Thursday, January 5, 2012
New England Roundup: New Hampshire
By Marc Thaler
This had to be Merrimack High's mantra for the holiday tournament season: Why settle for just one title?
In the days after Christmas, the Tomahawks rolled to championships in arguably New Hampshire's top tournaments for boys' basketball and hockey.
The school's Division I hoop team, on the strength of a last-second 3-pointer from star guard Dimitri Floras, won the 48th annual Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament at Manchester Memorial High. The Division II hockey club, thanks to a fourth-round shootout goal from forward Chris Fortin, copped the Bauer Classic crown at Manchester's JFK Coliseum.
Talk about a wild week.
The hockey team's four-day run to the crown was the more surprising story. The reigning state runners-up, the Tomahawks were considered a mystery when the season started shortly before the holiday break. They graduated one of the state's top snipers (Erik Glendye) and said goodbye to their coach (Dan Legro).
They're a mystery no more.
After starting 3-0 in league play, the Tomahawks won four games at JFK. They beat three Division I teams, including defending champion Trinity High of Manchester, 3-1; reigning runner-up and perennial power Hanover High, 4-3 (shootout); and then-No. 1-ranked Memorial, 2-1 (shootout), in the final.
Goaltender Brett Glendye -- who made 45 title-game saves -- was named tournament MVP. Teammate and forward David Downie also earned a spot on the all-tourney team.
"I looked at (the holiday tourney) as a 'prove it' opportunity for the kids," Merrimack coach Kurt Mithoefer said. "Thus far, the kids have proven the naysayers wrong in terms of offensive ability and being a mystery team."
On the hardwood, the Tomahawks ended the feel-good story of the QCIBT.
Floras hit the big bucket that lifted Merrimack a 57-54 win over upstart Manchester West High. The 6-foot 2-inch junior guard -- named the tourney MVP -- drained a lead-changing 3-pointer from the left corner with 7 seconds to play. He finished the contest with 20 points, six assists and four rebounds.
"I missed a lot of easy ones tonight and felt like I let my team down. But I got the one that mattered most, I guess," Floras told the New Hampshire Union Leader after the Dec. 28 title-game win.
Merrimack's path to the title round included wins over Seacoast squads Dover High, 59-51, and Exeter High, 58-39.
But in the high-stakes round, it took a charging violation to clinch the win. Jeff Giannelli, a 6-foot-7 tower, held his ground as West's Jocarl Bureau drove the lane for a potential game-winning layup. The pivotal play came with 2.1 seconds remaining in regulation.
The QCIBT runner-up a year earlier, Merrimack reached the championship game for the ninth time in the last 12 years. This year's title was the program's fourth in that span, and first since a three-peat from 2000-02.
"We played good. But my hats off to West," Merrimack coach Tim Goodridge told the statewide newspaper. "They made it come down to one shot."
GREEN (WAVE) MEANS GO Defending Division II boys' hockey champion Dover made quite a statement over the holidays, too.
The Green Wave worked three message-sending wins at Concord's Everett Arena to capture the Capital City Classic tourney title. The wins came against Division I programs Concord High (2-1) and Londonderry High (5-2), and a beatdown of South Kingstown High of Rhode Island (7-1).
"We played our style of hockey: Up-tempo," Dover coach Steve Riker said. "We tried to use our speed. We were physical when we needed to be."
Senior goaltender Tyler Briand made 24 saves in the Dec. 29 final against Londonderry and earned touney MVP. Freshman Rob Markusic netted four goals in the six-goal win over South Kingstown.
Offense from the team's top four defensemen didn't lack, either. Tyler Zabkar tallied two goals and an assist in the three games. Travis Smalley (goal, assist), Riley Leavitt (three assists) and Sam Boivee (two assists) added to the offensive production.
"That was really the difference for us in the tournament," Riker said. "We didn't have offensive D-men last year."
NEARLY NO. 1 In the 11-year history of Manchester Central High's Christmas Tournament, the most recent three-day girls' hoop event might go down as the most competitive.
And Memorial -- the tourney's defending champ -- almost won it.
The Crusaders reached the title game on the strength of Amra Elezovic's clutch free-throw shooting in the semifinals, but lost the final to Bay View Academy of East Providence, R.I., 53-49, on Dec. 29.
Elezovic led all scorers in the championship game with 20 points. Freshman Peace Kabari added 13 points. But the Crusaders -- at one point in an 11-point second-half hole -- struggled to hit shots down the stretch.
Solid free-throw shooting a day earlier by Elezovic lifted the Crusaders past Central, 41-38. The senior standout converted 7 of 8 shots from the line. Allie Hartford added a trio of 3-pointers in the low-scoring win.
Memorial opened its tourney run to the final with a 49-46 win over perennial Division II power Lebanon High. Elezovic netted a team-high 19 points.
FIGHT TO THE FINISH New England's most decorated wrestling program nearly clinched another George Bossi Lowell (Mass.) Holiday tournament title.
Timberlane Regional of Plaistow, one of 64 teams in the annual tourney, placed second to Vermont power Mt. Anthony Union (228-215.5). The Owls, this year, are one of coach Barry Chooljian's youngest teams in recent history.
Standout Zach Bridson was the holiday tourney champion of his weight class (113 pounds).
Bridson -- a Division I scholarship recruit for the University of Tennessee-Chatanooga -- won his third consecutive Lowell Holiday crown.
EAST-WEST ROSTERS RELEASED Rosters for the inaugural East-West High School Football All-Star game were released Jan. 2. The contest, set for June 23 at the University of New Hampshire's Cowell Stadium, will benefit Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD) and Kristen's Gift fund.
Windham High's Bill Raycraft is head coach of the East squad. Milford High's Keith Jones is the West team head coach.
The East roster, broken down by schools:
Campbell: John Houston (TB/LB)
Dover: Chris Maglaras (DL); Eric Miller (OL); Tyler Zabkar (QB)
Epping-Newmarket: Dustin Jarosz (WR/DB)
Exeter: Conor Carrier (RB/DB); Brad Tiernan (OL/DL); Adam Morin (OL/DL); Jake Pleadwell (RB/LB); Tim Stackhouse (OL/DL)
Plymouth: Cole Brooker (RB/LB); Nick Reisert (RB/LB)
Souhegan: Tim Beliveau (SE/OL); Chris Chininis (Slot/DB)
Trinity: Josh Hughes (RB/LB); Andrew Lauderdale (TE/DL); Mike Leonard (OL/LB)
Marc Thaler is a reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News. He co-hosts the “New Hampshire High School Sports Show” on Manchester's WGIR-AM 610 and the Seacoast's 96.7 FM every Saturday from 7-9 a.m. Read his “New Hampshire GameDay” blog and follow him on Twitter: @marc_thaler.