By: Ross Laorenza
The crowd inside the gymnasium gradually swelled to max capacity as the games began from the QCIBT Tuesday. Four teams emerged victorious: Exeter, Merrimack, Manchester Central and Manchester Memorial. With 50 years of storied history noted in the program, fans and coaches alike were very excited about the games to be played.
Game 1: Goffstown vs. Exeter
The 3 o’clock game between the Blue Hawks of Exeter and the Grizzlies of Goffstown was a matc hup of quickness versus ball skills. Goffstown was the home team in Maroon, Exeter the road team in White with Blue letters. After a big holiday like Christmas you would expect the teams to be a bit sluggish, but that was not the case today. Five players scored in double digits in the nail-biting 64-63 Exeter victory.
Max Medley (#33) led all scorers with 20 points for the day. Teammates Chris Stowell (#35) and Tyler Russ (#24) chipped in with 10 points each. The Blue Hawks’ head coach Jeff Holmes was very patient with his team today. He never seemed to get flustered even as the momentum of the game changed hands all throughout. Most of his players saw action in the game, which allowed some of his starters to stay fresh.
Goffstown was coached beautifully by Justin Gorham, head coach; and assistant Ben Dion. The Grizzlies combine veteran experience with youthful exuberance. Freshmen Timothy Comeau (#23) starts for Goffstown along with sophomore Marcus Haynes (#34), junior Timothy Riehl (#4) and seniors Robert White (#21) and Nathan Hoffman (#5).
Comeau said it’s “not much different” for him to play with the older teammates. He seems to be picking up a lot from his veterans. He has been playing basketball for 6-7 years now. He also plays wide receiver and defensive end for Goffstown’s football team.
“My focus is on basketball…” he said. He was not the only freshmen playing for the Grizz today.
“The challenge is good for me,” said Michael Bailey (#20). He said that working with the upperclassmen (Riehl, Hoffman and Jacob Mount) have really aided in his development. Bailey attributes some of his “communication, ball movement and intensity” on the court to his team leaders.
For freshmen, both Bailey and Comeau showed outstanding promise for the future of Goffstown Varsity program.
Riehl (#4) had a chance to win it for Goffstown with less than 5 seconds to play, but the shot bounced off the front side of the rim. Great effort by both teams. They have much to look forward too as their seasons continue.
Final in Game 1, Exeter: 64; Goffstown: 63.
“Shoot well and we can win…” – Coach Gorham
Game 2: Bedford vs. Merrimack
Merrimack had a superb comeback to beat Bedford 58-48 in the 4:30 game. With seniors Bobby Keefe and Brad Jarry leading the charge the Tomahawks were able to overcome an early 11 point deficit.
James Caparell, Sam Thomas and Cameron Mersevey played hard for a Bedford squad that seemed to go cold after the first. 18 of the team’s 48 points were scored in the opening quarter. Bedford had recently defeated the same Merrimack squad earlier this year in NHIAA action. Their team manager Reema Danaf was in high spirits for this game, as Bedford led at the half 31-25.
With just a few seconds gone by in the 4thquarter, sophomore Austin Franzen (#3) sank a three pointer the put Merrimack ahead 46-43. They never trailed after that. Junior Eric Gendron (#32) made a great drive to the hoop, splitting two Bulldogs defenders a few minutes later to make it 51-48. Bedford never countered as foul shots filled the end of the game.
Final in Game 2… Merrimack in a stunning upset: 58-48 over a tough Bedford Bulldog squad.
Game 3: Trinity vs. Manchester Central
The gymnasium quickly filled to max capacity for the start of the battle between the Pioneers and the Little Green. Both teams played incredibly well in the match up, but Central was a clear winner on the scoreboard; 64-50.
Mabor Gabriel scored 15 points for Trinity in a losing effort. Fellow senior Carmen Giampetruzzi scored 10 points.
Junior, Brad Rhoades (#2) had a quieter game than usual for Trinity, but he had the support of many fans in the crowd. “That Rhoades is a real good kid,” said one spectator.
For Central, big plays came from all over the court Dawson Dickson scored 18 points for the Little Green. He was closely followed by Troy Pelletier, with 17 points. Sophomore Brett Hansen also hit double digits with 11 points total.
The Little Green got great play from junior center Nick Makris and junior forward Tyler Kelly in the game, as well. Kelly ended with 8 points, while Makris had 2 points to show for in a solid effort.
Both coaches were on their feet most of the game shouting out adjustments on both ends of the ball. This was my second time seeing Dave Keefe run his team and he did great against a tough opponent. The Gabriel brothers; Mabor (#15) and Wenjin (#1) played remarkably well together. The Pioneer duo can really hold their own of the court. Sophomore, Wenjin has “effort to spare.” You can almost seeing the hard work flowing from the kid. It will pay off soon.
At the end of the day the Little Green move in the winner’s bracket with the 64-50 victory. They are now 92-26 all time in tournament history.
Game 4: Memorial vs. Manchester West
Memorial put on a show, winning 79-50 to conclude Game 4 of the QCIBT. Tong Akot scored 25 points for the Crusaders in an unparalleled effort. West’s Alfred Nyonee had 17, but the boys from Memorial were just too much.
Omaru Kante, Kabong oNgalakulondi, Zoubel Iradukunda and Joel Mayola rounded out the starting 5 for The Crusaders. Coach Jack Quirk has a lot to be proud of from his boys team. No Dickens quotes needed after this win.
For West Coach Danny Bryson, the match up was challenging, but his Blue Knight’s held their own. Mike Gamache, Carl Jacques, Nolan Flynn lead a young team with two sophomores starting (Nyonee #2, and Zach Jones #23). All five Blue Knights fought hard against a well-seasoned Crusader team. After covering games all day it was great to see kids having fun on the floor.
Akot and Iradukunda ran a full court alley-oop that had fans on their feet cheering. Blocks by Mayola and Akot were a plenty. Kabongo Ngalakulondi even attempted another ¾ shot as the time clicked away in the 3rd quarter. His brother, Tshiefu(#21) saw some substantial playing time as well. The 6’4" forward finished with 9 points for the game.
Both coaches got a good feel for what they may see from officials during the tournament as they were reminded on numerous occasions to stay in their coaching box. But, I don’t blame either coach for straying a bit far. That gym was LOUD. And with such a packed house, fans for all teams were mixed together.
Seventy-nine points speaks volumes to the amount of talent featured on the floor by Manchester Memorial. We all can look forward to more great plays by the Crusaders and all other the all-state caliber athletes once the weather clears. For now, we hunker down and wait for New England to unleash its’ first big storm of the Varsity Basketball season.
From Manchester Memorial; Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook
Big thanks to all the fans, coaches, players and parents for a great Day 1. Stay safe and enjoy the rest of the tournament!