190103-spt-alvirne5

Alvirne’s Paul Manzi drives to the hoop against Concord during a Division I game last month.

Exeter favored, but ... : When the top boys’ basketball tournament opens, expect plenty of good teams to give the Blue Hawks a run.

WE’VE ENTERED the home stretch of the Division I boys’ basketball regular season. There’s one more week of games before the tournament season arrives.

With the NHIAA’s 70-percent rule in place, 15 teams will advance to the Division I postseason. One team, the No. 1 seed, will receive a preliminary-round bye. That team is Exeter, which improved its record to 16-0 and locked up the top seed with Friday night’s 73-47 victory over Bishop Guertin.

The Blue Hawks have established themselves as the clear favorite in Division I, but the gap between Exeter and the rest of the league is a narrow one. Exeter beat Portsmouth by three points (57-54); led Central by one with just over two minutes to play before posting a 79-70 victory; and led Londonderry by two points with less than a minute to play before pulling away for a closer-than-the-score-looks 60-49 triumph last Tuesday.

Point being, there are plenty of teams that could be a handful for the Blue Hawks.

“I think Exeter’s earned to be called the favorite down the stretch,” Salem coach Rob McLaughlin said after his team raised its record 15-2 by beating Londonderry on Friday. “Credit to them. They’re undefeated for a reason. They’ve beaten every challenger that’s come up, but I think you could legitimately go back seven or eight deep in terms of the number of teams that could win it.”

Keene (10-6) and Nashua North (10-6) are also among the eight teams that have 10 or more victories entering this week’s games. In addition to Exeter and Salem, the group with double-digit victories also includes Winnacunnet (13-3), Spaulding (12-4), Londonderry (12-4) and Portsmouth (11-5).

“Salem can beat anyone, Portsmouth can beat anyone (and) you’ve got Winnacunnet,” Londonderry coach Nate Stanton said. “Exeter’s obviously at the top, but I wouldn’t be surprised by anything Alvirne does because they can shoot. You get them on the wrong night, they’re scary. I also think Dover’s scary.”

For the record, neither Dover (9-8) nor Alvirne (9-7) are currently in the top eight, which means both teams could open the tournament on the road.

“Teams can get hot,” McLaughlin said. ”Look at what Alvirne did to us earlier this year (the Broncos beat the Blue Devils 72-47). They could make a run. You have Spaulding, Portsmouth, Winnacunnet, these guys (Londonderry). We’re already into six, seven, eight teams that have a legitimate shot. Then you have those teams that have a kid. Dover might not be in the top seven, but (Ty) Vitko can go on a run. Guys like that can carry guys right up to UNH. I think it’s kind of a wide-open field going forward. You’re going to have to bring it going forward every night.”

.

A year ago the inaugural George “Butch” Joseph One-Pitch Softball Tournament raised more than $8,000, which will allow the George Butch Joseph Foundation to award scholarships to deserving students in Manchester and Nashua, cities where Joseph worked as an educator for the majority of his career.

This year’s tournament will be held May 11 at Gill Stadium and Manchester’s Wolfe Park. This is an eight-team tournament that will use a double-elimination format. All proceeds will go to the scholarship fund.

Students can contact their high school’s guidance department for information about applying for this year’s scholarship. Anyone interested in becoming a tournament sponsor, volunteer, donor or who would like to register a team can contact Vinny Langella at 540-5029. Those interested in the tournament can also visit the George Butch Joseph Foundation on Facebook.

.

The door has been opened for the NHIAA to use instant replay for its state championship football games at the University of New Hampshire this year.

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has approved a rule that will permit state associations like the NHIAA to create instant-replay procedures for postseason contests only. There is no requirement for any state to do so, however.

Replay technology is in place at UNH for use in CAA and other FCS football games.

“The ultimate goal of each game official and each officiating crew is to get the call correct,” said Todd Tharp, chair of the NFHS football rules committee. “Each state association, by individual adoption, can now use replay or video monitoring during its respective postseason contests to review decisions by the on-field game officials. Each state association, if it adopts this rules revision, will also create the parameters and scope of the replay.”

.

Salem’s Tristen Cabinta and Timberlane’s Connor McGonagle each won their fourth state title Saturday at the Meet of Champions at Nashua South. It was the first time in NHIAA history two wrestlers captured their fourth MOC title in the same year. Five other wrestlers have prevailed in their weight class at the MOC four times: Concord’s Tyler Saltzman (2004-07), Timberlane’s Matt Smith (1999-2002), Souhegan’s Joe Moskowitz (1998-2001), Nashua’s Mark Thibeault (1986-89) and Keene’s Steve Bergeron (1974-77).

Derry’s Geo Baker scored a team-high 17 points in Rutgers’ 71-60 loss to Michigan State on Wednesday. Including his 13 points in a 68-64 Rutgers win over Minnesota on Sunday night, Baker has scored in double figures in 22 of his team’s 27 games this season.