Monday, December 15, 2014

NH Sports Page Coaches for a Cause Jamboree - 2014 Recap

Great job by NH Sports Page putting on their jamboree over the weekend. An excellent event, it's fun to see much of the state;s top teams and players all in one place playing in some hard fought games. The NH Notebook was in the house at Londonderry High for Day 2 of the Jamboree on Saturday.

The big story of the day? Too many to just name one. Memorial has arguably the 2 best players in the state yet neither of them were in the lineup for the Crusader's game vs. Lebanon. Instead, the 2 best teams at the event were Central and Pembroke. Both teams were very impressive, especially Pembroke which has more height than many college teams. Keith Brown put on a show for Pelham, dropping 32 points in a double digit win over Trinity. Pelham is definitely the favorite in D-III, but Campbell, Conant, Berlin and Newport could all give the Pythons a run for their money. For D-II teams you had to be impressed with Portsmouth and Lebanon, who appear to be the favorites along with Bishop Brady.

Here's a recap of each of the 5 games played on Saturday.

Pelham 69 Trinity 53
Pelham is in mid-season form. They drop down from D-II to D-III this year, but they'd be a top 6 team in D-I. They have preseason Player of the Year Keith Brown, the versatile 6'5" forward Ryan Cloutier (15 points), Dylan 'Mad Dog' Silvestri, Central Catholic transfer Ryan Rondeau, tough sharpshooter David Rogers and quick point guard Kyle Frank. These guys play together pretty much year round, and spend their off-seasons playing against teams from Massachusetts.

Trinity meanwhile is replacing all 5 starters and may be in for a rebuilding year. 4 of their starters graduated and the other one left for prep school (Wenyen Gabriel). New head coach Matt Lemieux relies heavily on Luke Testa, Connor Walsh (21 points) and Ryan Boldwin, who were all key reserves on last year's squad that made the Final Four. Walsh and Testa had strong all-around games vs. Pelham to keep Trinity close, while Boldwin was tough on the boards.

Walsh hit a 3 to cut the Pelham lead to 17-15 late in the 1st quarter. Silvestri crashed the boards for a strong put-back and then on the other end hustled for a nice steal. Then early in the 2nd quarter Silvestri (9 points) stepped in to draw a charge. He's a tough kid who isn't afraid to do the dirty work out there and is always going to leave it all out on the floor. Not many kids in NH play harder.

Rondeau made a strong take and finish to extend the Pelham lead to 27-16 with 4:35 left in the 1st half. Testa answered with a strong slash to the rim and finish of his own. Then Pelham countered, as Cloutier went inside, hitting a tough leaner. Trinity was hanging tough, as Testa (14 points) drove and kicked it out to Justin Trickett for a baseline jumper. Trinity ball with just 6 seconds left in the 1st half, and Testa drives the length of the floor, going by the entire Pelham defense on his way to the rim, finishing inside at the buzzer. It was 31-30 Pelham at the half.

Walsh went inside for 2, as Trinity took a 32-31 lead in the 3rd quarter. The teams then went back and forth, battling hard and trading the lead. Rondeau hit a floater to put Pelham back on top 33-32, but then Walsh made a nice move along the baseline for 2 to put Trinity back up 34-33. Then Brown answered with an inside bucket to put the Pythons back ahead 35-34, starting a 10-0 run by Pelham. Brown's basket was quickly followed by 2 points for Silvestri followed by another basket inside for Brown. Then Silvestri converted another put-back to cap the 10-0 run and put Pelham up 43-34.

Trinity answered, as Boldwin finished a strong put-back. But Pelham continued to make some nice high-low passes to create quality looks near the rim. This time it was Brown for 2 of his game-high 32 points. It was 49-39 Pelham after 3. In the 4th quarter Brown played some tough defense in the post before drawing a charge. Trinity was hanging tough though, as Keanyon Lambert was active on the glass and Walsh made another strong baseline move for a bucket, this time an and-1.

But that's when Brown really took over. The 6-foot-1 junior drilled a 3 to extend the Pelham lead to 55-45 with 4:25 left in the 4th quarter. James Santos answered with a 3 ball of his own for the Pioneers. Brown continued to impress, going hard to the rim, put up a shot but then rebounded his own miss before getting the ball back in the corner and drilling another 3. That shot was a dagger, making it 60-49 Pythons with 2:43 left in regulation. He wasn't done though, as Brown buried yet another shot from downtown, this time off a baseline out of bounds play. Brown then made a strong drive to the bucket for 2 more and it was 67-51 Pelham with 1:30 left to play. An outstanding performance for Brown. You can bet Division III teams aren't looking forward to having to go against him.

Bishop Guertin 55 Berlin 43
One word to describe BG? Depth. Head coach Jim Migneault played 14 kids and 11 of them scored points in this game. Safe to say they're the deepest team in the state.

One word to describe Berlin? Physical. This game settled down later but it was very chippy early on, with kids getting knocked down and elbows being thrown around. Luckily no one got hurt.

BG got off to a slow start, they just didn't seem to be ready to go in the first few minutes. Perhaps they underestimated Berlin. But Berlin too advantage, jumping on top 6-5 early on. But then Berlin was called for an intentional foul, and BG went on an 9-0 run to go up 14-6 after 1 quarter.

BG was getting strong production off the bench, as Tim Hinrichs and Walter Kwiecinski had quick buckets early in the 2nd quarter as the Cardinals went up 18-8. Berlin battled back, as scrappy, fearless senior guard Tommy Gallagher made a nice steal, hard push to the rim for 2. Then fellow senior guard Dustin Moore hit a 3 as Berlin cut the BG lead to 18-15. Then Moore cut back door and teammate Chris Lamphere dished it to him for a layup to cut the BG lead to 24-17. That was the score at halftime.

BG led by double digits for virtually the entire 2nd half. Guertin sophomore wing Mike Rinko made a strong drive, hitting a runner across the lane. Then a floater by Jack Zimmerman made it 28-17 BG. Gallagher was doing everything he could to keep Berlin in it - playing tough defense, making some good passes, hustling for loose balls - all the little things.

BG had too many weapons though - Kyle Gavin hit a jumper from the elbow and then Kwiecinski converted an and-1 finish, followed by a put-back by Gavin . Jackson Housman finished an and-1 put-back and Gavin made a nice blocked shot on 'D'. BG had control of the game as we headed to the 4th quarter, leading 42-29. In the 4th quarter Gavin ran the floor hard, finishing a tough and-1 in transition. BG goes on to win 55-43. Both teams are expected to be top 5 in the respective divisions.

Lebanon 78 Manchester Memorial 65
So the big story here is not who did play, but rather who didn't. Seniors Trevon Maughn and Kabongo Ngalakulondi are arguably the 2 best players in the state. Wade Gop and Malo Roumraj were also key players for a Memorial team that made the Final Four last year when they took eventual champs Central to double-overtime. Many people (myself included) have been calling Memorial the favorites to win it this year on the basis that they had Maughn, Ngalakulondi, Gop, Roumraj, plus returning key players Craig Preston and Brandon Scott. However Maughn, Ngalakulondi, Gop and Roumraj were all missing from the lineup vs. Lebanon.

"I'm taking it day by day with them" said Memorial head coach and A.D. Jack Quirk, regarding his missing starters. "As of yesterday they were all still attending school at Memorial. Beyond that I'd rather not comment on them."

"Quirk told me last night to not bother showing up today" said Maughn, who was in attendance at the Jamboree watching from the bleachers.

Give Memorial credit, because the kids who were in the lineup for them played their tails off against a very good Lebanon team. The Crusaders were led by Danny O'Connor (team-high 17 points), Preston (9 points), Scott (8 points) Nick Philibert (7 points) and Jake Carrier (10 points).

The Crusaders left it all out on the floor, but Lebanon was simply the better team. Lebanon is clearly a team that has worked hard and played a lot of basketball as a unit over the off-season. Roles are defined, there's team chemistry and good ball movement. They're a team with an identity and they're in sync. Lebanon is led by the sophomore back court of point guard KJ Matte (son of head coach Kieth Matte) and Ryan Miliken and junior wing Austin Whaley. Miliken is a quick, scrappy guard who can really shoot it. He poured in a game-high 19 points. Matte had 14 points to go with 9 assists while Whaley notched 17 points. We also came away very impressed with junior guard Greg Roberge. Roberge is another kid who can shoot the rock and plays with a ton of energy. Cooper Lytle is a tough defender who stepped in to draw a charge. Speaking of shooters Braeden Estes is another kid who can knock down shots. He hit three 3-pointers. So if you're counting that is 5 different kids who hit 3's in this game for Lebanon (Matte, Whaley, Miliken, Roberge and Estes). Not many teams have that many shooters.

Memorial made a late run to make it close, as O'Connor finished a tough layup in traffic to cut the Lebanon lead to 63-54 with 4:56 left in the 4th quarter. But then Matte and Estes hit back-to-back 3's to push the lead back up to 69-56.

Pembroke 56 Conant 34
Pembroke is really good, and they have a ton of size. Their starting lineup is 6'8" Max Curran, 6'7" Rob Wilson, 6'6" Dominic Timbas, 6'5" Cameron Taylor and 6'2" Connor Boucher. Off the bench they have 6'4" Collin Justin and 6'8" Steven Abbott. Curran and Timbas are 2 of the best players in the state, while Wilson and Boucher could also be in for all-state type seasons. The Pembroke zone is very difficult to score on with all the size they have. Pembroke won back-to-back D-II titles over the past 2 years, including an undefeated season last year. Now they move up to D-I. The D-II coaches are glad they no longer have to play against Pembroke, while the D-I coaches will be likely losing sleep trying to figure out how to beat a team with their combination of size and skill.

This was a tough match up for Conant, but they battled, they played with heart and gave it everything they had. Conant trailed 16-0 after 1 quarter. They didn't get frustrated and they didn't hang their heads. Conant kept fighting, and played even with Pembroke in the 2nd quarter with both teams scoring 11 points. In the 3rd quarter Conant actually outscored Pembroke 14-9.

Curran (game-high 15 points) is really an emerging prospect. No one heard of him before last season, but now he's one of the state's top players and a potential scholarship level recruit. n the 1st quarter Curran drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key off the catch. Then he hit a turnaround jumper from 15 feet. Then Curran faced up from the perimeter, made a jab step then took his man off the dribble before drawing a second defender and dishing it to Boucher (11 points) for a layup. Timbas (14 points) is another big guy who showed the ability to knock down the 3 as well as score inside or take his man off the dribble.

In the 2nd quarter Conant finally started finding some offense against the tough Pembroke zone, as junior guard Josh Degrenier (team-high 10 points) buried a 3. Degrenier and Nate Wheeler (9 points) are the 2 guys who got major minutes on last year's championship squad and both look like the leaders on this squad. CJ Bilodeau plays his tail off, rebounds and battles people in the paint. Simeon Hodgson can shoot it but looks more to get others involved and is a smart, fundamentally sound player. Brandon Ford is a quick, athletic kid who is tough and rebounds well.

The Orioles made a nice run in the 3rd quarter to pull within 11 at 32-21 after an and-1 finish by Wheeler. But then Timbas powered his way to the rim for back-to-back hoops and it was 36-25 Pembroke after 3. Conant kept fighting. Degrenier hit a long 2 and then a 3 early in the 4th quarter and now Conant was only down 38-30. But then Conant ran out of gas, and Pembroke ended the game on an 18-4 run.

This isn't the most experienced teams Conant has had in recent years, but they really work hard on defense and play together. Head coach Eric Saucier does a great job of getting the mos t out of his team. Look for them to be top 5 in D-III and for Pembroke to be a title contender in D-I.

Manchester Central 67 Portsmouth 56
A great game to end the day. Central will contend for a title in D-I and Portsmouth will contend for a title in D-II. Both teams went at each other hard, Central is just a little better. Oumaru Kante joins Central as their new starting point guard. Kante was Memorial's point guard 2 years ago, he missed all of last season and now transfers to Central. Kante had 11 points on the game. He fouled out, and Jonathin Makori stepped up in place of Kante. Makori hit six 3's en rout to a team-high 20 points. Makori has a smooth stroke and a quick release. You can't get him any room or he'll make you pay.

The kid who really impressed this game was Portsmouth senior wing Charlie Lehoux. Lehoux showed made a number of strong drives to the rim, either finishing or getting to the line. He hit the 3 and also showed an effective mid-range jumper. He had a game-high 22 points but did so much more than just score points. Lehoux played sensational defense, hustled for loose balls and flat out playing harder than anyone else. If Lehoux plays like that all season, he'll make first team all-state in D-II.

Loden Formichelli set the tone early by taking a charge followed by a 3-pointer on the other end. Kante blew by his defender off the bounce, finishing at the rim for an and-1. Central kept looking to push the ball in transition, as junior wing Jaylen Leroy (9 points) ran the floor and then finished an and-1 on the break. Kante used a crossover dribble to free himself up for a foul line jumper. Portsmouth was playing scrappy, disciplined basketball and led 14-13 after 1 quarter.

Joey Martin (16 points) made a strong drive and tough finish to tie it 16-16 early in the 2nd quarter followed by a 3 by Makori. Lehoux answers with a bucket to put Portsmouth back on top 20-19, but then Martin scores and Central re-takes the lead 21-20. Makori hits another 3 and it's 24-20 Central. Formichelli hits another 3 to cut the Central lead to 28-27. Then a baseline jumper by AJ McManus puts the Clippers back ahead 29-28. McManus and Christian Peete both gave Portsmouth some solid minutes off the bench, and Portsmouth led 32-31 at halftime.

Makori hit three more 3's in the 3rd quarter, as Central opened up a 53-43 lead headed to the 4th. Lehoux kept playing a great game in the 4th, going hard to the rim. McManus hit a floater plus got fouled. Ryan Edney hit a 3 and Devon Wilson-Miles and Lehoux both took charges as Portsmouth kept scraping and clawing to hang with Central. But Makori hit yet another 3, and Central was able to hold on for the 67-56 win.

Central is a fast, athletic, explosive team. You can't just focus on taking away Makori's shot because then Martin and Kante will make you pay. Focus only on those 3 and Leroy will hurt you. Plus Central really gets after it on defense.

Portsmouth really works hard on 'D' as well. They're a blue collar, tough, disciplined, well coached team.

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