Thursday, March 21, 2013

Hoops Hot Button Column

The season might be over, but I still have plenty to say about boys and girls high school basketball. First off, congrats to Meghan Green and Jamie Sherburne from Bishop Guertin, who both picked up some big time awards in the last week. Green was named Ms. NH Basketball as well as Division I Player of the Year by the NHBCO, while Sherburne has won the 2012-2013 girls basketball Gatorade Player of the Year for NH. Both players have worked very hard to get where they are now, and will both be playing D-I college basketball (Green at BU and Sherburne at Niagara). They represent themselves well on and off the court.

Green and Sherburne have taken their games to new levels with the coaching of Scott Hazelton. He has taken the Cardinals to the D-I finals in each of his first 2 years at the helm, winning the championship in 2012. Their record during that span is 41-3. In addition to coaching them at BG, Hazelton also coached both players during the AAU season in 2012 with the Rivals Basketball Club.

Speaking of impressive 2 year runs for a new coach, how about Souhegan girls coach Jeremy Faulkner and Salem boys coach Rob McLaughlin? Faulkner won back-to-back D-II titles in 2011 and 2012, while McLaughlin won D-I Coach of the Year in those same 2 seasons. Windham girls coach Joe Mason also deserves a lot of credit. In the Jaguars first 3 years as a varsity program they have made 3 straight quarterfinal appearances and back-to-back Final Four runs.

Let's stick with great coaching jobs, but getting back to this year. Jim Mulvey (Portsmouth), Jim Migneault (Bishop Guertin) and Jeff Holmes all did a great job with their boys teams. Portsmouth and BG both graduated their entire starting lineups from last season, plus key reserves. Yet BG made it to the title game in D-I where they gave Trinity all they could handle, and Portsmouth went 16-3 before falling in the quarterfinals to Souhegan. As for Coach Holmes, folks weren't expecting much from Exeter in the preseason after they were the #16 seed the year before and lost their best player (Matt Barr) to prep school. But they defied the odds, came together, going 10-10, making it to the quarterfinals and beating both Nashua South and Merrimack.

Getting back to the girls side, how about the season that Lebanon had? They went a perfect 22-0 on the season, winning every regular season game by 23 points or more. NOBODY had a lead on them in the 2nd half all year. Moriah orton has been named D-II Player of the Year and deservedly so. Even more impressive is the fact that 2 of the team's projected starters did not come out for the team. Imagine how good the Raiders would have been with Scheie and Friedman in there, scary thought! Head coach Tim Kehoe deserves a ton of credit for what he was able to do with this group, which was led by Morton, Emily Kehoe, Heather King and unsung hero Samantha MacDonald.

Coach Kehoe wasn't the only one to coach his son/daughter to a state title this year. At Trinity, head coach Dave Keefe's son Patrick was a starting guard for the Pioneers on their D-I championship squad. The team's starting point guard was Ryan Otis, whose father Rich is an assistant coach. Last season at Moultonborough, their boys basketball team had an undefeated championship season with Matt Swedberg as the coach and his 3 sons (Marcus, Drew and Riley) all on the team.

Blue Chips Controversy
Ok, so every year the Granite Games are held at NHTI as a last game for all of the state's top senior players, a chance for them to all be in one palce to receive their all-state awards and for bragging rights between divisions. It's a great even and I have throoughly enjoyed covering it for the past 2 years. Last year they started having a showcase for the state's top underclassmen players prior to the senior's games, it was called the 'Blue Chips'. It was a good idea, it just needed a little tweaking in order to get more college coaches to go.

This year's 'Blue Chips' event WAS scheduled for this Friday night. I was planning on covering it, until word came out the other day that the even had been cancelled. Apparently, the NHIAA said that any kid who played in it would lose their eligibility for next year's NHIAA season. Are you kidding me? I can understand this type of thing being prohibited if it were held DURING the NHIAA season. But that ended last Saturday. For kids looking to play at the next level, they have the winter where they play only for their NHIAA team, but outside of that it's known as 'showcase season'. During this time kids go to exposure camps, attend showcases, play in AAU tournaments, etc. There has never been any ramifications for the athletes doing this - until now. Why does the NHIAA feel the need to deny these kids the chance of showcasing their talent? Makes no sense. They ran the same even last year and the NHIAA didn't have a problem with it then, what's different now?

Again, kids do these types of events all the time during the spring, summer and even fall. They're always outside of the high school season so there's never an issue. I have even ran a few of these events myself. Again I ask - it's outside of the high school season, so what's the big deal? Let them play!

I've said it before, but I'll say it again...
We need a shot clock. C'mon now people, it's time. I know it will never happen because the NHIAA hates change and spending money, but the fact is that it would make the game more enjoyable for the players, the fans and everyone involved.

We also need to pool the tournament games together better. We have too many big tourney games all happening on the same night but in different gyms. Thus, people aren't able to see as many games. If we did a better job of scheduling and having more games at neutral sites, fans would see more games which would raise interest in the sport. College coaches would see more games which would result in more opportunitiues at the next level for Granite Staters. Media members would see more games which would reselt in more media coverage which would result in more statewide interest in NH hoops.

At the least we need to go back to having the quarterfinal games all in the same gym on the same day, rather than at the home of the higher seed. At the least we need to have each of the four championship games all on the same day and in the same gym. Have the girls title games on Saturday and the boys the next day on Sunday or vice-versa. And at the least we need to have more girls/boys double-headers, especially if you play the games on a Saturday or Sunday because if the first game is a weekeday at 5:30 not as many people can get off work in time to see it.

The other thing we need to do is...
Again, with regards to scheduling. We need to do better at fostering local rivalries. Have local rival schools play each other twice, home-and-home. They already do this in Divisions II, III and IV but we need it in D-I as well. Let's have more divisional crossover games. I don't see why this past season if Pembroke wanted to they could have tested themselves at some point and played at a team like Trinity or Central. The Lebanon girls scrimmaged both BG and Bedford during the preseason, but why not play those games during January or February, pack the bleachers and have it count in the standings?

Why not let schools test themselves by playing teams from out of state? We already do this a little bit in the lower divisions with schools like Hanover playing teams from Vermont. But let's do more of this, especially in the upper divisions. Raise your hand if you would have liked to have seen a Catholic school showdown with BG taking on Central Catholic. Both BG and Central Catholic had VERY good teams on the boys and girls side, so why not have the 2 schools have a girls/boys doubleheader? Have it on a Sunday with games at 4 and 5:30. Or have a doubleheader on the boys side with BG vs. St. John's Prep and Trinity vs. Central Catholic? Have the games count in the standings, play with a shot clock and have some fun!

They do weekend tourneys like that in Mass and they absolutely pack the house and the teams REALLY get after it. How about a weekend tourney in early February where the Conant boys go up against some of the big boys in D-I and D-II? People are always talking about how they would do against the big schools, now we could find out.

We could have more local rivalry games with teams in different divisions. The games would actually count in the standings too. Holiday tournament games should count in the standings. Teams have all summer and during the preseason to to tinker with lineup combinations and experiment with different offenses. By mid-December you should be ready to roll! You go to a Holiday tournament in Mass, those games count for those teams and they have the intensity of a playoff game. We need that in NH! How would we account for the difference in strength of scheduling? We MUST go back to the heal points system, or at least a variation of it. Reward teams for playing opponents out of state or in a larger division.

Let's do this!

2 comments:

  1. The idea of giving teams a chance to match their skills out of division is right on. Over the years, the Conant boys team should have had a chance to test themselves up in division 2. This year, Pembroke boys and Lebanon girls needed to do the same in division 1. What about this idea: At the end of the divisional tournaments, have an inter-division tournament which brings together the eight teams to make the finals, or the sixteen teams to make the semi-finals? It could even be done in a less formal way (no trophies, tournament teams, etc.) so that a state championship wouldn't be lessened in any way if a championship team happened to have a bad day in the inter-divisional tournament

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