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Joe Duball's H.S. Basketball: Derryfield is surprise unbeaten

By JOE DUBALL
New Hampshire Union Leader

February 07. 2018 11:10PM




We have one undefeated team across all four divisions of NHIAA boys’ basketball. Many would likely put their money on this team being a big Division I school. Think again, folks.

The Derryfield School of Manchester boys are 13-0 in Division IV following Tuesday’s 68-26 trouncing of Wilton-Lyndeborough. To call the Cougars’ spotless roll a surprise would be an understatement. The lack of expectations from peers in Division IV didn’t weigh much on Derryfield coach Rob Bradley, mostly because he saw his club falling nowhere near the top of the pack as the season got going.

“It is certainly unexpected for us to be undefeated at this point,” Bradley said. “I really thought we’d be a decent team. I don’t think anyone really thought we’d be playing this well.”

Most of the second-guessing on Bradley’s part came with the question of how the Cougars would replace the production of decorated forward Sam Anderson, who graduated last year. Bradley admitted Anderson was the foundation of the semifinal run by Derryfield last season.

Revamping the offense without Anderson was expected to be a daunting task. However, the Cougars are scoring over 63 points a game. While the production went through Anderson in the post previously, this year’s scoring success stems from guard play.

“Maybe more so now with the game changing over, but I’ve always seen guard play as a critical aspect of how high school ball unfolds,” Bradley said. “We were kind of that power team with Sam the last couple years. Now we’re a much quicker team with some experience on the perimeter and a willingness to be aggressive up the floor.”

The backcourt quartet of Andrew Dubreuil, Jeff Pratt, Trent Henrich and Max Byron makes up the guard depth for Derryfield. Balance is the strength among the guards as all four have shared the offensive load. Bradley said a quick look at the stats showed the guards are within four or five shot attempts of each other when it comes to overall attempts. Additionally, the Cougars have forwards Oliver Sattler and Cody Bournival combining for somewhere near 16 points and 11 rebounds a game down low, which lines up with Anderson’s averages from last season.

Beyond the on-court production, Derryfield does have an understated strength throughout its roster. Much of the team, including the Cougars’ starting five, captured a state title in an undefeated season with the Derryfield boys’ soccer team this fall. Success on a soccer field doesn’t necessarily carry over to the basketball court, but the winning mentality certainly does.

“There is a knowledge and experience of kind of being gritty while dealing with adversity and challenges,” said Bradley, who added that having the soccer team play up a division has helped with his players’ sense of competition. “They know how to find ways to get through it and get it done.”

Despite the pedigree the Cougars’ carry, there is no sign of overconfidence among the group.

“If I’m being candid, yeah, we are undefeated and ranked No. 1 right now. I don’t think we’re the favorite for the title right now,” Bradley said. “I think we might be something like the third, fourth or even fifth-best team in this division right now.

“We know we are not good enough to just show up, play and win. There’s a maturity with these guys that’s grown through different seasons and sports together. They know it’s not easy.”

Being undefeated is typically a curse for most teams as a target is placed on them. Being able to forge a realistic view of their stance in the division allows Derryfield to play freely. That said, the Cougars have yet to see opponents let up on them.

“We’re in that unique position as a private school where we are on a lot of teams’ lists of who to beat,” Bradley said. “It’s not often where we aren’t an important game to somebody. We’re getting the best shots, regardless of our record. That serves us though because the kids really come to understand that no game is a ‘ho-hum’ game. We have to show up.”

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I GOT my first look at the Spaulding of Rochester boys on Tuesday night in their win over Memorial. The Red Raiders are not the team their 6-6 record suggests. In fact, I’m willing to rank them among the best in the league simply because of forward Arie Breakfield.

The junior is a matchup nightmare, standing 6-foot-5 with the ability to thrive on the perimeter and in the paint. He hit three consecutive 3-pointers on Tuesday while sporting some impressive ball handling skills to maneuver through traffic in the post on the way to 28 points.

The greater value with Breakfield might come with his defense. On Memorial’s opening possession Tuesday, Breakfield blocked two shots and altered another. That presence and early statement didn’t force the Crusaders away from the basket, but they certainly didn’t look comfortable going at Breakfield. Memorial rarely had an opportunity without Breakfield at the basket as he was the first defender back every time the Crusaders wanted to get on the break.

Add in the facilitation of point guard Keagan Calero and the timely shooting of Jarod Gooley, and you’ve got a team that can’t be taken lightly when they’re locked in, which has been the case during its five-game win streak.

Whatever the Red Raiders do this season may simply be a precursor to greater fortune next season. There is not one senior on Spaulding’s roster, meaning the success they’re building now is sustainable into next year and possibly beyond.

High School Basketball appears Thursdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader during the season. To reach Joe Duball, e-mail jduball@unionleader.com


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