Jim Fennell's High School Hoopla: Pinkerton girls unbeaten, but hardly perfect
JOHN BARRY didn't expect his undefeated Pinkerton Academy girls' basketball team to be without a loss or two at this point in the season, but he did imagine the Astros would be better than they are.
"I know that sounds greedy," Barry said, "but I expected us to be playing better."
Are the Astros of Derry - the only undefeated team left in Division I - a legitimate threat to win their first state title since 2006 or just a product of a favorable schedule? Barry is not sure, but he is about to find out.
Starting tonight against visiting Londonderry, the Astros (12-0) finish the season with a daunting schedule that includes four straight games against the teams directly behind them in the standings: Londonderry (9-2), Nashua North (10-1), Bishop Guertin of Nashua (10-1) and Bedford (11-2).
Of the 12 teams Pinkerton has played so far, only two currently have winning records. On the other hand, five of the six teams they finish against have winning records.
"This was no way to prepare for what is to come," Barry said of the team's early schedule.
And if the stretch is not already difficult, a scheduling quirk made things a little harder. While most games are Tuesday and Friday, the Astros played Timberlane of Plaistow on Wednesday, leaving them with only one day of practice to prepare for Londonderry.
Going into the season, Barry thought his team would one of the better middle of the pack teams in the division.
"We've been fortunate enough to beat the other teams in the middle," Barry said.
What tempers Barry's enthusiasm is his team's inconsistency - no one or two players have emerged as steady go-to players - and its penchant for just getting by teams it should beat.
Barry points to a 40-39 win over Spaulding of Rochester when Spaulding was 0-6 and coming off consecutive losses of 30 or more points.
His Astros did it again Wednesday when they beat Timberlane, 51-45. They made it harder than necessary, going down 14-6 before taking control over the middle quarters.
- - - - - - - -
THE 600 CLUB: Gary Jenness and John Fagula are two coaches who have not only lasted in the business and had overwhelming success, but they both managed to do it at more than one place.
Jenness, who led White Mountains Regional of Whitefield to the Division III girls' title last year after taking Groveton to 11 state titles in Division IV, earned his 600th win on Friday night against Berlin.
Fagula, who has taken Londonderry to the past two Division I title games after previously leading Nashua to 11 championships, is on the verge of joining the exclusive club.
Fagula, in his 31st year, goes into tonight's game against Pinkerton Academy of Derry, with 595 wins. His record is an astonishing 595-118 (.835).
The Lancers have seven games left in the regular season.
On the boys' side, Colebrook coach Buddy Trask went over 500 wins earlier this season.
- - - - - - - -
ACROSS THE BORDER: Mike McVeigh, already in the Manchester Catholic High Schools Athletic Hall of fame, added a memorable win to a coaching career at North Andover (Mass.) High that is certainly Hall of Fame worthy.
McVeigh, who helped Bishop Bradley (now Trinity) reach the state finals in 1966 before going on to play at Merrimack College, has had a lot of great wins in his coaching career at North Andover - close to 500 in all - and the latest one came Tuesday when his team rallied from 18 points down in the third quarter to beat Central Catholic, the state's top-ranked team.
It was the first loss dealt to another Massachusetts school this year for Central Catholic; its only other loss was to powerhouse St. Anthony's of New Jersey.
McVeigh is in his 31st season at North Andover and his teams have never missed the tournament. The Scarlet Knights, 20-2 last year, moved into the more highly regarded Merrimack Valley Conference this year and not missed a beat, improving to 11-2 after Tuesday's win.
- - - - - - - -
ANOTHER SPORT, ANOTHER MILESTONE: Josee Brunault of Colebrook topped the 1,000-point mark last Friday against Gorham. The senior point guard is a four-year starter and a two-year captain for the Huskies. She is helping Colebrook contend for a top-four spot in the upcoming Division IV playoffs.
This isn't the first milestone for Brunault this year. The three-sport standout (she also plays softball) went over 100 points in soccer this fall.
- - - - - - - -
FRIDAY NIGHTS LIGHTS-BASKETBALL VERSION: Pick a division on either the girls' or boys' side and you can come up with a marquee game tonight that will impact the standings. It's that time of the season.
One that might be a little under the radar: The Bishop Brady girls are at Bow tonight in a pivotal Division III matchup between two of the four teams atop the standings.
The Green Giants (12-1) smacked the Falcons (13-1) in the opening game of the season, 43-34, but Bow has ripped off 13 straight wins since then, recently giving Conant of Jaffrey its first loss.
Sports writer Jim Fennell writes a weekly high school basketball column for the New Hampshire Union Leader. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.