Jim Fennell's High School Basketball: One observer's top players are formidable group
End-of-the-year awards are a staple among coaches and the media in almost every sport. High school basketball in New Hampshire is no exception.
The coaches association has its own all-star teams for every division. After spending the season watching games, taking scores and reading and listening to what other people think, here is one person's version of an all-state boys' basketball team.
My starting five is dominated by returning players. Give me Tim Preston of Nashua South at point, and Patrick Welch of Pembroke Academy and Eric Gendron of Merrimack on the wings. All three are juniors. In their own way, each could dominate a game. Every team had to come up with game plans to stop them and most did not succeed. Another junior, Carmen Giampetruzzi of Trinity of Manchester, is up front. He was the key to Trinity's run to the Division I title.
Picking a fifth starter was a bit tricky.
Basically it came down to big men Mabor Gabriel of Trinity, Jeff Lunn from Bishop Guertin of Nashua and Manchester Memorial's Tong Akot, all seniors. The choice here is Akot. On a Memorial team that was trailed by turmoil throughout the season, Akot was a stabilizing factor, an undersized center that battled taller players such as Lunn and Gabriel on even terms.
We certainly like having Lunn and Gabriel coming off the bench on our team, and we'll add to that bench with senior guard Brandon Len from Souhegan of Amherst, senior guard Devin Springfield from Conant of Jaffrey, sophomore guard Andrew Houde of Newport and junior guard Chad Knighton of Lisbon.
Every team has to have a defensive stopper and our pick is junior guard Rob O'Brien of Conant. Watching the kid shut down Houde and Max Gouveia from Campbell of Litchfield in the final two rounds of the Division III tournament was enjoyable.
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BEST OF THE BEST? Meghan Green of Bishop Guertin and Gendron were named Miss and Mr. Basketball, respectively, by the New Hampshire Basketball Coaches Organization. Both are certainly deserving of the honor.
Green was a dominating inside force that was part of a BG team that almost won its second straight Division I title. Gendron led a Merrimack team that basically had to rebuild after last year's title run and helped them be more than competitive.
If you gave me one player to pick to start a team, it would no doubt be Green among the girls. She could take over a game on both ends of the floor and was a rebounding machine.
Who would it be for the boys? That's a tough one. There are few players in the state who can score like Welch. He's fast, aggressive and is an absolutely deadly shooter. But the choice here is Tim Preston.
He's a true point guard, who can make plays at both ends of the floor. The thing that stood out about his game during the tournament was his fearlessness. He constantly attacked the rim, never backing down against taller players.
And, if I were picking the perfect sidekicks to these star players, the choices would be easy: Giampetruzzi among the boys and junior Haley Driscoll of Bedford for the girls.
Giampetruzzi, plain and simple, was the reason Trinity won the Division I title. He knew how to bring out the best in Gabriel, was never afraid to take the big shot and was often the guy with the ball in his hand when other teams tried to pressure the Pioneers.
Driscoll, like Giampetruzzi, has a subtleness about her game that makes her the perfect complement. She could defend post players, handle the ball and she, too, showed she was willing to take the big shot, making the game-winner in Bedford's win over BG in the Division I championship game.
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AND, FINALLY: Who are the top coaches for this year?
These seem like easy choices.
Matt Alosa of Pembroke has to be the coach of the year among the boys. His team was the only undefeated one on the state - 25-0 including its wins at the Capital Area Holiday Tournament - and managed to beat Souhegan in the Division II championship game despite Welch sitting out the entire second quarter in foul trouble.
The Spartans, no doubt, had talent, and Welch was the best player in the division, but they were not overwhelming. They were just very good, and Alosa's coaching made them great.
The pick on the girls' side was even easier.
Sue Thomas took a Bedford team playing its first year in Division I after never winning a tournament game in Division II and led it to the title. The Bulldogs didn't start a senior and relied heavily on two freshmen. They were not the most talented team in the state, but Thomas pushed all the right buttons.