Here are the six finalists for the first King of New Hampshire High School Basketball. All are worthy candidates for the crown, but only one will win. To find out who it is, tune in to the New Hampshire High School Sports Show on WGIR AM 610 and 96.7 “The Wave.”
To find out who the finalists are (listed in alphabetical order), go to the jump.
Curtis Arsenault, Berlin
The centerpiece of a Mountaineers team that went 21-1 and won the Division III championship, the school’s first title in boys basketball since 1940. Arsenault averaged 18.5 points, seven rebounds and three assists, and hit the shot that might have saved Berlin’s hopes at a championship.
With the Mountaineers trailing Prospect Mountain for most of the first three quarters in the title game, Arsenault hit a half-court shot at the buzzer that gave Berlin momentum going into the fourth quarter. The Mountaineers turned an eight-point deficit into a two-point win and Arsenault helped Berlin win the championship it had fallen short of in 2010 and 2011.
Arsenault, who was the Division III Player of the Year, finished that game with 15 points and eight times this season, he topped 20 points in a game, including a 28-point performance in a semifinal win over Hopkinton. He’ll be looking to continue his playing career next year at Phillips Exeter Academy.
Dimitri Floras, Merrimack
With under a month to the start of the basketball season, Floras wasn’t even expected to be a member of the Tomahawks. But after spending three months at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H., Floras decided he needed to return to Merrimack and try to help the Tomahawks win a championship.
Although Merrimack got off to a great start, things didn’t look good midway through the season, when Floras broke his right wrist in a win over Concord. After getting a second opinion, there was a chance Floras could return during the final week of the regular season, and in his absence, Merrimack barely stayed about .500. Floras returned for the Tomahawks’ next-to-last game, but tweaked an already sore ankle and missed the regular-season finale.
Floras, who was named Division I honorable mention, needed just one game to get going, and after scoring 13 points in Merrimack’s preliminary round win over Bishop Guertin, the junior point guard averaged 21 points in the final three games. That included scoring 18 of his game-high 23 points in the second half of the championship game win over Manchester Central.
Ryan Gauthier, Nashua North
It was a make-or-break season for Gauthier and the Titans, and it didn’t start off well for the North senior. But after missing four games due to disciplinary reasons, Gauthier was one of the best in the state, averaging better than 21 points in the final 11 games of the regular season. That included back-to-back games in which Gauthier, who made the Division I first team, scored 31 points in each.
Perhaps as important as the scoring was Gauthier’s presence on the floor. On a team that needed someone to step up and take charge, Gauthier did that during the stretch run for the Titans, who went 14-4 during the regular season to tie for second in Division I. But after scoring 20 points in an opening-round win over Londonderry, Gauthier had nine and North, which was seconds away from advancing to the semifinals, lost to Spaulding in overtime.
Brandon Len, Souhegan
Perhaps the biggest reason for the Sabers surprise success this year was the way Len stepped up at the point guard position. Having lost three starters from a team that made the semifinals, the Souhegan coaching staff wasn’t entirely sure what they were getting, but after seeing the way Len handled himself in that playoff loss to Portsmouth gave coach Mike Heaney an idea.
“We could see what a leader he was,” Heaney said of Len, who was a captain this year as a junior. “We knew he could lead the offseason efforts. Knowing he was going to be the point guard and have the ball in his hands, we were going to go where he would take us.”
Len, who averaged 19.7 points per game, helped take Souhegan to a 16-2 record that put the Sabers in a four-way tie for first in Division II. Tiebreakers dropped the Sabers to fourth and the suspension of two players left them down two starters for the playoffs. Len, a member of the division first team, had 26 points in Souhegan’s opening-round win over Hollis Brookline, but was shutdown against Bedford, scoring just two points.
“He wants the ball in his hands, he wants to take the game-winning shot or set up the last play,” Heaney said. “He thrives under pressure and wants that responsibility. We thought he had a chance to be special, we just didn’t expect it this year.”
Dominic Paradis, Spaulding
The junior forward was a big part of why the Red Raiders were able to advance to the Division I semifinals this season, where their run came to an end against eventual-champion Merrimack. Paradis, who was named to the Division I second team, averaged 14.5 points per game and stepped up in the postseason.
In Spaulding’s opening-round win over Manchester West, Paradis had 16 points, and in the quarterfinals against North, he had 20 points and 11 rebounds. In that upset of the Titans, Paradis was 12 for 12 from the line, including 6 for 6 in the overtime. Despite playing against a stingy Merrimack defense in the semifinals, Paradis managed to score 13 of his team’s 39 points.
Kamahl Walker, Portsmouth
The Clippers were on a mission this season, and Walker was the one leading the way. After falling to Milford in the 2011 Division II title game, anything short of a championship would have been disappointing for Portsmouth. With the 2012 Division II Player of the Year leading the way, there wasn’t too much doubt that a championship would happen.
Walker was one of five players to average more than 20 points in the regular season and playoffs, and turned it on for the Clippers down the stretch. In his team’s final seven games, Walker averaged 23.4 points, and that included a 10 point performance in the semifinals, when Coe-Brown devised a way to slow him down.
But Walker bounced back in the championship game against Bedford, scoring a game-high 22 points. Included in that was a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the first quarter that created a momentum swing that Bedford couldn’t overcome.
“Walker is a great player,” Bedford coach John Langlois said after his team lost to Portsmouth in the final. “He’s so quick without the ball, with the ball. He can shoot from outside, he can get to the rim, he can stop and go and pull back.”
How the voting was done: Members of the media (listed below) selected their top six players, assigning them a ranking of one through six. A first-place vote got six points, second place got five points and so on down to sixth place, which got one point. A complete list of points will be revealed on Saturday after the winners have been announced.
- Randy Booth, Laconia Citizen
- George Scione, Nashua Telegraph
- John Doyle, Foster’s Daily Democrat
- Mike Zhe, Portsmouth Herald
- Josh Spaulding, Salmon Press
- Pete Tarrier, WGIR
- Dave Haley, NH Sports Page
- Monica Hogan, Eagle Times
- Eric Emerling, Union Leader
- Justin McIsaac, WTSN
- Katie Donnellan, Neightborhood News
- Tuesday & Friday, New Hampshire High School Sports Forum
- Joe Marchilena, NH-HighSchoolSports.com