THERE’S NO DOUBT about the marquee matchup in Division I boys’ basketball this week. When Salem travels to Exeter on Tuesday night (6:30) those in attendance will get to see two of the three unbeaten teams remaining in the division. Salem and Winnacunnet are 7-0, and Exeter is 6-0. Nashua North (6-1) is the only other Division I team with fewer than two losses.
Tuesday’s game will be the second time Exeter and Salem have met this season. The Blue Hawks prevailed 59-56 in the first round of last month’s Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament, a game that doesn’t count in the Division I standings.
“It was December 26th when we played and neither team practiced on December 25th or December 24th, so it was sloppy,” Exeter coach Jeff Holmes said. “I don’t expect this one to be as sloppy, but I expect it to be a one-possession game again.”
Salem returned three starters from a team that lost to Manchester Central in the first round of last year’s Division I tournament: senior guard Zack Caraballo, senior forward Kyle Poulin and junior guard Trevor DeMinico. All three are averaging more than 10 points per game, and Poulin scored a game-high 18 points in the earlier meeting between the teams.
“On any given night it’s been a different (leading) scorer all year long, but it’s usually one of those three,” Salem coach Rob McLaughlin said. “We’ve been preaching that unselfishness, sharing the ball. It doesn’t matter who gets it as long as we get it. The kids have bought into it.”
Exeter isn’t lacking scorers either. Sophomore guard/forward Josh Morissette, senior forward Kevin Henry and junior guard Ryan Grijalva are capable of tossing in 20-plus points in any game, and, like Salem, Exeter has complementary scoring as well.
“It’ll be a battle,” Holmes said. “They’re tough because he’s got a traditional team with two really good guards, a point guard and a shooting guard. He’s got a power forward, he’s got a center and a small forward. They’re not like some teams like us who put a bunch of guards out there. It should be a good game. The kids will be ready for it.”
Each team has been getting it done on the defensive end as well. No team has reached 60 points against Salem, which has a solid inside presence in 6-foot-5 center Ben Laycock (nine rebounds per game). Exeter, which has made life miserable on opposing offenses this season with its 1-3-1 press, has held four of its six opponents to fewer than 40 points.
“They come at you non-stop all game,” McLaughlin said. “Obviously we’ll have to handle their pressure and take care of the basketball.”
MLB Pipeline released its list of top minor league prospects by position last week and Bedford High School graduate Grant Lavigne was ranked No. 8 among first basemen.
Colorado selected Lavigne with the 42nd pick in last year’s draft. He hit .350 with six home runs and 38 RBIs in 59 games with the Grand Junction Rockies last season. Grand Junction is Colorado’s Rookie-League team in the Pioneer League. Lavigne also stole 12 bases in 19 attempts, and led the league with 45 walks and a .477 on-base percentage.
The current edition of Baseball America lists Lavigne as the No. 5 prospect in the Rockies’ organization. He could be assigned to the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats at some point this season. Like the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Hartford plays in the Eastern League.
Nashua native Paul LaPolice was among those being talked about as a possible replacement for Chris Jones as the head coach of the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders.
But LaPolice, who was an assistant coach at the University of New Hampshire in 1995 and 1996 and is currently the offensive coordinator for the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers, was denied permission by the Blue Bombers to speak with Saskatchewan.
He was Winnipeg’s head coach from 2010 to 2012.
Saskatchewan promoted Jeremy O’Day to general manager and vice-president of football operations earlier this week. O’Day played center for Saskatchewan when LaPolice was an assistant coach on the Roughriders staff. Jones resigned as Saskatchewan’s head coach Tuesday to become as assistant coach with the Cleveland Browns.
LaPolice played at Nashua High School and Plymouth State University before embarking on a coaching career that began at Maine Maritime Academy.
Claremont’s Henri Bourque and Weare’s Parker McQuarrie have each received invitations to participate in the Elite 11 regionals and the opportunity to advance to the Elite 11 finals. The Elite 11 is a competition for quarterbacks throughout the country, and the closest regional is scheduled to take place in New Jersey on April 7.
Bourque guided Stevens High School of Claremont to the Division III championship as a sophomore before he transferred to the Williston North Hampton School in Easthampton, Mass. He set school records for passing yards in a season (2,010) and touchdown passes in a season (20) at Stevens.
Bourque passed for 1,572 yards and 16 TDs for Williston North Hampton last season, when he also ran for 620 yards and four TDs.
McQuarrie played at John Stark Regional High School in Weare before he transferred to the St. Paul’s School in Concord before last season. He guided St. Paul’s to an 8-0 record and its first NEPSAC Bowl victory since 1989 last year. McQuarrie has scholarship offers from Boston College, Michigan, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin and Rhode Island.