By: Tuesday and Friday
2 teams celebrating at the end of a state title game, flickering Lundholm lights, Libby’s, Basketball Kibitzing and predictions for next season.
I’ve never seen an ending like the one I witnessed in the Central – Merrimack game. BOTH teams celebrated when the buzzer sounded. Merrimack stormed the court more vigorously than Central. The next few seconds had to be the biggest pregnant pause in high school basketball history in state title games at UNH. The signaling referee emphatically came across the court signaling Merrimack’s Noah Beygelman’s shot was NO GOOD. The Merrimack team went from the height of ecstasy to the depths of despair within 10 seconds. Even though Central won, they were celebrating with trepidation as if to say, “Did we REALLY win the state title?”
Fans were leaving Lundholm half numb and half incredulous. The words wow and unbelievable were heard through the vestibule area of Lundholm. Of course, with video, phones and social network, it didn’t take long to confirm the ending to the game had NO controversy. Videos and pics surfaced with the ball still in Beygelman’s hands as the backboard was lighting up. Now, all the fans, coaches or players staying for the Portsmouth – Lebanon game could get on with the D2 game without any lingering bad taste from the D1 game. But, what if the last play of the first game turned out differently………….. ???.........
………………..Can you imagine Chick, Kesty and other members of the Zapruder Family running around Lundholm to show any and every one the video of the release being made in time or the referee signaling good when the ball was ever so touching the 7th layer of skin on Beygelman’s hands as the backboard lit up? This was a unique situation because of this being the first of 2 championship games. There would’ve been a buzz in the gym as it was being cleared for the first game. An hour later the doors would’ve been opened and everyone from Haley to Tarrier to McIsaac and fans in between would’ve been sending videos, tweets to every entity from Barstool Sports to the CIA to show how Merrimack was robbed of the state title. The Portsmouth – Lebanon game would’ve been secondary.
Well, the D1 game turned out for the best. All I’m saying is that with prevalent cameras, social media and all the junior Woodward and Bernstein’s out there it’s almost coming to a time when the pay checks referees receive don’t commensurate with the social ramifications of basketball games in 2016. EVERYTHING is under a microscope. Cameras are all over the place. On any certain play yesterday you had the potential of 1000 different cell cameras from 1000 different angles taping the key play of the game. THE play was ruled right by the refereeing crew. The stakes, matches and lighter fluid were kept under lock and key. No referee was burned at the stake by the restless basketball natives yesterday at UNH. NH referees are safe……… For now……
The second game couldn’t live up to the transpiring’s of the first game yesterday and it didn’t. You knew by mid-way through the second half the 2nd game paled in comparison to the first game. Rough shooting, rough play and no general flow attacked the Portsmouth – Lebanon game like a violent stomach flu in the middle of the winter…… I said this with 6 minutes left in the D2 Ship, “In another 6 minutes Portsmouth will win the D2 Championship. In another 365 days Portsmouth will win the D1 Championship”…… More on this later……
The lights flickered off at halftime of the Central – Mack game. For a moment I thought Lundholm was in a time warp to 6 years ago. During the 2010 Milford – Portsmouth semi-final I believe air from some Portsmouth fan’s balloons set the fire alarms off inside Lundholm during the game. The game was held up for a half hour and every one was evacuated outside. I remember being next to the Milford team on the patio overlooking the football stadium. Not too many times you get to have a half hour discussion with a team that’s playing a tournament game DURING the game. That was one for the books.
The thing that made Central senior Jonathin Makori so good this season was his on court demeanor. He had no fear whether hitting 3’s or slash finish driving to the basket. He is a kid who played up in Durham as if he was at Sheridan-Emmit park on Beech St in Manchester in the middle of summer. Too many players and teams play jittery and deer-in-the-headlight when they come onto the Lundholm court. This isn’t the case with Makori. Leroy was Central’s MVP this tourney and for the season. Makori was their glue, duct tape and bottle of Advil all rolled into one helping the Little Green survive holes in their game and headaches on the basketball courts in NH.
Lebanon has a Makori-type in junior Ryan Milliken. Every time I watch this 5’10 guard he continues to impress. He does a lot of little things to help his team win besides score. I’ve never seen him play a bad game. His motor is always running. He is another player who doesn’t let the bright lights of a big game dim his overall game. The number of points he scores is far outweighed by everything else he does for Lebanon on the court.
The only time you see big student body sections now a days is in the playoffs. It is definitely a big momentum booster when a player hits a big 3 in front of his school’s student body and as the ball is nestling the nets, turns to the student body and gives them a good look for ovation. Evan Macdonald did this a few times at UNH and it definitely worked in favor for a Central frenzied student body roar. Memo to other 3 point made shooters in front of your student bodies: Just give a good look or initial wave of the arms. Don’t go back down the court making signals like you’re trying to land a 747 at Logan Airport. While you’re trying to land a 747 on the Lundholm court YOUR opponent might be beating you down the other end of the court in a numbers break.
Merrimack senior Zak Kerr had a solid game in the last game of his high school career. He finished with 21 points in the title game. He hit some big shots and controlled tempo for Merrimack when they needed tempo-controlling. He’s another player who does a little bit of everything. Can you tell I like players who do a little bit of everything on the court? Kerr is not a flashy player, but had a solid senior season. He’s the type of player any coach would salivate to have in their on the court team mix.
I said during the season this was the weakest Merrimack team in about 15 years. It was and they were. The job Tim Goodridge did in getting this Merrimack team to the state title game and a half second release of a winning 3 pointer is simply amazing. Merrimack had no true point guard. They had zero legitimate POY candidates. They didn’t have any Bigs that could do damage in the paint. Never mind making steak out of bologna, Goody made steak out of peanut butter with the job he did with this Merrimack team this season.
There just isn’t enough time between championship games to enjoy your time at Libby’s eating, drinking and talking hoops. The perfect setup, for people who like to basketball Kibitz like me, would be to have the games at 12 and 4 pm. It’s difficult to leisurely eat, drink and Kibitz, while the specter of a 3 pm tap off is staring at you. Is the NHIAA worried about basketball Kibitzing? Of course not. It is nice to dream of a perfect Kibitzing day on ship Saturday at UNH.
So, what’s up for next season in boys’ D1? A lot of teams are gutted by clumps of important seniors graduating. You can put Bedford, Central, Exeter, Memorial, Merrimack, Pinkerton, Salem and Trinity in this category. If you thought D1 Boys was down this season, then wait until next season. I believe D1 boys will drop another couple of rungs on the talent ladder. Who will be good in D1 boys next season? North with Silva and Linton will be tough. South returns a good crew highlighted by Genao, Patel and Osgood. Spaulding had a young crew who had a solid ending to their season. The Red Raiders will build on that momentum for next season and Tim Cronin sure can coach. Memorial a/k/a the soap opera, “All of Jack’s Children”, is capable of just about anything and everything as a high school basketball team. Jack Quirk could be the new spokesperson for Dos Equis beer as “The Most Interesting Man in the world.”
With the precipitous drop in individual and team talent in D1 boys next season, this sets up a very comfy cozy situation for Portsmouth moving into their new basketball environment. This won’t be like when Pembroke moved up to D1 2 seasons ago. Pembroke was returning some talent to compete in D1, which they did admirably last season…. This season, not so much. Portsmouth returns all their key players. All their key players have performed well on the big stage for the last 2 seasons. This will translate well in D1. Yes, the Clippers will be challenged more and they’ll find the grind of a D1 season is certainly more grinding than a D2 season. This Portsmouth team is more ready for D1 than the Pembroke team of 2 years ago.
The Clippers have a legitimate “old school” Big in 6’5 Joey Glynn. A Big that plays WITH HIS BACK TO THE BASKET!!..... On nights when the Clippers’ offense is struggling Mulvey’s team will always be able to rely on dumping the ball down low and having Glynn score 14 to 20 points….. Oh and he’ll always come up with double figure boards, a few altered shots along with a couple of blocks. He NEVER wanders aimlessly around the 3 point circle like so many of the 21st century Bigs in NH high school basketball. Glynn always gets his hands dirty in the paint. This will translate to a lot of Clipper Ws next season in D1.
Portsmouth is returning their backcourt of point guard Shon Parham and shooting guard Cody Graham. I’m not saying they’ll be the best backcourt in D1 next season, but they’ll be in the mix. We all know having a good backcourt come tourney time is essential. This team just doesn’t rely on the 3 ball to beat you. They move the ball well on offense and will take what the defense will give them. Graham can slash drive-finish as well as he shoots from the outside. Glynn cleans up any spilled milk in the paint. This is so much different than the Pembroke team from 2 years ago entering D1 because those Spartans relied too heavily on the 3 point shot. Portsmouth can beat you in many different ways on offense and this will make them a dangerous team in D1 next season. Now, all bets are off the table if the Ugly head and the Kool-Aid of prep school dismantles this Portsmouth team before next season…….. We shall see.