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February 13. 2014 9:53PM

H.S. Basketball: Looking ahead to some March madness

How many teams are capable of winning this year's Division I boys' basketball tournament? Some will tell you it's a short list that features Manchester Central (13-0), Merrimack (12-1) and Trinity of Manchester (11-1). Others insist that any team is capable if it advances to Durham, the site for the tournament's semifinals and championship game.

"To me, when you get to Durham, anything can happen," Merrimack coach Tim Goodridge said. "I've seen really good teams go up there and fizzle — one of them was mine. They key is you have to get there. The higher seed you are, the better your chances become.

"I look at the paper every day, and about 90 percent of the teams are teams I don't want to play in the first round. You have some clubs that on any given night you better be ready to play. In the first round I could see some upsets coming."

The tournament will kick off on March 4 with preliminary-round games at the home of the higher-seeded team. The quarterfinals (March 7) will also be played at home sites before the semifinals (March 10) and title game (March 15) move to the University of New Hampshire's Lundholm Gymnasium.

Londonderry (11-2) and Bishop Guertin of Nashua (10-3) are two other teams that could make a deep run. BG lost to Trinity in last year's championship game.

"I think the run for Durham is going to be wide open this year," BG coach Jim Migneault said. "I really believe that.

"I think there's a clump of us that are all pretty good. I wouldn't throw Londonderry out of there yet. They beat us in a good game at our place.

"There are five or six that are right there, but the teams that are down between 10 and 14 aren't bad. They're teams that can come out and maybe play a good game and beat somebody, so it should be an interesting tournament this year."

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THE BEDFORD GIRLS are 12-0 entering tonight's game against winless Timberlane (0-14), but the Bulldogs will likely be tested in back-to-back games next week. After playing at Spaulding of Rochester (5-8) on Monday, Bedford will meet Londonderry (12-1) at home Wednesday and will be on the road at Pinkerton Academy of Derry (10-2) on Friday.

Bedford, Londonderry and Pinkerton currently occupy the top three spots in the Division I standings.

Bedford, last year's Division I champion, has won 11 of its 12 games by at least 23 points. Its only close call was a 46-44 victory over Alvirne of Hudson.

Ten of Bedford's 12 opponents have failed to score more than 39 points.

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THE Merrimack (12-1) at Trinity (11-1) boys' game looks like the best matchup on tonight's menu. Each team's loss came against Central.

Trinity's Wenyen Gabriel, a 6-foot-6 junior center, is playing his best basketball of the season. Gabriel has averaged 18.6 points and 14.6 rebounds in his last three games — victories over Manchester Memorial (83-66), Bishop Guertin (59-54) and Alvirne (85-51).

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THANKS to the students in a marketing class at Salem High School, tonight's boys' basketball game between Salem and Londonderry will be dedicated to Alli, a 6-year-old Derry resident who is associated with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Alli is scheduled to lead the Salem boys onto the Davis Gymnasium floor, join the captains meeting at center court and sing the national anthem. Alli will also be presented A signed pink ball and jersey from the Salem team.

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DEFENSE is the calling card for the Portsmouth boys (11-2). The Clippers are allowing an average of 39.1 points per contest and haven't surrendered more than 53 points in a game this season … The Milford girls (12-1) will get the chance to avenge their only loss of the season when the play Souhegan of Amherst (11-2) at home Tuesday night. Souhegan won the first meeting 37-26 in Amherst.

Roger Brown covers high school basketball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He can be reached at rbrown@unionleader.com. Follow him on Twitter: @603SportsMedia.


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