The 9th Grade edition of the New England Flames girls basketball program captured the 2014 AAU State Title at the NH SportsZone in Derry. Fresh off a solid national level performance in the famed Boo Williams Red Tide Invitational Tournament in Virginia, the Flames continued their very high level of play in their home state tourney by sweeping the weekend contests.
The Flames won their games by an average of 15 points beating Guilford, NH AAU and the Mass Frenzy twice on the way to the Finals. In the early games, the girls fought through uncharacteristically cold shooting and compensated with aggressive defense, solid rebounding and unselfish team play. The girls ripped down an average of a whopping 37 rebounds a game in the early going, and their swarming defense produced nearly 15 steals a game.
In the state championship game, the Flames beat a very tough NH Elite team. NH Elite boasts the top freshmen from the seacoast area (Portsmouth, Exeter, Phillips Exeter and Winnacunnet) and they gave the Flames all they could handle. In that final game, the Flames regained their shooting touch, shooting nearly 50% from the floor, and continued their tenacious team defense. In the end, the Flames' strong offensive performance along with their impressive team defense and strong rebounding proved too much for NHE as the Flames won the very competitive and well played championship game, 65-43.
The 9th Grade Flames, led by head coach Frank Girginis and assistants Scott Purcell and Sandi Purcell, will now represent the state of New Hampshire in the National AAU tournament to be held in Metro-Boston in July. But first the girls will compete in the Commotion by the Ocean tournament in Rhode Island (May 24/25); and the Gym Rats tournament in Saratoga, NY (June 14/15).
The Flames team consists of some of the top freshman players from five different NHIAA Schools: Amanda D'Amico (Merrimack), Molly Dee (Bishop Guertin), Meghan Donovan (Bishop Guertin), Hannah Fabiano (Campbell), Abbi Field (Bishop Guertin), Eireann Kolden (Trinity), Meagan Morelli (Bishop Guertin), Bri Nordengren (Merrimack) and Amanda Wetmore (Alvirne).
The Flames organization boasted two other AAU State Champions as well, with Leo Gershgorin's 6th graders and Bob Johnson's 8th graders winning their respective crowns.
The 6th grade team has made it two championships in a row after winning the 5th grade title last year. The 8th grade club's achievement is even more impressive, as it captured its third state championship in four years. All in all it was a fabulous day for the New England Flames organization as they exited the NH SportsZone facility with three state championship trophies in hand.
The Flames organization has been growing in the past few years and their considerable success is serving them well as they are now attracting players from all over New England. For years, the Flames has been a terrific developmental program at the elementary and middle school levels, and has produced some excellent high school and college players. This year is no different as the number of Flames teams continues to grow, featuring a total of 11 teams in grades 4-8.
Long time program director Jim Duggan has recently put more emphasis on the high school portion of the program and says he is committed to making the older teams much more competitive, and put the Flames among the elite high school level programs in the region. Based on this year's high school teams, he is well on his way. The 9th grade national team and NH state champions coached by Frank Girginis, the 10th grade edition coached by Roger Dunning, and the 11th graders coached by Andrew Pierce are all enjoying success this year and it is clear that the Flames girls will have a big impact on high school hoops in the coming years.