Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cream Rising to the Top

It's still early, but it looks like there's 7 teams who have separated themselves as the top teams in NHIAA boys basketball, regardless of division. Central, Pelham, Pinkerton, Portsmouth, Bishop Brady and Spaulding can all make a case for being the #1 ranked team in the state right now. None of those 6 teams have lost yet to a team from NH (including holiday tournament action). Londonderry's only loss to a NH team came in double-OT to Pelham.

Here's a look at each of them, listed alphabetically (because it's too much of a crapshoot to rank them at this point).

Bishop Brady - a case can definitely be made for Brady being the best team in the state. The Giants are 8-0 including holiday tourney wins, and all 8 wins have been by double digits. Included in there is a 14 point win over Pembroke, which is more points than Pinkerton or Spaulding beat Pembroke by. It's hard to argue with the Bell Brothers and Brendan Johnson being the best 'Big 3' in the state.

Londonderry - including the holiday tournament, Londonderry is 7-1 with the only loss coming in double-overtime to Pelham. All 7 of Londonderry's wins have been by double digits, including 2 wins over Mass teams and blowout wins over Bedford, BG and Trinity. The Exeter game was their closest win, but they played that game without starting wing and captain Joey Kwiatkowski. St. A's recruit Cody Ball is the real deal, and Marc Corey can also go off for 20 points any given night.

Manchester Central - Hard to argue with a team on a 32 game winning streak being #1 in the state. Joey Martin has played in all 32 of those games and has yet to lose while wearing a Central uniform. Questions do linger about of the eligibility of their players. They have been able to pull out wins while playing without key players like Kante, Akot and Guillermo, but I doubt they beat Pinkerton on Friday night if all 3 of those guys are out.

Pelham - They're in Division III, but they could still make a pretty could case for being the #1 team in the state. The Pythons are 6-0 against NH teams, including a win over Londonderry. Campbell was considered the #2 ranked team in D-III coming into the season, yet Pelham beat them by 11. Conant was considered a possible Final Four contender in D-III but Pelham beat them by 17. Windham is possibly a top 5 team in D-II and Pelham beat them by 17 too. The Pythons' loss came in the holiday tournament title game to Westford Academy, a team who would beat anybody from NH.

Pinkerton - With their combination of size up front, speed and play making ability in the back court, shooters and depth it's easy to consider the Astros as possible the best team in NH. They're 5-0 on the season, and they're 8-0 if you include the holiday tournament in Lawrence. Pinkerton's last 2 wins have come against team who were previously unbeaten in Division I play (Pembroke and Alvirne).

Portsmouth - of the 7 teams on this list the Clippers are the one flying under the radar the most. Many people are calling Brady the hands down favorite in D-II but if you ask me Portsmouth is right there with them. Portsmouth is 4-0. West and Windham were both expected to contend for a top 4 or 5 seed in D-II, yet Portsmouth beat West by 16 and they beat Windham by 21. They lost a game over the holidays but it was to a team from Mass. That experience will only make them better. The Clippers can run, they can slow it down. They play outstanding defense, they move the ball well and hit shots on offense.

Spaulding - of all the teams on this list, Spaulding is the one who got the least amount of publicity in the preseason. That's probably because they're not flashy, they only have one kid who plays over 6'3" (Cicotelli) and he didn't even play last year. Plus they only have 1 star and that player (Darian Berry) is as as quiet, non-flashy, unassuming blue collar star player you'll find in the state. What these guys do have is senior leadership and chemistry (all 5 starters are seniors and the same 5 kids have been playing together since 5th grade). They're disciplined, fundamentally sound and well coached. Including the holiday tournament they are 8-0. They beat Pembroke on the road and the other 7 wins have all bee by double digits.

So there you have it. The 7 teams who seem to be playing a notch above the rest of the NHIAA right now. It looks like Central, Spaulding, Pinkerton and Londonderry are the favorites to make it to UNH. Just think how good Pinkerton (Luke Rosinski), Central (Brett Hanson) and Londonderry (Caleb Green) would be if those kids didn't leave for prep school.

Portsmouth and Brady look like the definite favorites in D-II, Pelham is the hands down team to beat in D-III. And yes, we will be covering the Central vs. Pinkerton on Friday night.

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