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Mid-Season Thoughts

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Post  EBlessNHSP on Wed Feb 03, 2010 10:00 am

So we're about halfway through the Class L season so far. There's been some surprises, some "I told you so's" and some ho-hums...

With last night's win at home vs. Manchester West I think the story of the season is really told at the top of the standings. Winnacunnet was expected to have a good year, be in the hunt. I'm not sure that anybody saw them rising near the top, and really being one of the toughest games night in and night out. We all know about Harry Knowles, and the player who shall not be named (who's not playing) and the drama that has surrounded this team for what seems like a decade, but sometimes it all comes out to addition by subtraction. What I see out these kids is a cohesive group playing like a team. Ryan Dunn, Jesse Gould, Steve Cronan, Knowles....all playing together under Coach Jay McKenna's uptempo style. I'm drinking the Warrior cool-aid these days.

The other team who to me, is a surprise, is Merrimack. Our friend Jeremy Leveille I believe called this way back when (and I subsequently called him on it with a raised eyebrow) that Merry was the early season #1. Well here they are halfway through the season, and just suffered their first loss last night to Salem (who IS for real). I call these guys a surprise because did anybody REALLY think Dimetri Floras was for real as a 16-year old (cue the "I told you so's")? This group of kids, many of whom endured some tough losing seasons since the departure of one Corey Hassan, really play well together and stress spreading the ball around. As an opposing team you focus on Floras, but then you got Eric Watson filling it up for 20, or the elder Floras doing his thing. In most cases they have more offensive firepower than the opposition has defenders capable of covering them.

Dave Keefe may have had the hardest coaching job out of anybody this offseason. Losing the best player in the state in Jordan Laguerre to the Prep ranks, and one of the top shooters in Cormac Fitzpatrick to Memorial, and still tasked with putting together a product that the Trinity faithful have come to expect. Fortunately he did return one David Madol, a matchup nightmare for every single Class L team in the State. He also has a very successful JV team to feed the Varsity squad, which has paid dividends to the tune of players like sharpshooter Zach Stevens, and the Duffleys. Add in freshman Travis Descoteaux, Senior floor general Phil Hayden and Keefe's got more tools in his toolbox than I've got in my entire shed. Life is good for the foreseeable future, question is can they put it all together for a run in March.

The beauty of Class L this year is the teams with 2-5 (and even a couple of the 6) loss teams. ANY of those teams, BG, Trinity, Dover, West, Pinkerton, North, Alvirne, Memorial, Central, Salem, Exeter, and even Goffstown can beat you on any night. Don't overlook a Goffstown squad who has win on the road vs. Memorial, or Exeter who's taken down Pinkerton. Or how about Salem who started their season 1-5 but have since realed off wins vs. BG, Londonderry and the aforementioned Merrimack squad who was previously unbeaten? Look for Salem to finish VERY strong with a slew of games against some of the lower dwelling teams.

Some other surprises have to be boys from Hudson, who were really expected to have a strong showing this year after their final four run. Returning 4 starters and adding Jim Tomaswick as a transfer really bode well for a team that tends to play its best ball come playoff time. I still like Alvirne, but they've got the meat and potatoes of their schedule still left to be played with Merrimack, Salem Trinity, Pinkerton and Winny yet to come. They do own some solid wins vs. Dover and Central, but they've struggled on the road to teams like North, Spaulding and West. They really needed to win 2 of those 3 to be be seriously considered a contender. They've got work to do.

And how about Memorial. Coach Fitzpatrick had some new presents under the tree including his sharpshooting son, Cormac. They've taken care of business against the teams they 'should' beat, but have struggled against the top tier programs like Winny, West and Trinity. A mid-season lapse at home against Goffstown had us all cringing a bit at our (ok...my) early preseason favorite pick. Looking forward to seeing how their season plays out.

I'm not going out on a limb to make a prediction...it's too hard this year. I have a warm and fuzzy feeling about Salem and EJ Perrys ability to bring this squad back (but the hole they dug themselves was pretty deep). There are things I like about each of the top 10-12 teams. In my opinion its that wide open this year. Merrimack and Winnacunnet are tied for first as of today but come March, it wouldn't surprise me to see a #1 seed go to a BG or Trinity.

Anybody else got any 1st half thoughts?

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Post  EBlessNHSP on Wed Feb 03, 2010 10:10 am

I just realized I didn't even write about BG who may be the deepest, and most talented team in L. The only thing holding them back right now is consistency out of their big 3, and injuries. They've still got to put it together against the big boys the second half of the season. They've got matchups vs. Trinity, Pinkerton, Winnicunnet and at Memorial and West. If they win 4 of those 5 they are probably the favorite, regardless of where they are in the standings.

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Post  Big Guy on Wed Feb 03, 2010 1:19 pm

BG played without 2 starters last night,Green,and Lavish and still went into a packed Alvirne gym and did the job.Green will be back next week, and I look for them to continue where they left off when he was in there.The injuries have given bg juniors Physoca,Cuipa,Remillard,and Kelly a chance to show what they can do.That can only benefit them come playoff time.BG has lost 2 games {by a total of 4 points} since Green has been out. It would not surprise me if they run the table when he gets back.He is the real deal. Achilles heel-free throw shooting
I can only comment on the teams I have seen so far.Merrimack,Jeremy was right they are the real deal,in large part to a phenominal freshman.They move the
ball well,play good defense,and take it to the hole.Final 4. Achilles heel- Watson's temper at critical junctures of a game
Dover, great 3 point shooters could get hot at tourny time. Great 8.Achilles heel-lack of height and bench
Salem,How did this team start 1-5?They play great at home,unfortunately with their bad start they won't be playing 2 home games in the playoffs.A team nobody wants to play.Great 8.Achilles heel - bench
Alvirne,How is this team 5-4?Another team much better then their record indicates.Talking to parents last night it sounds like they play to the level of their competition.Two good big men,good shooters,good depth coming off their bench,can't quite figure this team out yet,but one thing I can tell you is don't overlook them.
North,this is my sleeper team,They looked unbeatable at home against BG,then a few nights later against Merrimack they looked like they had never played together.They are loaded with young talent,but with youth comes really stupid mistakes.They would be an interesting 1st round matchup.

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Post  Big Guy on Wed Feb 03, 2010 1:21 pm

Just to finish,it would not surprise me if any 1 of 10 teams won it this year.It is that wide open,should be a fun 2nd half.

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Post  Tuesday and Friday on Wed Feb 03, 2010 9:49 pm

Geez Big Guy, my achilles heel is hurting just from reading your post.

I am even more surprised at the parity in Class L at the mid way point. I knew there were going to be a lot of close games, but the surprising results have come in greater number than I anticipated. This is what makes Class L so exciting this year. Alvrine is still the biggest enigma in L. They give new meaning to Jekyll and Hyde. One night Trinity plays like a top 4 team and the next night they play like a team that could finish 6th to 10th. Playing a lot of youth will do this to the Pioneers. Coach Keefe is doing a lot of teaching this season. I'm still not sold on the point guard situation for BG. Yes, Big Guy, they are very painful at the charity stripe, but as a non-partisan BG fan, I still see chinks in the running of the Cardinal engine. Memorial's record is a surprise, but they are taking a turn in the right direction. If Morgan's explosiveness can get back to early season form and C. Fitz can find more consistency with his long range missles, nobody will want to play the Porter St. boys. Even with their loss to Salem, the Tomahawk Express looks very good. You can sense they have unfinished business to take care of on the hard courts through out NH. Even though McKenna has soared in Coach of tthe Year watch with Winny's play so far, I submit to you that Coach Goodridge is an very viable candidate at this point for COY honors if Merry continues their winning ways. I sense Central's best basketball is still to come which is not good news for the teams remaining on their schedule. Dover is flying lower on the radar, but Alex Burt is finding his mojo again. Their entertaining of Trinity on Friday will be a key game for the Wave to recapture their early season magic. Pinkerton is still tough with their front line. Salem is the best under .500 team in the state.

So, here we are at the mid way point and there's still a lot of questions in Class L. They will start to get answered starting this Friday. The playoff season could be really special.

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