The plot thickens for Tourney Week Two
By TOM KING
Ahh, the plot thickens.
We are now in full Week Two of high school tournaments for local teams, with four in semifinals and a handful more starting things up in the Division I and II boys basketball tournaments.
Oh, and throw in a mid-week snow threat, and who knows where any of these teams will be on a given day.
There’s no threat, however, for the start of things on Tuesday, when the Hollis Brookline girls basketball team look to get back to the Division II finals with a 6 p.m. semifinal matchup against No. 7 Hanover (15-5) at Southern New Hampshire University.
Also on Tuesday, No. 9 Milford (10-8) visits No. 8 Timberlane (10-8) in the Division II boys hoop prelims, while No. 13 Souhegan (8-10) travels to face No. 4 Kearsarge (14-4). Top-ranked Hollis Brookline (16-2) has a bye.
Four games involving local teams are scheduled for Wednesday. In the Division I boys hockey semis, No. 6 Bishop Guertin (12-6-1) takes on No. 2 Hanover (16-3) at 5:30 p.m. at JFK Coliseum in Manchester. Just up the road at SNHU, No. 5 Campbell (16-4) takes on No. 9 Monadnock (14-6) in the Division III boys hoop semis at 8 p.m. Nearby at 7, the upstart Nashua South boys basketball team (No. 13, 7-11) was slated to take on No. 4 Manchester Memorial (13-5) in the Division I prelims, but that game has been tentatively moved to Thursday at 7 due to the impending storm. Still on the Wednesday schedule is an all-local prelim matchup when No. 10 Merrimack (8-10) is at No. 7 Alvirne (12-6), a 6:30 p.m. start.
The final piece to the puzzle if the schedule remains the same is on Thursday at 8 p.m. in the long awaited Divsion I girls basketball semifinal rematch between No. 5 Bishop Guertin (15-5) and No. 1 Bedford (19-0) at SNHU.
Here’s a look by sport:
The Division II tournament has been riddled with upsets but the Cavaliers have managed to avoid that fate thus far in two tough tournament games when they’ve had to come up with the right plays at the right times.
The Cavaliers already own a 46-28 win over the Marauders up in Hanover back in late January. In that game, Christina and Joanna Balsamo combined for over half the Cavs’ points (24) while center Elizabeth Atkinson was huge with 14 rebounds to go with nine points. HB’s defense did the trick.
It’s been a scary tournament for the favorites, and many are looking at No. 8 Bishop Brady (14-6), led by 1,000-point six-footer Samantha Will, as a real tough out. The Giants face No. 13 John Stark in the 8 p.m. semi nightcap. The finals are Friday night at 7 at SNHU.
And then there’s the long awaited Bedford-BG rematch, albeit a semifinal and not a final thanks to BG’s begin seeded fifth due to their out-of-state losses. The Cards and the Bulldogs have been on an inevitable collision course since Bedford’s 48-43 win back on Jan. 16, when they used a zone defense to confuse the young Guertin team.
“I don’t think it’s a surprise that we’ve made sure we’ve been practicing on how to handle a zone since then,” Cards coach Brad Kreick said. “The kids are in a much better place since then.”
Guertin should be buoyed by the return of its leading scorer, Erin Carney (14.5 ppg). The sophmore guard has been out for nearly two weeks with an ankle injury. “I think she’ll be fine,” Kreick said. “She’s been practicing and has had the ball in her hands on a regular basis.”
These two have played in the last two finals and, and Kreick said, “have played six or seven times over the last couple of years and it’s always been no more than a five or six pont game. It’s hard not to get excited. They’ll be ready go, we’ll be read to go.”
In Division I, it’s an intriguing matchup with Alvirne taking on Merrimack for the third time this year, the Broncos winning 53-39 in the Chick-Fil-A tourney in Nashua and then 39-38 in Merrimack on a Meshack Mugariri buzzer-beater.
Both teams have 20-point, career 1,000-point scorers, Alvirne with Max Bonney-Liles and the Tomahawks with Ian Cummings (closing in on 1,200 career points). Alvirne wants to run, Merrimack wants to slow it down.
“It’ll be a test of wills,” ‘Hawks coach Tim Goodridge said. “If the game is in the 60s or 70s we’re in trouble, if it’s in the 40s or 50s we have a chance.”
“It’ll be tough,” Alvirne coach Marty Edwards said. “To beat Merrimack twice in a season is tough, to beat them three times will be really tough.”
The winner will go from the frying pan to the fire to face No. 2 Exeter (14-4).
Nashua South will face a very fast paced, athletic Memorial team that beat the Panthers in Manchester 84-56 back on Jan. 16 in the midst of a six-game Crusader winning streak. Memorial has gone 6-4 since that streak ended. South, meanwhile, led by scorer Richie Mercado, got two clutch wins at home over Dover and Keene to grab that 13th and final spot.
As for the tournament overall, Portsmouth is the No. 1 seed, but of course the road is loaded with bumps, like the potential of rival Winnacunet in the quarters if they Warriors get by Spaulding. And don’t forget No. 3 Bedford (14-4), which won 10 in a row from early January to early February and would love to return to the finals.
“Until somebody beats Portsmouth, I’m still with them,” Goodridge said. “They’ve got five guys who can score which is unheard of in today’s world.”
“Anybody can beat anybody,” Edwards said. “If a team doesn’t show up, or there’s a big foul, or an injury. Anything can happen.”
The quarters are Saturday night at the higher seeds and the semis are on Wednesday March 14 at UNH.
In Division II, the Cavaliers, led by seniors Matt Simco, Matt Dowling and Jonathan Brackett get a rest until Friday, when they would face the winner of the Milford-Timberlane game.
The Jamie Pare-led Spartans have played the Cavs tough in two losses (46-45, 53-48), but first have to get past a Timberlane team that they split with (71-49 loss on the road, 60-46 win at home). That rematch was a much better defensive game for the Spartans, which got 37 combined points from Jake Greska and Matt Fortin to pull out the win.
The Sabers, led by senior scorer Andersen Geffrard, have their work cut out for them on the road against a Kearsarge team that has won 11 in a row, without a loss since HB beat it 59-34 at home back on Jan. 9. Kearsarge. That streak includes a 73-68 win at home over the Sabers, a game that wasn’t easy.
Of course, Kearsarge could face the Cavs in a semifinal. A Milford-HB quarterfinal on Friday would be a treat. What has made the Cavs so tough this season?
“Their defense,” Murray said. “They’re strong inside, and a real good defensive team.”
The semis are are next Monday at UNH with the finals there at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 17.
If you enjoy upsets, the Division III boys tourney has been the one to watch. Campbell has avoided that fate, but the Cougars’ brackett has been full of them, including one by Monadnock over top seed Hopkinton.
And, the Huskies handed the Cougars a tough 74-46 road loss back on Feb. 16, Campbell’s only loss in the last month.
“That was a good lesson for us,” Cougars coach Sudi Lett said. “We learned so much from that game. If we can put what we learned from that game into practice, we’ll be OK. They ran a tough zone against us, and we didn’t do a good job of being patient, waiting for it to break down.”
Campbell has gotten great play of late from sophomore Joaquin Heller, who had 18 points in the quarterfinal win over White Mountains plus juniors Jonah Crema and Chad Martel, the latter playing well defensively of late. He could be a real key Wednesday as Campbell will look to shut down Huskies senior guard Joe Minson, who had 32 points in the quarters.
The winner gets either Berlin or Somersworth in Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. final, also at SNHU.
DIVISON I-II PICKS: Exeter (I), Kearsarge (II).
Could this be the second Bishop Guertin revenge tour in the last four years? The Cards won the title in 2015 beating everyone in the tourney who had beaten them during the season. Saturday they avenged a recent loss to Pinkerton by beating the Astros 3-1 in the quarters. That’s the same score they fell to the Marauders by back on Jan. 20 at Skate 3. In that one, Hanover did a good job of taking Guertin’s 25-goal scorer Ben Peterson (34 points) out of the game.
“We just didn’t score,” Guertin coach Gary Bishop said. “But right now we’re a little better off. Clearly better off in goaltending now.”
Colin Freitas returned from a concussion to a so-so performance vs. Concord in the regular season finale but was superb in the quarterfinals.
The Cards will make the adjustment of facing a Pinkerton team that liked to bang with them to a more free-wheeling Hanover team, led by senior defenseman Braxton McNulty and young scorers like sophomore Cam Woods and junior Elias Zinman.
“They’re a skill team,” Bishop said, hoping the small ice of JFK can work in BG’s favore. “Pinkerton would battle with us, but Hanover is more of a skill team, spot-on passes.”
It’ll be a test for BG’s senior defensemen – Jared Zeichick, Jack Johansen and Cam Fagan.
The winner gets either Concord or Bedford in the finals at SNHU Arena (formerly the Verizon Wireless Arena) on Saturday at 5 p.m.