Boston High School: Charlie Duprey

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

March, 31, 2012
3/31/12
2:41
PM ET
History will show Merrimack High survived the 16-team Division I boys' basketball bracket to win the 2011-12 tournament title as a 7-seed.

But these Tomahawks were hardly a Cinderella squad.

“We knew we were better than a 7-seed,” said coach Tim Goodridge, whose team overcame a season-long rash of injuries to key contributors, and rattled off four postseason wins, the last one a 65-56 decision over No. 4 seed Manchester Central High that clinched the state crown March 17.

Goodridge's group was a preseason pick to reach the University of New Hampshire's Lundholm Gym for the Final Four. Cutting down the nets was a distinct possibility.

Yet the injury bug bit early –- and often. Kyle Richardson, the 6-foot 4-inch starting center, suffered a nasty knee injury in the preseason.

Dimitri Floras, early on offered a scholarship by UNH, missed a bulk of the regular season. The star junior broke his right wrist in late-January. Days later, 6-foot-3 senior Jared Peabody was sidelined with arm trouble.

Football standout Jackson King, a suffocating defender for the hoop team, also dealt with a freak injury. The senior, landing awkwardly after making a game-winning block in mid-February, broke his wrist. Classmate Bryan Courtemanche suffered a concussion.

“It felt like I was running a M.A.S.H. Unit for a while,” said Goodridge, who led Merrimack to its third Division I title this millennium, and first crown since 2004. “The last game was probably the first time we had everyone in uniform – and we had no excuses.”

Floras was a definite difference-maker. He made a cameo just before the tourney, but tweaked his ankle in the regular season's final week. Goodridge opted to sit Merrimack's maestro until “win or go home” became the slogan for every squad.

Goodridge made a good call.

The 6-foot-2 star scored 76 points in tourney wins over defending champ and 10-seed Bishop Guertin High of Nashua (62-51 overtime), 15-seed and surprise quarterfinalist Dover High (74-54), 6-seed Spaulding High of Rochester (53-39), and Central.

Merrimack's resilience, however, was truly tested during the regular season. Out of necessity, roles changed.

And changed.

And changed.

As a result, though, lesser-known talents were called upon to play key minutes. Dylan O'Brien, Brad Jarry, Connor Whelan and, before his concussion, Courtemanche took advantage of the opportunity.

Meanwhile, Jeff Giannelli, a towering 6-foot-7 presence in the post, and brothers Tyler and Eric Gendron assumed additional responsibilities.

The trio didn't disappoint, particularly Tyler, a 6-foot-5 senior, who filled in at point guard, and continued to score when needed. Gatorade, in turn, named him the Granite State's Player of the Year.

“I'm going to really miss this group. Eight seniors, 15 on the roster,” Goodridge said. “For them to adapt all season long was tremendous.”

TITLE NO. 18
The best part about a season concluding? Coaches whose teams win a title finally tell you what they really think.

Take Jim Mulvey, Portsmouth High's six-year coach. His second-seeded Clippers overwhelmed 5-seed Bedford High, 58-33, for the Division II boys' basketball title March 17 at UNH.

“I always told them we were the best team. We were the hardest working team,” said Mulvey, whose star senior guard Kamahl Walker, erupted for 22 points, six steals, four rebounds and three assists. “Pressure usually gets to you, when you get to Durham, if you're not prepared. We were prepared.”

Portsmouth's 25-point pasting earned the program its 18th state title dating to 1923. The championship erased back-to-back frustrating finishes for the team's 11 players, seven of whom were seniors.

A year earlier, Portsmouth lost the final by six points to defending champion Milford High. Two years earlier, the Clippers were KO'd by those same Spartans in overtime of the semifinals.

Fair to say Portsmouth (20-2 Div. II) was motivated?

“From Day 1,” the Clippers coach said. “It's much easier to win with seniors. They're more prepared. They understand it. They get it.”

Mulvey said his team really hit high gear midway through the season. Kyle DiCesare, also a standout football player, returned from a broken ankle that sidelined him in the fall.

DiCesare's return gave Portsmouth yet another offensive weapon, and further strengthened a defense that rarely allowed easy buckets.

Undersized big men Charlie Duprey (6-foot-4) and Gregg Tsougranis (6-foot-2) stood tall, especially in the final. Portsmouth's “bigs,” plus DiCesare at 6-foot-2, matched up with Bedford's giant front line.

The Bulldogs boasted three players at least two inches taller than Duprey: Colin McManus (6-foot-10), Trevor Fahmy (6-foot-8) and Roger Larrivee (6-foot-6).

The mismatch never materialized.

“This team felt so much like 2009 to me,” said Mulvey, referring to Portsmouth's previous title-winning team. “It just came together. It felt right. Unselfishness and commitment from all the kids. You just knew the kids were in it for one reason.”

Marc Thaler is a reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News. He co-hosts the “N.H. 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.

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

December, 16, 2011
12/16/11
12:19
PM ET
The immediate goal for Pinkerton Academy's Astros is straightforward: Finish atop the regular-season standings this winter in Division I boys' hockey.

Sounds cliché, right?

New HampshireTurns out this very dangerous squad from Derry – the preseason pick to finish as rink royalty – has yet to earn a No. 1 playoff seed under nine-year coach Casey Kesselring.

“We've never finished first,” Kesselring confirmed before adding that his 2008-09 title team emerged from the bracket as the No. 4 seed.

Kesselring's club a year ago earned the No. 2 seed. But the Astros were a quarterfinals casualty, stunned at home by arch-rival Londonderry, 3-2.

Considering the talent returning on Pinkerton's roster, expectations are extremely high.

First-line wingers Zach Sanford and J.D. Dudek fuel Pinkerton's high-octane attack. Sanford, a junior, and Dudek, a sophomore, led the team in points a year ago.

Further illustrating the talent this team possesses: Freshman Devin Moore centers the top line.

There's no drop-off with the second line. Junior center Dominic Corsetto skates with classmate Connor Brady and sophomore Brendan Philippon.

Kesselring believes the trio would be the top line for most clubs in the state.

Clearly, Pinkerton's strength is potting pucks. Offensive output should provide insurance for the team's junior goaltenders. Nate Mitchell and Matt Marchman are first-year varsity stoppers.

Of course, the coach isn't the least bit worried about the lack of varsity experience his goalies possess. Nor is he concerned about the preseason bull's-eye painted on Pinkerton.

“It doesn't bother me. It gives the school recognition. It gives the kids recognition,” Kesselring said. “But they don't hand out rings in the preseason.”

(Read full post)

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

November, 27, 2011
11/27/11
9:35
PM ET
Bill Ball and his Exeter High Blue Hawks, in their second season competing against the state's largest schools, took the express elevator from cellar to penthouse.

It's one way to explain Exeter's voyage.

New HampshireAs is this: "It's just the ultimate roller-coaster. That's what it is," massive lineman Brad Tiernan said after his team stunned heavy favorite and statewide No. 1 Pinkerton Academy, 23-13, for the Division I championship at Memorial Field in Derry.

The Division I final on Nov. 19 was supposed to be a formality. The Astros, after all, topped the statewide poll since the preseason, securing every first-place vote in the process. They were one win from completing the first wire-to-wire run at No. 1 in the four-year era of rankings.

They were facing a former Division 2 power, but a program that went 0-8 in its Division I debut (1-9 overall) last season.

The Blue Hawks (11-1 overall, 9-1 Div. I) didn't forget those season-long frustrations. But they didn't dwell on them, either.

This team was confident. This team was composed. This team was clutch.

How else to explain the title-game comeback? Exeter erased a 13-3 second-quarter deficit.

Conor Carrier scored the fourth-quarter touchdown that placed Pinkerton in panic mode. The senior's big run off-tackle went for 37 yards and six points. The score snapped a 13-all tie with 7 minutes, 10 seconds left in the season.

Touchback-machine Logan Laurent added the extra point. He also iced the contest with his 23-yard field goal -- a kick preceded by 35- and 40-yard boots -- in the final minutes.

Tyler Grant touched the rock 31 times. He totaled 120 yards in Exeter's old-school straight-T offense.

Jamie Tymann tossed a second-quarter touchdown to Lucas Gajewski. The 15-yard strike sparked the 20-point run to the title.

The toss was the second of Tymann's five attempts. Exeter's senior signal-caller entered the final with just 29 pass attempts on the season.

But defense was the biggest difference-maker. Grant, Carrier, Ethan Joyce and Brian Henry led Exeter's disciplined perimeter defense. It surrendered 77- and 78-yard touchdown runs to Emmitt Smith in the second frame, but little else.

Exeter celebrated its sixth championship under Ball, who capped his 19th season at the helm. The coach previously won five Division II championships in 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2007.

"To get this done is just amazing," Ball said. "It's amazing."

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES