Monday, August 13, 2012

Nashua CC Girls Summer League - Final Four Recap

The biggest girls basketball summer league in New Hampshire in 2012 was the Nashua Community College Girls Summer League. Participating teams were Nashua North, Merrimack, Bedford, Nashua South, Manchester Central, Milford, Hollis-Brookline, Alvirne and Pelham. The league's Final Four took place last week, and the NH Notebook was in the house to cover the action. As expected, the Bedford girls took home the title.

In the semi-finals Bedford defeated Alvirne 50-42 and Milford beat Hollis-Brookline 34-21. Then Bedford topped Milford in the league's first ever championship game. Although Bedford is moving up from Division II to D-I they are loaded with talent coming up through the ranks and will likely be a Final Four team in D-I for at least the next four years. Milford meanwhile is a team on the rise in D-II. They missed the tournament last season but don't be surprised if they get a home playoff game in 2012-2013.

Here's a recap of the action, plus a look at how the Bishop Guertin and Lebanon girls have been doing this summer.

1st Semi-final: Bedford 50 Alvirne 42
Alvirne hing in there and gave Bedford all they could handle in this game. It was a close battle all the way until the final buzzer. The junior trio of Sandi Purcell, Veronica Moceri and Brittney Lambert kept Alvirne in the game. They moved the ball well and got after it defensively. Also playing well for the Broncos was guard Tori LaRoche, who hustled after loose balls and played tough defense. Unfortunately she suffered an injury and had to miss the last few minutes of the game.

Bedford though had just too much depth for Alvirne to handle and too much size, with 6-foot-1 forward McKenzie Brown and 5-foot-10 forward Haley Driscoll grabbing boards and scoring inside.

Alvirne had success in this game when they pushed the tempo, got out in the open floor and attacked the basket. But then Driscoll and Brown hit a couple shots inside late, and Alvirne was forced to start shooting threes to try and make a comeback. The shots weren't falling, and Bedford held on for the win.

Bedford moved on to the finals with a win, and as for Alvirne they only graduated 2 seniors off last year's team and will have a pretty good shot at getting a home playoff game this season in D-I. The top 3 teams in D-I this year will be BG, Londonderry and Bedford, but after that it's wide open. Pinkerton, Winnacunnet, Nashua North and Manchester Memorial are the top contenders for the final spot in the Final Four, but Dover, Alvirne and Nashua South have an outside shot and Salem is also a team on the rise.

2nd Semi-final: Milford 34 Hollis-Brookline 21
There were 55 total points scored in this game - 39 of them were scored by 2 players. Ellie Flaum scored all 21 of Hollis' points, while Dina Pitsas dropped 18 points in the win for Milford. Even more ironic is that Flaum and Pitsas were AAU teammates this spring/summer with the Granite State Rockettes 16U team.

Flaum was simply on fire in the 1st half, scoring 16 points on a combination of 3-pointers and mid-range jumpers. She can shoot off the dribble or off the catch, she moves well without the basketball and also uses screens well to get open. Flaum also has a quick release so she is able to get her shot off even when being closely guarded.

In the 2nd half Milford made an adjustment and had Pitsas guard Flaum. She really defended her tough, and held her to just 5 points in the 2nd half. Of course you can't just rely on one player to score all of your points. But in Hollis' defense they graduated their entire starting lineup from last year, and the only other rotation player they have coming back besides Flaum is Kellie Messer, who did not play in this game. Flaum and Messer will be looked upon to do most of the scoring in 2012-2013 for a rebuilding Cavaliers squad.

While Hollis is rebuilding, Milford meanwhile is a team on the rise. Pitsas is on pace to score her 1,000th career point this winter, and I expect her to be a 1st team all-state player in D-II.

"She, in my opinion, is a clear top 5 player in our division" said Milford coach Steve Signor prior to last season. "She is our leading scorer, rebounder and defensive player. Her pure speed and power on a court combined with her true athletic ability make her a strong presence for any team. She had over 500 points in her first 2 years despite having no supporting cast of scorers and is constantly double teamed. Her court awareness and basketball IQ are continually improving. Her leadership abilities are tremendous and she is a positive role model for our younger

Not only did Pitsas lead Milford in scoring with 18 points in the semi-final win over Hollis, but she also played some great defense. She hustled back on defense and had a couple of blocked shots in addition to holding Flaum in check in the 2nd half.

Helping Pitsas out in the win was her younger sister Adelle Pitsas, who will be a sophomore this year. Adelle is a scrappy 5-foot-6 combo-guard with a good mid-range jumper and a solid handle. She made good decisions with the basketball and is a hard nosed defender.

The top 3 teams in D-II will likely be Lebanon, Windham and Merrimack Valley but after that it is pretty wide open. Milford has pretty much everyone back from last year and they have one of the top players in the division, they could definitely surprise some people.

Something else to note is that many of these Milford girls players have been playing on the same AAU team for 2 years now. They all played on the Silver Bullets in 2011 and in 2012 they all played for the GS Rockettes (Dina Pitsas played on a different Rockettes team, but the rest were all playing together).

Championship Game: Bedford 33 Milford 23
Early on this was anyone's game, as Milford was hanging tough against a heavily favored Bedford team. The Pitsas sisters continued to move the ball well, as Adelle passed it to Dina, who dished it back over to a cutting Adelle for a layup and a nicely executed give-and-go.

As the game went on though, Milford struggled to find the bottom of the net. Bedford used their depth to their advantage and pressed Milford full court for the majority of the game. The pressure defense wore down the Spartans as the game went on.

Not only that, but Bedford just had more weapons offensively. The Bulldogs were playing without Ali Glennon, Maggie McGown or Ashley Abad but they STILL went 12 deep. Leading the way was Driscoll, Brown, Rachel Collins, Bailey Marshall and Caroline Conrad (all are only juniors). Also playing well for Bedford was the freshman trio of Bri Purcell, Nikki Tucci and Courtney O'Connell and sophomores Sarah Zadei and Gabrielle Hunter. They are so deep that their bench would beat the starters for most teams in D-I.

Purcell in particular played really well. She made some nice steals on defense, really pressuring the basketball and also helping off of it. In transition she led the break with a smooth hesitation dribble and strong take to the rim, and Purcell also stepped outside and drained the outside shot.

Collins always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, and when she is open she simply does not miss. Tucci is a two-guard who hit shots off the catch or the dribble. There's no hesitation in her game, and like Purcell she plays with a confidence and feel for the game like she belongs out there on varsity floor - they don't play like freshman. Driscoll meanwhile also played well, especially defensively. She blocked a shot and then on the next time down the floor she took a charge. Then she made a strong drive to the rim and finish inside. Marshall broke her defender down off the dribble and got to the rim.

BG Girls Fall in Hoops for Hope Finals
In other girls basketball summer league action, defending D-I champs Bishop Guertin made it to the finals of the Hoops for Hope League out of Andover, MA before falling to Pentucket. The title game was played on Saturday morning, with Pentucket winning 59-56. Pentucket is very good, and they're one of the top teams in the entire state of Massachusetts, so there's no shame in losing to them. Meghan Green (committed to Boston University for basketball) scored 15 points in the loss for the Cardinals.

Lebanon Girls Having a Successful Summer
The Lebanon girls played in tournaments at the University of Southern Maine and at Franklin Pierce this summer, and went 14-1. The USM tourney was the last weekeof June and marked the return to the court for Trina Scheie. Scheie is a dominating inside player who missed last season with a torn ACL. Lebanon fell to Pentucket (yes, the same Pentucket team that beat BG in the Hoops for Hope finals) in the championship game by 1 point. It should be noted however that Lebanon beat Pentucket in pool play by 7 with Scheie in the lineup and in the title game when they lost to Pentucket by one Sheie did not play in that game.

"This was Tree's first games back" explained Lebanon head coach Tim Kehoe. "She played about 8 minutess a half in the first 4 games. Her knee was a little sore and I didn't want to push it. She was rusty but it sure was nice to see her out there."

Lebanon then went to a tourney at Franklin Pierce, where they went 7-0 en route to the tournament championship. They beat St. John's Shrewsbury (MA) by 20 in the finals and won every game by 15+ points. Moriah Morton was named the tourney's MVP. According to Coach Kehoe, Scheie played with more confidence at this tournament, and the rest of top 6 (Morton, Emily Kehoe, Taylor Friedman, Heather King and Samantha MacDonald) all played well.

During the spring the Raiders went to tournaments at Clark University and the University of New Haven. They were playing without both Scheie and Friedman but still went 2-2 in the Clark tourney, with both losses being by less than 4 points. Then they won the New Haven tournament championship, with comeback wins in the last 2 games and winning the title game in OT. Morton averaged 24 points per game to lead the way. Coach Kehoe also mentioned that 2 other players who have been coming along nicely are sophomores Chelsea Dow and Vanessa Fluery. Dow averaged 19 points per game last year on JV, and Fluery is a 6-footer with a good shot.

The girls from Lebanon also all played on the same AAU team - the Lebanon Voltage. Bottom line, no team in the state plays more games together during the off-season than Lebanon. Not only are they the HEAVY favorites to win D-II this year, but they just might be the best girls team in NH regardless of division.

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