Boston High School: Dimitri Floras

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

December, 14, 2012
12/14/12
4:07
PM ET
The high school ice hockey season arrived last week, and with it came controversy.

New HampshireThe issue that created headlines involved Shelby Herrington, a junior at Bishop Brady High School in Concord. Herrington has played varsity hockey for Bishop Brady's boys team the last two years, and intended to do so this season as well. Bishop Brady formed a cooperative girls hockey team with Trinity High School in Manchester this year, however, and the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association declared Herrington ineligible to play for the boys team.

Herrington challenged that decision and a court order allowed her to begin the season with the boys team. A final ruling on whether or not the NHIAA is within its rights to prevent Herrington from playing with the boys team is expected later this month.

Robert Carey, Herrington's attorney, has argued that the NHIAA is attempting to deny Herrington a spot on the boys team solely on the basis of her sex.

If the court rules in Herrington's favor there is concern that other talented girls will attempt to play for boys teams – thereby weakening the girls sport -- and that some boys may even attempt to skate with the girls.

According to the New Hampshire Union Leader, NHIAA executive director Patrick Corbin sent a letter to Bishop Brady that included the following:

“If a sport is offered for boys and a comparable sports is offered for girls, then the girls must play on the team of their gender. There is no consideration or provision that accounts for competitiveness or ability in the by-laws.”

Another female, Danielle DiCesare, played for the St. Thomas Aquinas (Dover) boys team in 2007-08, the first season the NHIAA offered girls hockey as a varsity sport. DiCesare women's college hockey at Princeton.

FOOTBALL CHANGES SHAPE
New Hampshire high school football will have a different look next season, when the state will scrap the six-division format that has been used for years and place its 57 varsity teams in three divisions.

Eight teams from each division will qualify for postseason play, which will create an additional round of playoffs. Four teams from each of the six divisions advanced to the playoffs last season.

Critics of the old alignment argued that there was no need for six divisions – and six state champions – in a state the size of New Hampshire.

“We already have teams that are not very happy with it, but we have to give something a shot here,” said Plymouth coach Chuck Lenahan, who is a member of the NHIAA football committee. “Hopefully it works out well. We have a lot more flexibility with it. Maybe we'll have to tweak it a little, but I think it's good that we're trying something.”

Student-athletes transferring from one school to another is not uncommon, but in no sport has player movement been the major focus of a season preview as it is in high school basketball.

HAWK TALK
Guard Dimitri Floras returned from prep school (Kimball Union Academy) to lead Merrimack to the Division I boys basketball championship last season. If the Tomahawks win another title in 2012-13 they'll have to do it without Floras, who is now suiting up for Vermont Academy.

Although Manchester Central is the consensus favorite in Division I, Merrimack's backcourt will make life tough on Merrimack opponents. Sophomore point guard Austin Franzen has transferred from Bishop Guertin and will team with junior Eric Gendron to form one of the best guard combinations in the state.

ANOTHER TITLE IN THE CARDS?
Bishop Guertin of Nashua won last year's Division I girls basketball state title, and the Cardinals entered this season as the overwhelming favorite as well.

BG returned five starters from its 2011-12 championship team, including junior point guard Jamie Afterburner and Boston University-bound forward Meghan Green.

BG opened its season with a 91-36 victory over Salem. Last year's championship was the school's first in girls basketball.

Roger Brown is a staff writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader, and has been covering high school sports throughout New England since 1992.

New England Roundup: New Hampshire

March, 31, 2012
3/31/12
2:41
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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

January, 5, 2012
1/05/12
3:54
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This had to be Merrimack High's mantra for the holiday tournament season: Why settle for just one title?

New HampshireIn 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."

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New England Roundup: New Hampshire

February, 23, 2011
2/23/11
5:53
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MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Manchester High School West's Valentine's Day victory made basketball coach Nick Moutsioulis wish his wallet could support a team trip to the Magic Kingdom.

"If I could pay for every one of the girls to go, I'd do it in a heartbeat," said Moutsioulis, his reference to Disney World and the visit made by the Super Bowl MVP after winning the biggest of games.

New HampshireYou see, West entered its Feb. 14 girls' hoop contest lugging a 77-game losing streak that dated to the 2007-08 season opener. But after three consecutive winless campaigns, and another 14 straight losses this winter, the Blue Knights stopped the frustration-filled skid with a 38-33 Division II road win at Pelham High.

"I'm still processing it. I don't even know how to react to a win," said 5-foot 8-inch forward Emily Colon, one of three seniors on West's varsity team that features just eight active players.

West's low participation in athletics isn't limited to girls' hoop. The loss of Bedford student-athletes to the opening of Bedford High in 2007 has affected most sports programs at the school.

The exodus that eventually shrunk West's population from 2,000-plus students to roughly 1,100, took place over several years. But West's ability to compete in most sports quickly declined.

Colon and classmate Brooke Brown were freshman call-ups to the varsity in 2007-08, West's first winless campaign. Routinely losing was a foreign feeling to these stars of the streak-snapping win; as ninth-graders they led their freshman team to a 12-4 record.

"We tried not to think about the negative," said Brown, a 5-foot-11 center, noting the team became the punchline to jokes that spread throughout the school.

Over time, however, staying positive proved tough. One winless season grew into two, which reached three last winter.

But worse than the lopsided losses -- and jokes generated by them -- was the sinking feeling caused by looking into the stands during home games.

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New England Roundup: New Hampshire

February, 9, 2011
2/09/11
3:10
PM ET
Mike Kelly's dream of playing Division I college football turned nightmarish before the high school campaign built any momentum.

New Hampshire“When it happened (last September), I got down. Like anyone else would,” Kelly said of the Week 2 foot injury that ended his senior season for Nashua's Bishop Guertin High, the eventual Division II three-peat champion. “It just didn't seem possible.”

Nor did this: Verbally accepting a partial scholarship offer on Jan. 27 to play football for the University of New Hampshire, which competes in the Football Championship Subdivision's super-competitive Colonial Athletic Association.

“Knowing most colleges go off senior tape, I didn't think it would be enough for colleges to assess me,” said the 5-foot 9-inch, 176-pound talent, a projected slot receiver, kick- and punt-returner, and possible cornerback for the Wildcats. “I was nervous about that. In one game, to seemingly have (my dream) taken away, it was a hard thing to come to grips with.”

Good thing Kelly, a Merrimack resident, enjoyed a career contest in the season-opener. Guertin routed defending Division I champ Salem, the heavy preseason favorite to repeat, 48-21.

Kelly was impossible to contain.

The top weapon in BG's spread-option attack totaled 310 yards of offense and five touchdowns. His 17 carries generated 193 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He also caught three passes for 117 yards, including a 65-yard catch-and-run TD on the season's first play from scrimmage.

Running a crossing pattern toward the left sideline, Kelly snared in stride Steve Cuipa's 20-yard toss and hit high gear. He burned past Salem's secondary for the final 45 yards.

It was vintage Kelly, who a year earlier scored three touchdowns in Guertin's Division II title-game clincher.

“He's gifted. He's got tremendous speed. And on the football field, speed is everything,” BG athletics director and head football coach Tony Johnson said, noting Kelly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds before injuring his foot. “(UNH coaches) looked at his ability to change directions, excel quickly, sustain speed for a long period of time. They were interested in him in spring of his junior year.”

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