The Trinity High School boys basketball team has held the top spot in Division I for the second half of the season, so its no surprise that the Pioneers will be the top seed when the tournament begins on Tuesday.
Figuring out who will be on the court at the University of New Hampshire for the final game of the season will be much tougher.
Just five games separate the first-place Pioneers and Bishop Guertin, which won last year’s title and finished 10th in the regular season this year.
Trinity (15-3) will host No. 16 Exeter (5-13) to start the postseason at 7 p.m. Tuesday night. The Pioneers defeated the Blue Hawks during the regular season, 67-41, on Jan. 24.
The winner of that game will face either No. 8 Alvirne (11-7) or No. 9 Nashua South (10-8) in the quarterfinals. The Broncos and the Panthers enter the tournament going in slightly different directions. Alvirne was 3-4 in its last seven games, including a 65-34 loss to South on Feb. 10, while the Panthers finished the year by winning five of six.
No. 4 Manchester Central (13-5) will host No. 13 Winnacunnet (6-12) after having beaten the Warriors in Hampton, 61-46, just a week ago. The Little Green enter having won four straight, while the Warriors have won just once in their last nine games.
The winner will get to play No. 5 Pinkerton (13-5) or No. 12 Manchester Memorial (8-10) in the quarterfinals. Pinkerton has won five in a row and defeated Memorial 54-48 on Jan. 27. After losing four straight and six of seven, the Crusaders ended the regular season with a blowout win over Timberlane.
On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 Salem (14-4) will host No. 15 Dover (6-12). The Blue Devils capped their regular season with a 22-point win over Trinity last Friday, and have won eight of their last nine. Dover played in several close games this season, going 4-5 in games decided by four points or less. Salem took the regular-season meeting 72-42 on Jan. 13.
No. 7 Merrimack (12-6) will play host to No. 10 Bishop Guertin (10-8), in a rematch of a regular season game played just a week before. The Tomahawks won that game, 64-59, thanks in part to the return of Dimitri Floras. Merrimack lost four of its final five games, and was just 5-5 in games without Floras this year. The Cardinals ended the regular season by losing three of five, including games to Nashua North and Salem.
No. 3 Nashua North (14-4) will take on No. 14 Londonderry (6-12) in the preliminary round. The Titans have won seven of eight, with the only loss a two-point defeat at Central. North won the regular-season meeting, 50-48, on Jan. 24, one of nine games the Lancers lost by eight points or less. Londonderry got into the postseason by winning its final five games.
The winner will take on either No. 6 Spaulding (13-5) or No. 11 Manchester West (9-9). Spaulding has won seven of its last eight games, with its lone loss a nine-point defeat at Trinity. Included in that stretch was a 68-45 win at West on Feb. 14. After starting the season 7-3, which included wins over Trinity and Bishop Guertin, West lost six of eight to finish the season.
All preliminary round games will start at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the home of the higher seed, while all quarterfinal games will be held Friday at 7 p.m., also at the higher seed. The semifinals are scheduled for March 12, starting at 6 p.m., at UNH, while the final will be March 17 at 4 p.m. also at UNH.