this season, especially once Evans-Driscoll returns to the lineup and then you also have Jordan Marrett and Mauve Holland (returning to the school after going to Central Catholic last year).

Simpson, King, Evans-Driscoll and Dzenis are all returning starters. Simpson has picked up scholarship offers from both New Hampshire and Holy Cross this summer, King and Dzenis are very good shooters and Evans-Driscoll gives them an inside presence. Caron was one of the team's top players off the bench, and provides depth to the front court. She's a smart player who made solid inside moves during this tournament.

Meanwhile, Conroy, Roche, Hickey and Lambert were part of a Londonderry JV team that only lost 1 game all year in 2011-2012. Conroy really impressed at this tournament with her shooting and passing ability, while Lambert showed good toughness and finished on the break a number of times, while Roche scored inside and out.

Londonderry actually lost to Memorial during pool play, but beat the Crusaders in the tournament semi-finals by about 15 points. What was the difference? Well it definitely helped to have Simpson in the lineup. Simpson missed the first two days of the tournament due to an AAU tournament. She wasn't in the lineup in the first meeting when Memorial won.

In the semi-finals Simpson pushed the ball up the floor and kicked it over to sophomore guard Conroy, who caught fire from the outside. She drilled three 3-pointers and King hit four of her own. Those seven long range shots came in about a four minute span of time, as Memorial went from being up 14-6 to being down 32-18 in a hurry. It was a 26-4 run for the Lancers, and 21 of those 26 points came from beyond the arc.

Another factor was that Memorial was playing without starter Danielle Fletcher in the semi-finals. According to Memorial head coach Jack Quirk, Fletcher will need surgery on her wrist but is expected to be back in time for the season.

Hartford played a great tournament for Memorial and really played with a lot of hard. She plays hard and plays the way the game is supposed to be played. She dives on the floor for loose balls, goes hard to the rim and has a good feel for the game.

The other player that really stood out for Memorial was sophomore forward Makenah Grisson. Grisson saw limited minutes off the bench last season as a freshman but is on the verge of a breakout season this year as a sophomore. During a pool play game vs. Merrimack Valley, Grisson had about 20 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks. She was driving hard to the rim and also hitting the mid-range jumper.

If Memorial still had Peace Kabari they would right in the mix along with BG, Londonderry and Bedford for the D-I title. Even without her they will still be a tough team. Kabari was the best freshman in the state last season, but will now be attending Phillips Exeter Academy.

MV Also Had Solid Tourney
It was clear that the three best teams in this tournament were Londonderry, Memorial and Merrimack Valley. MV advanced to the finals with a win over Bishop Brady in the semis. Then they lost to Londonderry in the title game 36-20.

MV is a solid team though, as they were led by point guard Jordan Filion and forwards Rebekka Donovan and Mary Mullen (all three are in their third year as starters for MV). Filion can really shoot the basketball, Mullen is a strong inside player who also has the quickness and skill set to play on the perimeter and Donovan is an inside presence who can score, rebound and block shots in the paint. The other two starters are Molly Mullen and Olivia Thurber, who also played well.

MV definitely has the size, the experience and the talent to make a run to the final four in 2013. Lebanon is the hands down favorite in D-II, but if anyone has a shot to beat them it would either be MV or Windham.

The Three Best Freshmen in the Tourney Were All Playing for Trinity
The future is definitely bright for Trinity basketball, as they have some very good young talent coming up. Amanda Torres, Elizabeth Graveline and Ashley Hill are three of the top incoming freshmen in the state, and all three played very well at this tournament.

The Trinity girls have a new head coach in Matt Courchesne, who replaces previous coach Pat Smith. Smith resigned at the end of last season, and Courchesne was his assistant coach and has been with the program for five years now. Coach Courchesne often times played his freshmen all at the same time, and when that was the case they instantly became an up-tempo, run-and-fun kind of team - it was fun basketball to watch!

Another young player to watch out for on Trinity is sophomore guard Hope Willard, the younger sister of Hannah Willard who was a starting guard for Trinity last year as a senior. Hope is a good shooter and made strong drives to the rim.

Trinity's best player at the tournament was junior guard Lizzy Meehan, who can shoot, pass, defend, rebound and handle the basketball. She did a little bit of everything out there, and already has good chemistry with the freshmen. Trinity's best lineup was with the freshmen, Meehan and Willard all out there together.

Others who played well for the Pioneers were 6-foot-2 senior center Jillian Gilman (a transfer from John Stark) and senior guard Meredith Farrell.

Brady Will Be a Solid Team in D-III
Bishop Brady made it to the semi-finals of this tournament, which is pretty good considering they were playing without three starters on Tuesday night. Oh yeah, and they also have no coach as of right now!

But they do have some pretty good players, and since they are moving down a division from D-II to D-III I would not be surprised if they were a top 5 team this winter in D-III. Leading the way for the Giants is their back court of senior Tori LeBlanc, sophomore Sarah Thomas and junior Taylor Marston.

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