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John Habib's City Sports: Trinity High's Courchesne coaching 'em up
The official announcement from the New Hampshire Basketball Coaches Association won't be released for another two weeks, but a couple of prominent local coaches — while refraining from making their votes public — acknowledged that Courchesne is a worthy selection.
“Matt coaches with passion, and his kids have bought into his coaching philosophy,” said Manchester Central's Mike Wenners. “They went from not making the tournament last year to a playoff team that could make some noise in the tournament next week.”
Fagula, who went from 4-16 his first year as head coach at Nashua High to 16-4 his second season, said he didn't have Trinity in his top eight during the pre-season.
Wenners said winning six or seven more games than the previous season is not an easy thing to do.
“That's why Matt should be considered for coach of the year,” said Wenners. “He's got them playing well.”
ONE REASON for Trinity's increased success is the development of sophomore guard Amanda Torres into an elite player.
Entering Friday night's game, she had 20 or more points 11 times this season. Two weeks ago, she scored 25 points against Winnacunnet, one short of her season-high, which came against Lebanon in a Christmas tournament game.
Trinity starters Lizzy Meehan, Ashley Hill, Hope Willard and Danielle Mackey all have benefitted from playing with their floor leader.
What impresses Fagula most about Torres is her speed.
"She's faster than I expected her to be, and that's a tremendous advantage to have on the high school level," he said. "Angles and positioning against her are paramount if you decide to press her. If you don't have the right angle, she'll dart past you. She can shoot from the outside, and if you let her into the paint, she'll make the tough shot."
"If there's an area she really needs to work on during the off-season, it's her ball-handling skills," he said. "This year, the league is loaded with great guards, and I don't have her in my top five. But I do believe she will get better."
THIS SEASON marks the the second time during Doc Wheeler's 14-year head coaching tenure that his Central program has won the Division I regular-season title. The other was in 2006, when Tyler Roche led the Little Green to a 25-0 championship season.
"That's a good omen for us," said Wheeler, whose team will enter the state tournament Tuesday with a 21-0 overall record, including an 18-0 NHIAA mark.
"There's some big differences from last year to this year," said Wheeler. "There's no question the Martins have made us a better and deeper team. Minus Pelletier, we virtually returned everyone. Our kids are more experienced and, in some cases, have grown in size. Last year, Brett Hanson was a (5-foot, 10-inch) sophomore who averaged eight or nine points a game. This year, he grew to 6-2 and is averaging 20 points a game. As a team, we were winning games last year by a margin of 11 points. This year, we've won all our games by an average of 26 points a game."
"Stealing a quote from Chip Kelly, I always tell my team, 'We need to win the day,'" Wheeler said. "All it takes is for one team to expose our weaknesses and we're done for the year. So we're approaching the post-season with a workmanlike approach, making sure we're prepared for our next opponent."
TODAY at 6 p.m., in a rematch of last year's Division I boys' hockey final, Memorial and Central clash at JFK Coliseum. The teams are heading in opposite directions.
Central (10-7) is peaking at the right time, winner of four straight games and currently in fifth place. Senior goalie Ian Beliveau has allowed one goal during the winning streak, an indication that he could lead the Little Green back into the championship game.
At 7-7-3, the defending state champs are staring at a first-round playoff game against either Concord or Pinkerton, two teams playing well down the stretch. Unless Memorial can get its act together, the curtain could fall on its season sooner than later.