March 8, 2007

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LONGSHOTS: Jumping through hoops after an odd season
by Dave Long

I don’t know what you think, but it’s been a pretty weird basketball season from where I sit. Not that all the stories were bad. Quite the contrary — there have been some really compelling stories to follow. It’s just that the whole season has seemed out of sync. It started when Lebron James didn’t play a second in his visit to the V and has stayed that way the rest of the year, at least to me. So in no particular order here’s a list of the good, the bad and the ugly from the 2007 basketball season that is winding to a close.

My favorite stories are Keith Dickson getting his 400th career win and the great race in girls’ Class L, where as many as eight teams found themselves jumbled at the top at one time or another. The Central boys’ remarkable 46-game winning steak that was ended by Nashua South was cool to see, as was the clutch play of its girls in ending Timberlane’s string of 18 straight on Sunday. And speaking of Central, I almost forgot, seeing alum Dave Morissette (class of ’68, I think) leading Rivier to its first-ever tournament appearance.

On the down side is the chaotic, injury-plagued Celtics season and no Division II post-season action in town for the first time since the Carter administration. At 6-20, SNHU had a season that can only be described as surreal and then there was the odd sight of Stan Spirou wanting nothing to do with congratulations after a win over crosstown rival Saint Anselm because the team’s second win, and his 450th overall, came in the second week in January.

The telltale sign it was a truly weird year was UNH playing long after the Hawks and Penmen were done. Especially in a 10-19 season that included a loss to Franklin Pierce. I’m guessing it hasn’t happened since Bill Haubrich senior was coaching at the U when Carlton Fisk and Jeff Bannister played there, who became more famous later: Bannister for competing in the decathlon at the ill-fated 1972 Olympics in Munich and Fisk, of course, as a Hall of Fame catcher.

Then there was so much attention focused out of town following the likes of the former Trinity duo of Luke Bonner and Chris Lutz, along with Corey Hassan and Tyler Roche getting varying degrees of playing time in the Division I ranks. And former Mr. New Hampshire Basketball Chris Burns had a very nice year at Bryant, where he went for a career-high 36 in February.

By the way, Roche moved into BC’s starting line-up last week. However, after a one-point, one-rebound, one- assist outing in 11 minutes in Sunday’s loss to Georgia Tech, I wonder if he stays there in the ACC Tournament. If Al Skinner leaves him there, I bet he does something good, although I’ll admit I’m biased on this one.

Speaking of BC, Memorial alum Kindyll Dorsey closed her career by scoring 14, when the 13-16 Eagles were knocked out of the ACC Tournament by Virginia Tech 60-54.

Anybody have another nominee for best game of the year besides the 35-point, 15-rebound submission by Amanda Kania in a 54-51 West upset off Concord?

Were there more last-second heroics this year? Memorial’s Loick Muyuka was the big one here of course. He won three straight that way in January alone. The biggest dagger came in a 50-49 win over Trinity. Whitney Fremeau did it with a runner with six ticks left in a important 38-37 Central win over Nashua North and last week, in being like Mike, Jordan Laquerre drained one to beat Dover 62-60 and Steve (last minute) Rice buried a three-pointer with 2.7 seconds remaining to give Trinity a 57-55 win over Nashua South.

The loudest rumor floating around local circles has the former Trinity running mates contemplating finishing their career on North River Road. Playing time reportedly is one issue, so transferring SNHU would make basketball sense. Neither would have to sit out in D-II, as Bonner did after leaving West Virginia for UMass. It also makes sense for the rebuilding Penmen, who need ready-to-go players and not untested freshmen. Nobody officially is saying anything, but the persistent rumor has been making the rounds for sometime.

A big-time shooter who can bury the weak side three is one role the Penmen desperately need filled for 2007-08, so Lutz would be a perfect fit there. They haven’t had anybody who could do that since Timmy Lee was money in the bank way back when.

Yes Saint Anselm may have finished around .500, and we’ve told you about SNHU, but each has a freshman who’ll bear watching. Carenza Giovanni and Paul Chergy each showed major flashes coming down the stretch in very strong freshman seasons.

Despite an 18-game losing streak, a chance to finish with the league’s worst record and a personal prediction they’d finish around .500, I remain optimistic about the Celtics. Yes, I know that sounds crazy. But while there’ve been some disappointments (like Kendrick Perkins) their troubles will pay dividends. The most obvious is the draft position they will gain. But their flood of injuries forced Doc Rivers to play the youngins more than he wanted. And while they couldn’t close out games, the expanded PT will accelerate the development of the core who’ve shown flashes. At least to me.

I’m sure the Sam Bowie-Michael Jordan saga keeps GMs pondering Kevin Durant and Greg Oden up at night. But even though Durant looks to be the more NBA ready Greg Oden, I’ll take the aircraft carrier even if he takes longer to develop. I listened when Red Auerbach told folks questioning taking Larry Bird a year early when the Cs needed immediate help, “Do you have any idea how short one year is to wait?”

Although, in the words of Bill Parcells, I reserve the right to change my mind after I’ve had a better look at them in the tournament.

And finally there was the radio play-by-play announcer from my playing days at Plymouth State embroiled in the bogus Ray Buckley case, which this week included a truly ludicrous letter (even for him) to the UL from Joe Kelly Levasseur supporting both parties. But after the charges came up emptier than Hillary’s story for why she voted to send troops to Iraq, PSC should consider throwing in-the-ozone Steve Vaillancourt out of its Hall of Shame, er, Fame.

Dave Long is host of Home Team Saturday with Dave Long and Company, 10 a.m. to noon each Saturday morning on WGAM (1250 AM in Manchester and 900 AM in Nashua).



3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports

2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did
02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Hero’s death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat