What A Year It Has Been Part II: Boys Basketball

The Boys Basketball season in the Division IV ranks is tracing up to be a very interesting ride! We have been spoiled with overtimes galore, buzzer beaters, games coming down to the last shot, intensity, and we anticipate that trend continuing through mid-March. This is my favorite time of the year. The final stretch of the regular season in the high school ranks, into the playoffs, then into conference tournaments and eventually the NCAA Tournament in the college ranks. Here are my thoughts on the Boys Basketball sides of things, locally, up to this point.

Coming into the year, Littleton started behind the eight ball after learning 1st Team All State Forward Danny Kubkowski would not be returning due to the knee injury he suffered during the pregame workout of the Quarterfinal game against Colebrook last year. With Kubkowski, they were the overwhelming favorite. However, even without Kubkowski, they are still the favorite, and this team certainly knows this, and wants to prove a point. I talked about all the overtimes, buzzer beaters, and games going down to the last shot in the previous paragraph. Well, Littleton has been in the mix of all of those scenarios, and so far, has come out on top of everyone. They won at the buzzer against WMRHS at home earlier in the season. They won at the buzzer at home against Groveton, which was very controversial as NSN’s slow motion replay revealed. That shot did not get up in time. However, find me an official who doesn’t call that good, and I’ll forfeit my savings account (which isn’t much). As Coach Collins said, nobody blocked out at the end, or went after the ball. Bromley did, and won it. They then got taken down to the wire against Woodsville where Davidson’s last shot failed. They had a high intensity game against Newmarket down at NHTI. Last night, they pulled off an important tough game against WMRHS with their top dogs all struggling offensively. This team has been tested, and folks, that’s only going to help them down the stretch. They’ve taken care of teams they should blow out and don’t mess around all game and keep those teams in the game. Parker Briggs, as we expected, has been stellar offensively. You can’t leave him open, and his one on one abilities are the best in the Division. That’s a major problem if you don’t have a lockdown defender on your team. Todd Krol-Corliss, for the most part, has been lights out. He struggled last night against WMRHS, but over the course of 13 games, he has been phenomenal. He’s CLUTCH too. It seems that he hits all the big shots, and teams ALWAYS leave him open towards the end. You might want to find him, because he will hurt you. Landon Bromley and Parker Paradice have been huge for this team defensively. They step up offensively when the big dogs struggle, like last night with Bromley putting up 17 points. Bromley also shut down Jack Curtis, which was the game. Finkle down low is legitimately a man amongst boys. There’s nobody that’s as strong as him. Works hard on the boards, improving steadily offensively. Very fun to watch. Quinton Eastman and Jason Hamilton have been pleasant additions off the bench. Stephen Lucas too. This team, in my opinion, has the recipe to win their final game, but there are some teams in their way, who I feel can beat them on any given night, and I’m sure Coach Howard and his boys know that too. Will they finish it out? They’ve been to the final four 10 years in a row it seems but won it all just once. Will they get over that hump this year?

At the beginning of the year, none of the big wigs statewide had Groveton on their map. I said over and over then, and I’ll reiterate this again now. This team is going to be in the mix, is in the mix, and they are not leaving that mix. 7 Time State Championship Head Coach Mark Collins has this team doing things. When you watch these guys play, you sit back and say, “these guys are basketball players.” You can see that’s what they do. Coach Collins has a season long agenda. They are executing that agenda so far, and ahead of schedule. This team, too, has been tested. They won a tough one at WMRHS earlier in the season. In THE RIVALRY against Colebrook, they went to overtime twice, and won both, coming back from down 9 in the first showdown. They took that tough one at Littleton at the buzzer. That one, is one, they can keep in their back pocket and use as fuel to light their fire. The rematch is on February 20th and NSN will be there. They will know exactly what they need to do standings wise going into that game and will be ready. As I mentioned, these kids are basketball players. They learn from their mistakes. Josh Wheelock has stepped up as the leader of this team and has performed very well too. He rebounds, and except for the two Colebrook games, scores whenever he wants. He has been fun to watch this year. When something specific needs to be done, he’s the player that steps up and gets it done, no matter what it is. You need a big rebound, he’s got it. You need to defend someone, he’s got it. You need a few good possessions in a row offensively, he’s got it. Then there’s Julian Kenison. In my opinion, this kid is a true 2 or 3 guard. He is playing the point guard position. He has legitimately adapted his game this year for the better of the team. While playing out of position as the point guard position, he’s done a phenomenal job. He has his moments, but that’s expected. His shot is silky smooth. That reach around tip that he always does has created many turnovers, he blocks shots, and he has also stepped up in big games. He will be key for this team down the stretch. I love watching him play. Matt St. Cyr has had his moments this year from the outside. He had a big game against Colebrook at home with the game winner and 23 points. Deadly from the outside. He opens up a lot of things in the middle for this team. Chris Corliss and Brandon Laundry down low have been fantastic. Chris Corliss has stepped up offensively too which has been key. Laundry continues to do his job on the boards. We’ve seen it happen before with Groveton. You get them to Plymouth, all odds are thrown out the window. I like the make up of this team. Nobody will want to see them, and deservedly so.

Woodsville had high expectations coming into this season. They had a rough start, going 1-2, but since then have gone 8-2, and are staying in the hunt. They’ve got two big ones coming up with Colebrook on the road and Littleton on the road. If they can split these, 13-5 is not out of the question. They have done well against the teams they should beat. If they would have won that Littleton one, that would have flipped the script with this team. Their gym is tough to play in, so a home court game in the first round will be their goal. These guys have seen equal production basically out of everyone. It’s been a nice team effort. Brendan Walker can shoot it from the outside. Conner Maccini is a great defender and has done well this year. Corey Bemis is an athlete and can do things on both sides of the basketball. Cam Burt, who transferred from Lisbon, has been a nice addition, and he can do some things offensively as well. A nice surprise this year has been the production of Cam Davidson. That kid brings fire, and he has some touch in his offensive repertoire. He rebounds and defends very well, too. All of this without Reardon-Estes seeing a lot of time due to academic reasons. The thing with this team is they’re trying to find themselves. Establish roles, mesh together, so that at the end of the season, they’ll be playing their best basketball. Coach Walker has something to work with here. We will see that final product as this season winds down.

Colebrook has had it’s ups and downs this year. They did get the injury/sickness bug for a week or two, and that was the beginning of the most recent struggles. They are beating the teams they should beat. They’ve had stretches of looking very, very good i.e. both Groveton games, and WMRHS at home, but they have also had stretches where they look very, very bad i.e. Lisbon on the road, Littleton at home, and WMRHS on the road. The word that has been thrown around for this team is inconsistency. After losing two consecutive games by 30+ (even after beating WMRHS by 13 in their first match up), this was the perfect time for this team to have an eight-day layoff so they can try to find themselves. Coach Trask is a 3 Time State Champion for a reason, and he has nearly 600 wins for a reason. He will get with the boys during this stretch and try to figure things out. Malik McKinnon has been one of the best two-way players in the Division in stretches. He is the key for this team with his rebounding, his leadership, his athleticism, and his play down low. Carson Rancourt, at times, has been deadly from the outside. My guess is he has put up a lot of shots during this eight-day layoff to get geared up for the final push. Daegan Riff has been a menace defensively, and he is that guy for Colebrook who stops THAT guy on the other team. I like the improvement of Kaiden Dowse at the point guard position as this season has gone along, and Marik Boire has had his moments shooting the ball. They’ve got pieces. They just need to put things together. Woodsville on Thursday is their biggest game of the season. Fortunately for Colebrook, after this game, they have a favorable schedule. What they need is a four-game winning streak and momentum heading into the playoffs. Get that pendulum moving back in the “very, very good” direction, and make some noise wherever they go. They will not be an easy out, if playing well.

At the Division III level, WMRHS has been making some noise. Their six-game winning streak came to an end last night with that tough loss to Littleton. In very similar fashion as the WMRHS girls’ team, here is a very interesting statistic. WMRHS is 6-1 against Division III competition. They are 2-4 against Division IV competition. Just as I did with their girls’ team, I feel this team will be in the hunt and have a legit shot at playing at Keene State College in the Final Four. Jack Curtis has been performing at unreal heights this year offensively. He has certainly stepped up in that category. He has had a few 30 point plus games and handles the basketball very well. Connor Bosse’s defense is some of the best around. He can stop people and will continue to stop people. Tyler Hicks has been a pleasant addition this year, especially on the boards. He’s physical and has a knack for the ball. Brody Labounty is intense and defends the perimeter well as well. The defense for this team will be what separates them from everyone else. They can defend. They are gritty. They make teams frustrated. I feel this defense has enough to single handily carry them deep in the playoffs. Throw in a good night offensively from Curtis and a couple of others (all of which can step up), they have something going. This is a tough five-game stretch for them. They will need to keep that record against Division III teams up if they want a home court game in the first round. They can certainly do it. I don’t know about the teams that they are playing, but it looks like they will be tough ones for most of them. One game at a time mentality from here on out for WMRHS.

“America’s Team” as NH Sportspage’s Dave Haley likes to call them, has slowly made their way up the ladder this year. You can’t have a write up without having them in it. Coach Natti has done a nice job at the helm there in Lisbon. They had a nice win against Colebrook. They don’t have a lot of offensive power, but man are they gritty, and work hard. An interesting one will be that game against Groveton at home. Not that I’m saying Groveton will overlook them, because Coach Collins has already expressed his concerns for that game, but if Lisbon can stick around, those could be one of those surprise games. Lisbon should sneak in, and hey, if they find a good match up in the first round, could surprise someone. I always love following this team!

On a personal note, I’d like to congratulate Parker Briggs from Littleton on becoming the newest addition to the 1,000-point club on the Boys Basketball sides of things. Parker is fun to watch. One on one wise, he’s the best in Division IV. He runs the point guard position very effectively and gets to the rack nicely as well. Great work, Parker! Welcome to the club!

As this season winds down, you will be seeing more of my thoughts as things unfold. What a season it has been so far! Tomorrow I’ll come at you with some Boys and Girls Hockey thoughts! Enjoy the rest of your Tuesday, everyone!