Cards will have tourney success, but who will join them?
It was quite an opportunity on Sunday at the Colligadome to see two defending Division I state championship girls basketball teams, Braintree (Mass.) and Bishop Guertin collide. Doesn’t happen often.
Guertin more than survived the collision to the tune of an incredibly impressive 68-43 win, viewed by more than a few college coaches in the large matinee crowd.
“We love these games,” Cards coach Brad Kreick said. “What a great atmosphere today, too. This is about close to a playoff atmosphere as I think you’re going to find for a regular season game. Just a great environment for our kids to play in.”
For the Cardinals, it’s not about making a statement, it’s about getting better for a month from now when they hope to hoist an incredible fourth straight title plaque in the Kreick coaching era.
They’re heavy favorites to do so, but they know other teams are getting better, also. But their quest brings back memories of an eight day stretch a year ago when four local basketball teams played in state title games, winning three of them.
Could that happen again when tourney time hits late this month and into the first half of March? It doesn’t look that way. A lot will have to take place between now and the first 16 days of March.
Anything can happen, but it would take a minor miracle for the BG girls not to be in the March 9 title game at Southern New Hampshire University.
But who else? A year ago, a few hours after Guertin won its title, the Campbell boys hoop team went for its own in Division III and was perhaps 12 minutes away from doing so. But the Cougars fell short, and that motivation has them (12-2 at this point) gearing up to try to finish their business. It could be another double header again at SNHU on March 9.
The night before is the Division II girls title game, also at SNHU. Hollis Brookline a year ago won a very gratifying Division II girls hoop title after losing in the finals the year before.
Can the Cavs, currently 10-4, repeat? If you saw Hanover on Friday night, how tough defensively the Marauders are, not to mention a killer inside-outside game with tons of depth, it would be hard to envision. But that’s what tournaments are all about, right? Always expect the unexpected, but Division II is loaded with contenders.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of other good teams,” Hanover coach Dan O’Rourke said the other night. “I’ve been in this long enough (to know) one bad game and you’re done.”
How about the other boys hoop divisions? Remember, last winter ended in glorious fashion with the Hollis Brookline squad capping off a boy-girl Division II hoop title sweep. At 7-5, that would be tough to imagine for the Cavs this year, and the area team that could make some tourney noise may be Souhegan (9-4). Now, in Division I, Curtis Harris-led Nashua North has tons of talent and would be the choice here to take it to perhaps the Final Four at UNH’s Lundholm Gym. The Titans hit a recent speed bump but that happens; their coach, Steve Lane, has preached that every night is a huge test and he’s been proven correct.
How about hockey? The area hasn’t had a team play at SNHU Arena on Finals Day since Bedford dethroned Bishop Guertin in the 2016 Division I title game.
The Cards are young this year and may be a year away from going that deep. Actually, a team that could possibly make the semis in their division are the Hollis Brookline-Derryfield Warriors, currently 9-5 in Division III after Saturday night’s 6-4 win over ConVal at Conway Arena. First-year head coach Joel Sanborn has taken a team that won just a game or two a year ago and turned it into a contender.
Actually Divsion II may have a local contender, maybe two. The Alvirne-Milford Admirals have won eight games in the first year of a co-op. They show no fear and won’t dim in the bright lights. Merrimack has seven wins, and can’t be counted out of a good run.
And, in girls hockey, don’t count out Souhegan. They answered the bell in Saturday’s third period and if they can put enough pucks in the net, they may take things one more step from a quarterfinal team a year ago. Tough to do in a league dominated by Hanover and when Exeter and Oyster River-Portsmouth are tough, but they only lost 3-0 to the Blue Hawks last week.
Could the 9-5-1 Sabers make the semis?
“I don’t know,” their coach Kelli Braley said after Saturday’s win. “It depends on how hard they want to work for it. It’s not going to be easy to get there, but anything’s possible.”
And that’s the tournament time slogan for everyone, right? It will be here soon, and we’ll see what twists and turns are in store along the tourney trail.
Tom King may be reached at 594-1251,firstname.lastname@example.org, or@Telegraph _TomK.