By: Jeremy Leveille
The 2013-2014 NH high school basketball season got started on Friday night at Alvirne High, with Day 1 action in the Coaches for a Cause Jamboree. The event was organized by nhsportspage.com and the NH basketball coaches, with proceeds to benefit New Horizons for New Hampshire Inc.
This is a highly anticipated event with some very enticing match-ups. On Friday night it was Salem vs. Windham, Bishop Brady vs. Bishop Guertin and Merrimack vs. Pelham. Here is a recap of each game.
Game 1: Salem 67 Windham 64
Salem jumped out to the early lead, but then Windham made a nice comeback to take a 2nd half lead. Windham was led by senior forward Andrew Lowman and junior guard David Carbonello. The Jaguars led 49-45 after 3 quarters. Then in the 4th Salem senior guard Jacob Slepian was doing a nice job of distributing the basketball, driving and dishing. Then he went hard to the rim, made a good spin move and finished inside for 2.
Carbonellow answered back with a strong drive and finish on the break. Then Salem forward Brent Barrett had a couple of strong inside buckets, pulling the Blue Devils within 1 at 64-63 with 1:00 left. Then Tim Dodier scored inside, as Salem re-takes the lead 65-64 with :43 left. Salem then pressed Windham full court, forcing a turnover. Mark Shamon stole it back for Windham though, but the Jaguars were not able to convert in transition on the other end. Salem gets the ball back, and Windham is forced to foul. Danny Nugent goes to the line and hits both FT's, and it's 67-64 Blue Devils. Cole Gill's last second 3 point attempt for Windham was no good, and Salem wins it 67-64.
"We stayed in there and kept fighting" said Salem head coach Rob McLaughlin. "We have only had 1 day of practice, and haven't had a chance to practice vs. a 1-3-1 yet. We'll get there."
Windham was playing without key players Tucker Lippold and Joey Frake who were out with injuries.
Game 2: Bishop Brady 84 Bishop Guertin 83 (OT)
This was the game of the night, and was very fun to watch. Both teams are expected to be Final Four contenders with BG in D-I and Brady in D-II. It was fast paced action, with both teams pushing the ball up the floor and looking to get out on the break at every opportunity. Brady's junior point guard Jourdain Bell led all scorers with 29 points, as he sliced his was to the rim time and time again, both in transition and in the half court.
This was a close, back and forth battle the whole way. BG was led by 6-foot-5 senior forward Joe Marandola who was dominating inside in the 1st half with 14 points but cooled off and had just 3 points in the 2nd half. In addition to Jourdain Bell, his brother Joe Bell and Gary Clark who both also scored in double figures.
Marandola was getting some of his inside buckets off some nice feeds by teammate Andrew Williams who made solid passes all game long. CJ Boykin pushed it hard to the rim and finished inside, but then Jourdain Bell had back-to-back explosive drives and tough finishes at the rim to end the 1st quarter. BG led 20-17 after 1.
To start the 2nd quarter Costas Niarhos made a strong reverse layup inside, then BG forced a turnover with their press and Williams scored on a layup on the other end. BG then went up 27-21 on a 3-pointer by junior wing Kyle Gavin, who hit 4 shots from downtown on the game. Brady hung in there, as Joe Bell exploded to the rim for a tough and-1 finish on the break. Matt Morey hit a 3 for Brady, and then Jack Zimmerman answered right back with a 3 of his own for Guertin. If you liked fast break basketball and lots of scoring you would like this game!
The Bell brothers kept taking it to the rim, constantly putting pressure on the BG defense. They are a tough duo to stop in the open floor. John Noon hit a 3 for BG to put the Cardinals back on top 49-48. Gavin made a tough and-1 finish, then Marandola scored inside off a nice dish by Boykin as BG kept battling. Jourdain Bell hit a 3 right before the 3rd quarter buzzer, and it was 57-55 after 3.
The teams kept on playing hard in the 4th quarter. Jourdain Bell then made a great move with an in-and-out dribble with his left hand, exploded to the rim and hit a tough leaning scoop shot with his left. It put Brady up 69-67 with 2L20 left to play.
Jourdain Bell and Clark kept on taking it hard to the rim, but then Noon hit another 3 and Boykin and Gavin converted layups as Bg went on a mini run to take a 74-71 lead with :30 left. Brady needed a 3, and Joe Bell took an open 3 but missed it. His brother Jourdain grabbed the offensive board and hit the and-1 put back. He hit the foul shot and we were headed to overtime tied 74-74.
In overtime Brady went on a 7-0 run to go up 81-74 with 2:22 left. Jourdain Bell made a great finish and Brady was digging in on defense. BG didn't give up though, as Boykin and Noon scored inside to cut the lead to 83-80 with :18 left. Joe Bell hit a FT to make it a 2 possession game, 84-80 to seal the win. Boykin hit a last second 3-pointer, but Brady held on for the 84-83 win.
"Just four days into practice, this was a nice boost for us" said Bishop Brady head coach Mark Yeaton. "We're small, we play for 4 guards, we like to run. We treated it like a real game, not a scrimmage."
Game 3: Merrimack 68 Pelham 58
This was another game that featured 2 teams that are legit Final Four contenders in their respective division, with Merrimack in D-I and Pelham in D-II. The 1st half was a terrific battle, with both teams going hard out there. Pelham brought an impressive student section and they were getting all fired up anytime they hit a big shot - it definitely had the atmosphere of a regular season game.
As expected, Merrimack was led by D-I Preseason Player of the Year Eric Gendron, along with Austin Franzen (hit 5 big 3's) and Shane Bourque who was strong inside. Pelham was led by the dynamic duo of senior guard Jake Vaiknoras and sophomore Keith Brown who has a good inside/outside game. Brown was hitting 3's, handling the basketball but also grabbing boards and scoring inside.
Vaiknoras hit two 3's in the 2nd quarter, then Franzen answered with back-to-back 3's of his own as Merrimack went up 33-30 with 1:08 left in the 1st half. Then Pelham ended the half on a high note, as Brown hit a 3, then Vaiknoras went hard to the rim with a tough finish right before the halftime buzzer. The Pythons went into the locker room all pumped up, leading 35-33.
The teams kept going back and forth in the 3rd quarter, as Bourque hit a 3 right before the end of the 3rd quarter but Pelham still led 52-50 after 3. Vaiknoras and Brown kept hitting big shots in the 3rd quarter to lead the Pythons.
In the 4th quarter Merrimack took over. Gendron really stepped up for the Tomahawks, showing why he's possibly the best player in the state. He was going hard to the rim and finishing inside, but also stepped outside and draining 3's. Bourque kept scoring inside and Franzen kept hitting 3's, and Merrimack went on to win 68-58.