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January 18. 2013 12:21AM

Jim Fennell's High School Hoopla: It's class warfare in Division I

Trinity coach Dave Keefe warns that it's still early - teams are barely a third through the season - but there's a definite pattern developing in Division I boys' basketball.

Call it the Haves and Have Nots divisions.

Going into tonight, six of the 20 teams in the division have one or no losses, while six others have one or no wins. Only eight teams have winning records.

"Maybe it's the way the schedule shakes out," Central coach Doc Wheeler said. "We haven't played the stronger teams."

And while Central and Trinity are part of a small pack pulling away from the field, there's no clear favorite to choose from.

"We strive to get one of the top four spots and it's going to be a dogfight to get one of those spots this year," Keefe said.

It's not surprising that the Haves - Bishop Guertin of Nashua, Nashua South, Spaulding of Rochester and the Manchester trio of Trinity, Memorial and Central - have piled up wins by beating up on the Have Nots. Central and Bishop Guertin have not beaten a team with a winning record going into tonight's games, while Spaulding and Memorial each have one.

Things will start getting interesting when they start playing each other more frequently.

"In our last eight games, we're not going to have what you'd call an easy game," Wheeler said.

The team that may be in the best position is Trinity, one of two unbeatens left (the other is Central).

The Pioneers beat Spaulding and South back to back and followed up with a win over a Bedford team that's good enough to pull off an upset or two come tournament time.

"That was a great week for our kids," Keefe said. "And I know we're not even peaking yet. I have two kids starting for me (transfers Brad Rhoades and Ryan Otis) who I didn't know eight to 10 weeks ago."

The Pioneers can make a break from the lead pack in the next 11 days when they play BG and Memorial in that span.


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COMING AROUND THE FIRST TURN: There are seven unbeaten teams left among the boys and Pembroke Academy is the only one in Division II. The Spartans are 8-0 in the regular season and 11-0 if you include their 3-0 run in the Capital Area Holiday tournament.

Pembroke coach Matt Alosa said he won't be upset if his team loses a game before the tournament.

"I don't know if I would want to be 21-0," Alosa said. "That means you have to go 25-0 (including playoffs) and that's very hard to do."

Alosa likes that teams in Division II, as in Division I, rarely play the same team twice. Teams in Division III and IV often plays teams twice a season, so it's tougher to compare teams.

"I like the diversity," Alosa said. "It's obviously tougher to prepare, but you get a good measuring stick."

There are six unbeatens in the state among the girls and the most surprising may be Hinsdale in Division IV. The Pacers are 8-0 going into tonight's game at 2-5 Nute and have already beaten every other team left on their schedule.



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SUPER FANS: We're not saying which schools have the best fans. We're only making some observations about the ones that have impressed us so far.

There may be no other student section that has more fun than the one at Bishop Guertin. The students walk in together, have routines with the cheerleaders and playfully give it to the other team's players. Nothing is really nasty, just good spirit.

High school basketball is still a big deal in many towns and that was never more clear than a trip to Jaffrey this week to see Conant host Campbell of Litchfield in a boys' basketball game.

The four rows of bleachers on each side of Pratt Auditorium were filled, as were the seats placed on the stage at one end of the court. It seemed everyone was dressed in the school colors of black and orange.

Finally, a tip of the hat goes to Swat Team, fans of the Pembroke Academy boys' basketball team there to cheer on the Spartans at home and on the road. They often times were louder than the home fans during Tuesday's game at Souhegan High of Amherst.

Pembroke coach Alosa said they are worth a couple of buckets every game. Good thing since the Spartans won that game by four points.



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FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS - BASKETBALL VERSION: If you like the behind-the-scenes story, then Bedford is the place to be tonight when the Bulldogs host Memorial in a boys' basketball game. Bedford coach Mike Fitzpatrick was at Memorial last year and you can be certain the Crusaders want to make their old coach sorry for leaving.

Advancing the spotlight to Tuesday, Memorial plays at city rival Trinity and the place will be wall to wall with fans. That, Keefe said, is why he designated the night as the "Coaches vs. Cancer" game. He said he hopes the program raises $1,000 for the American Cancer Society.



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Staff sports writer Jim Fennell can be reached at jfennell@unionleader.com


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