Friday, December 19, 2014

2nd Half Surge Propels Memorial To Opening Night Victory Over Winnacunnet

By: Dustin Freeman
Discussion leading up to opening night for the Memorial Crusaders was centered around who they wouldn’t have on the floor. The message Memorial sent to Winnacunnet and the rest of NHIAA Division 1 is: they have plenty to win, even if Senior guard Trevon Maughn isn’t on the floor. What Memorial does have, is a strong 1-2 scoring punch in senior point forward Kabongo Ngalakalundi and Sophomore Craig Preston and supporting cast that makes open shots and understand their roles.

The first quarter was like a see saw, as Memorial jumped out strong after Ngalakalundi barreled down the lane for an easy deuce. Winnacunnet junior point guard Anthony Primavera answered back with a strong baseline jumper. 2 Free throws by Ngalakalundi were answered by a Primavera 3. Sophomore forward Freddy Schaake hit a three for the Warriors and Winnacunnet took an early 8-4 lead. Craig Preston and Primavera traded baskets and the back and fourth 1st quarter continued into a 17-17 deadlock. Primavera had 9 1st quarter points for Winnacunnet.

Winnacunnet came out on fire in the 2nd, as a switch to a 2-3 zone was just what they needed. Memorial lacks consistent shooters outside of Preston, but Ngalakalundi Nick Philbert can be streaky shooters as well, but both were off for most of the first half. Locating Preston and going zone allowed Winnacunnet to open up a 27-19 lead with 3:35 to play in the half. Winnacunnet’s lead grew to 8, but their problems were just about to start. Meanwhile, Memorial was about to heat up and fast.

Over the next 13 minutes of game action, Memorial would climb out of the 27-19 hole and build a 46-29 lead after 3 quarters. Winnacunnet failed to score a single point in the 3rd quarter, as shot selection and turnovers became major problems for the young Warriors. The reality is, taking bad shots or forcing things that aren’t there are the equivalent of a turnover. Winnacunnet only had 2-3 possessions where they got a good shot and that spelled their demise, as they need to put up points to hang with a talented Memorial squad.

Memorial got strong shot making from Philbert and Ngalakalundi and Preston really got more involved in the game on both ends of the court. Malo Roumraj and Brandon Scott had some strong finishes around the rim and Memorial made the Warriors pay for their mistakes.

Ngalakalundi had 2 big time blocks on Winnacunnet sophomore Freddy Schaake, both in 1 on 1 situations on the break or off back door cuts. Those blocks were momentum plays, but they also turned Schaake into a jump shooter, instead of wanting to do what he does best, which is get to the rim. Memorial’s run and jump press caused some big problems as well, as Winnacunnet stopped coming to and through the ball and floaters and sloppy passes became the norm.

Memorial got a little sloppy themselves in the 4th quarter, as their 51-30 lead got trimmed down to 54-45 after several steals by the Warriors. Primavera stopped forcing tough shots and became a playmaker, which is what his mindset needs to be. Primavera had 2 great drives and dishes to junior big man Patrick Witt before a timeout and substitutions by Memorial coach Jack Quirk allowed the Crusaders to finish off the Warriors 60-47.

The game had what you expect from opening night. A lot of mistakes, sloppy play and nerves, but also spurts of great basketball and a view of the potential that each team is capable of reaching.

Winnacunnet is a young team and their skill levels, basketball IQ’s and chemistry will only grow. Primavera is asked to score and run the team, which is a lot of responsibility. Reality is, Primavera is a play maker and needs to score points within the offense and not force things. In the 4th quarter, he made some nice plays and got some buckets, but also used his talent to create baskets for his teammates, by getting into the heart of the defense. Sophomores Logan Keene, Liam Viviano and Freddy Schaake will only get better. With only 2 players on the roster who had true varsity experience last year, the upside of this team and expected growth could make them dangerous in the 2nd half of the year. Senior Andrew Soderberg made shots, Pat Witt fought and finished down low, Mike Lewis gave some great energy off the bench, and Senior Aaron Gareau will find his shot and will need to continue to shoot the 3 when open.

For Memorial, having Trevon Maughn on the floor would be huge. However, they cannot focus on who they DO NOT have, as they do have enough talent to compete and play with anyone in the league with the roster they displayed tonight. The big difference is, Ngalakalundi needs to be the play maker and create shots for Philbert and Preston, while Scott and Roumraj give Memorial a very solid starting 5. Many pegged this team to be the favorite to win it all with Maughn in the line up, but reality is, they should not drop too far down the ladder of favorites based on Maughn not being available right now. The cupboard is far from bare at Memorial.

I believe Winnacunnet will be a tough out in the playoffs in 3 months and I think Memorial will be right in contention to make a return to UNH again like last year.

Ngalakalundi led all scorers with 18 for Memorial and Primavera had 15 for Winnacunnet.

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