Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Crusader JamFest 2014 - Event Recap

The NE Crusaders held their annual Crusader JamFest this past weekend. It was one of the more competitive AAU tournaments in New England, attracting many of the regions top programs. In addition to many of the Crusader teams other programs in attendance included the Lone Wolf, NE Flames, CT Premier, Maine Maniacs, Mass Sting, RI Breakers and NE Evolution. It was a well organized event with high level games and many college coaches in attendance.

The NH Notebook was in the house at Nashua High North on both Saturday and Sunday to take in the action and scout the local talent. Here's a look at who impressed from the Class of 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.


Class of 2014

The Crusaders had a team of 2014's at the event, which included Aliza Simpson (Londonderry), McKenzie Brown (Bedford), Ali Glennon (Bedford), Haley Driscoll (Bedford), Rachel Collins (Bedford) and Courtney Walsh (Central Catholic) All of them have already committed to colleges for next year, but this is a great group of players and it was a pleasure to see them out there playing together one more time.

Walsh in particular was really on her game. She stole the ball near half court, then pushed it hard to the rim for the layup. Right after that she hit a long jumper off the catch followed by a step-back 3. Later Walsh made a great move driving baseline and finishing a smooth reverse layup in traffic.

Simpson missed a number of games late in the high school season but her knee appears to be in much better shape now. She was controlling the tempo, making some great passes and hitting shots. Brown was making some great passes herself from up top also stepping out and hitting shots, showing great perimeter skills for a post player. Glennon continues to show a very versatile inside/outside game and tremendous skill set and quickness for a 5'11" kid, while Driscoll and Collins played smart ball on both ends of the floor. It has been a pleasure covering this group for the past 4 years. Good players who play the game the right way. Here's where each of them is headed next year.

Aliza Simpson - UNH
McKenzie Brown - Wake Forest
Courtney Walsh - Stonehill College
Ali Glennon - St. Anselm
Rachel Collins - Middlebury College
Haley Driscoll - Colby College


Class of 2015

Most of the top players at the tournament from this class were from out of state, but two of them who did stand out were Casey Evans from Londonderry and Campbell High's Kylee Julia. Both players won NHIAA state titles this past winter as juniors.

Evans played for the Crusaders 11th grade team. Evans once again showed that when it comes to strength, aggressiveness and determination there are few players in the region who come close. At 5-foot-11, she has good size and you're not going to find many players who play as hard or with as much heart. She did a nice job on the boards on both ends, really crashing them hard. She showed the ability to finish strong inside with either hand and hustled after loose balls.

Julia, a 5'7/5'8 two-guard, was filling in on the NE Flames freshman squad, which was missing a player due to injury. Julia showed good court vision, hitting the open man and trying to set teammates up for looks. She also has a solid mid-range game, either moving without the ball to open spaces or using dribble-drive moves to get near the elbows for open looks.


Most of the local talent on display was from the Classes of 2016 and 2017. It's safe to say there is plenty of talent coming up through the ranks...

Class of 2016

Madison Springfield (5'11" Guard, Conant HS) continues to show tremendous versatility and upside. You're not going to find many sophomores in New England who are 5'11 and have the ability to play the point but Springfield can. she can not only handle the ball well against defensive pressure, she can distribute the ball but also shoots it from the outside exceptionally well for a kid her size. She hit a smooth pull-up on the break with a hand in her face, buried a couple of threes, and then made a great dish inside to a teammate for an and-1. Springfield recently went on a visit to Marist College, where she picked up a scholarship offer from the school. You can add that to her list of offers which already included Boston College, Providence, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Springfield wasn't the only local sophomore who impressed at the event. The Crusaders had one team there which included Nicole Tucci (5'7" Guard, Bedford HS), Lexie Hamilton (5'9" Guard, Hanover HS), Courtney O'Connell (5'10" Guard/Forward, Bedford HS) and Sara Messler (5'11" Forward, Oyster River HS).

Tucci has been used mostly at the 2 for Bedford, but on this team she was primarily running the point, and it's good for her to have that versatility since she may end up playing the 1 in college. Tucci looked natural out there at the point, and was really looking to push the ball up the floor at every opportunity and run a break even after a made basket. She made some nice passes and showed good vision, but also was able to look for her own offense, including one play where she blew past her defender off the bounce for an and-1 finish. Later Tucci hit an 18-footer before making a steal near half court and taking it in for a layup. She has great lateral quickness and played tough defense.

Hamilton was out with an injury on Saturday but came back with a strong performance on Sunday. She made a nice steal, lead the break the other way before making a nice dish. Then on the next trip down the floor hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Hamilton played tough defense, pressuring the ball and making deflections, and made a number of high level passes from up top which lead to buckets.

Messler and O'Connell both played well and showed a strong inside/outside game. Both players crashed the boards and showed a solid mid-range game by putting the ball on the floor, making strong dribble drive moves in traffic and hitting shots. Messler hit jumpers from 15-18 feet off the bounce or the catch, while O'Connell continues to show tremendous leaping ability and athleticism.

On another Crusader team you had Mayson Kimball (5'11" Forward, Merrimack Valley HS), Angelina Marazzi (5'5" Guard, Northfield Mount Hermon), Meg Knollmeyer (6'0" Forward, Winnacunnet HS) and Kelly Lamarre (5'10" Guard/Forward, Salem HS).

Kimball lead her high school team to a D-II state title this winter and continues to showcase good size and an intriguing skill set. She was blocking shots, ripping down boards, leading the break and one one play faced up from the wing before driving to the rim and making a nice dish to a teammate for a bucket. She also scored inside and hit a pull-up jumper along the baseline with a hand right in her face.

Knollmeyer was a strong inside presence and played well in the post. She rebounded well, set good screens, and finished strong inside. She is quick and skilled for a 6-foot kid and has a good feel for the game. She grabbed an offensive board and converted the put-back in one game, and then scored again inside on the very next possession. She was not only strong on the boards but also blocked shots.

Marazzi is a quick point guard with a good handle. She has a smooth crossover dribble to create space, and also showed solid court vision and the ability to hit the open man but also look for her own shot and hit the 3. Lamarre is another player who showed a strong inside/outside game. She hit shots in bunches from the perimeter and ran the floor well but also went inside to grab boards and made some nice drop step/pivot moves inside which lead to buckets.


Class of 2017

The NE Flames team which won NH AAU States competed in this tournament. They're a team which includes many of the state's top freshman players, and the Crusaders also had 2 of the top freshman players in Kaitlyn Petrocelli (6'1" Forward, New Hampton School) and Nicole Anderson (5'7" Guard, Marianapolis Prep).

Petrocelli put on a clinic during one of the games on Sunday. he Crusaders kept feeding her the ball, either in the high post, the low post or along the baseline. Wherever she got it, she took what the defense gave her, made a move and more often then not it was the right move and it lead to 2 points. She started the game off with a drop step, post move and hit a leaner inside. On the next trip down she faced up from the perimeter, the defense backed off so she hit a 20-footer off the catch. Later she showed good footwork in the post, again facing up to the basket but this time hitting a baseline jumper from 15 feet. Soon after that she did the same move but this time hit a shot from even farther out at 18 feet. She also ran the floor well and went up strong with shots inside. Did I mention this kid is 6'1" and only a freshman? Yeah, she's going to be a good one. Between Petrocelli and Rebecca Ripley the two local freshman who have the highest upside both play for New Hampton.

Anderson played at St. Thomas this past winter as a freshman, but is transferring to Marianapolis Prep where she will play for Lauren Moore (coaches AAU for the Crusaders). Anderson's older sister Gretchen starred at St. Thomas and now plays at the University of Southern Maine. Nicole Anderson is a smart player with good quickness who doesn't force anything but can really hit shots in the mid-range area if left open. She is a 2 guard with a well-rounded game.

That brings us to the NE Flames, and on Sunday we saw them take on a good Lone Wolf squad. What I really liked about this game was the pace. Both the Flames and Lone Wolf were pushing the ball up the floor, looking to move it quickly ahead with the pass. There was no shot clock but it didn't matter because the Flames were running all game and even in the half court were quickly swinging the ball around and getting quick shots up but at the same time not rushing them. It was a clean game, and the Flames did a nice job of protecting the ball and not turning it over. The Flames (coached by Frank Girginis) play hard, they move the ball well and they won a hard fought game 53-42.

It was a balanced effort for the Flames. It wasn't just 1 or 2 players who stood out, it really was a team effort. Hannah Fabiano (5'9" Guard, Campbell HS) did a nice job of crashing the boards, then made a nice dish to Molly Dee (5'10" wing, Bishop Guertin) cutting to the basket for a layup. Meghan Donovan (5'6" Guard, Bishop Guertin) really plays hard out there - pushing the ball up the floor with the pass, attacking the rim off the bounce and hustling back on defense. She made a strong take and and-1 floater in the lane.

Then Bri Nordengren (5'10" Forward, Merrimack HS) crashed the offensive glass and went back up strong for 2. Nordengren and Fabiano were both beasts on the offensive boards, taking advantage of a Lone Wolf team which was lacking in size, especially after one of their bigs went out with an injury early in the game. Fabiano has good tenacity and instincts when going after boards and loose balls.

The Flames continued to push the tempo, and Amanda Wetmore (5'10" Forward, Alvirne HS) finished strong on the break, through contact. With Donovan and Amanda D'Amico, the Flames have a pair of point guards who can push the ball up the floor, hit the open man and attack the rim. D'Amico (5'2" Guard, Merrimack HS) is quick and brings a lot of energy. She grabbed a loose ball and pushed it hard to the rim for a layup. Then Nordengren went up strong inside for 2 more.

Donovan was strong with the ball, pushed it up the floor with her head up and hit Dee cutting to the bucket for a layup. Abbi Field (6'1" Forward, Bishop Guertin) and made a nice post move and went up strong inside attacking the basket. Meanwhile Meagan Morelli (5'9" Wing, Bishop Guertin) is an unselfish player who made some nice extra passes and showed a versatile inside/outside skill set. Donovan, Field, Dee and Morelli all play for BG. Their head coach Jeremy Faulkner was watching the game and had to be pleased with what he saw.

Trailing late in the game, Lone Wolf put on a full court press. But the Flames broke the press, and Fabiano made a nice pass on the press break to Dee for a layup. Donovan made a strong finish in traffic through contact, then hustled back on 'D' to prevent a layup.

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