All five Division I locals prepare for boys hoop tourney
The final piece to the local high school winter season tournament puzzle is complete:
The Divsion I boys basketball tourney pairings have been announced, and all five local teams in the division will be in action in the preliminary round on Wednesday night.
Welcome Nashua North, South, Bishop Guertin, Merrimack and Alvirne.
Nashua North (No.3) and Bishop Guerton (No. 4) are the two highest local seeds, finishing with identical 14-4 records. North got the higher nod thanks to beating the Cards 63-52 back on Jan. 31.
Top seed Exeter (17-1) has a first round bye in the 15-team (via the NHIAA’s 70 percent rule) tourney. The Titans will host No. 14 Concord (8-10) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday while Guertin will take on No. 13 Salem (9-9) at an early 5 p.m. time, presumably to allow fans to also head to Manchester for the Cards’ 7:30 Division I semifinal vs. Bedford.
North beat Concord 63-55 to open the season way back on Jan. 3 in Concord. The Cards, interestingly enough, did not play Salem during the season. Guertin was sailing along on a seven-game winning streak before bowing to the top two seeds, Exeter 56-50 and No. 2 Portsmouth, 70-52 to and the season. North won six of its last seven, losing only to Portsmouth.
Merrimac (12-6), with its usual collection of gritty athletes, finished as the next highest local seed at No. 7. The Tomahawks will host No. 11 Goffstown (9-9) in the prelims, another case of a first-round matchup with two teams that didn’t play this year.
Nashua South finished at 11-7, going 2-3 on its regular season-ending five game road trip. The Panthers are seeded ninth and will have to travel to Hampton to face No. 8 Winnacunnet (11-7). One of the reasons South must travel is a tough 53-52 to the Warriors back on Feb. 21, one of those final road games.
Last but not least, Alvirne goes into the tournament as the No. 10 seed, finishing at 9-9 and will travel to face No. 7 Bedford (11-7) for a 6 p.m. game tomorrow night. The Broncos are certainly a team to keep an eye on; they are the only team to have beaten Exeter (59-56 back on Feb. 19 in Hudson), part of a stretch of six wins in their last nine games to help them overcome a 1-5 start.
Other games in the tourney Wednesday have Portsmouth hosting No. 15 Manchester Central (8-10), a team the Clippers routed in Manchester 66-42 nearly two months ago. Also, No. 12 Windham (9-9) is at No. 5 Keene (12-6). Ironically the two played just last Friday in Windham to end the regular season with Keene coming out on top 62-54.
The quarterfinals will be Saturday night, at 7 p.m. or whatever time schools agree to, at the home of the higher surviving seeds from the first round. North and Guertin would automatically be at home if they advance. If both the Titans and Tomahawks win tomorrow night, that would set up an all-local quarters matchup.
If Nashua South can pull out one more road win, the Panthers automatically would visit Exeter on Saturday. That game, no matter whom the Blue Hawks face, has been given a 3 p.m. time.
The semifinals will be next Wednesday, March 18, at the University of New Hampshire’s Lundholm Gym, at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.
The finals will be Saturday, March 21 at UNH at noon, part of a title game doubleheader to end the winter season as the Division II boys game follows at Lundholm at 3 p.m.