Salem Blue Devils Boys Basketball '07-'08

Salem gets early test from Londonderry tonight

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Friday, January, 04 By Hector Longo
Staff writer

It hasn't taken long for Friday nights to simmer on the local hoop scene.

A couple gigantic matchups in the region kick off the 2008 action tonight.

In New Hampshire, you won't find a bigger one that tonight's Londonderry at Salem collision, slated for 7 p.m.

Both Salem, the defending Class L state champ, and the Lancers are off to 2-0 starts in divisional play. Each comes in after disappointing holiday tourney showings.

"Salem is the real deal, and they play with that confidence that a state champion has. They expect to win," said Lancer coach Jim Zorbas. "The one thing we took away (from the Manchester Christmas tourney) was the opening round loss to Manchester Central. We have a lot of new guys, and we just weren't mentally prepared for what we thought was a big game.

"Hopefully, around nine o'clock (tonight), I'll be able to say we learned from it, and it was one of the best losses we could have."

Londonderry, with 6-foot-6 post presence Ryan Griffin (7.2 ppg), poses immediate matchup problems for the Devils. The emergence of Bobby Wunsch (13.8, more than double his junior season output of 6.4) as a proven scoring option is another reason for the early season optimism.

"Bobby really understands the game," said Zorbas. "He's 6-foot-4, can step out and shoot and can go inside. Our key will be finding the right offensive balance." Salem could be the biggest question mark in the area right now.

The Blue Devils sounded the alarm around the state, going into Trinity's bandbox gym and knocking off the highly-regarded Pioneers before Christmas.

Salem was then stunned by Andover in the Christmas tourney opener with a resounding thud when the Blue Devils simply didn't take care of the basketball.

Coach E.J. Perry is forcing the hand of the opposition defensively, often stacking his junior one-two punch of Josh Jones and Mike Kimball on the same side of the floor, making them pick their poison.

Looking for a Salem key, watch the two unsung big men, Dan Kinney and Shawn Stoodley. When they pound the offensive glass, the Blue Devils hurt you.

Below the border David Fazio's Andover Warriors didn't have to wait too long for a bit of vindication. Tonight (7:30), the Warriors (5-1) host Christmas tourney champion Central Catholic (4-0) in a huge Merrimack Valley Conference clash. It was Central, which decimated the Warriors in the Christmas semis, 57-30, in a game Fazio called "the worst loss I've ever had here at Andover."

Talk about tough to gauge. The Christmas win for Andover over Salem was as impressive as the loss to Central was depressing.

Andover brings plenty of experience, with eight returning seniors (five of whom started at least sporadically a year ago) and talent.

But can the Warriors get over the hump and factor in the MVC?

Or do we do a little speculation on the schedule and wonder if the Warriors will be in a race to the 10-win, state-tourney qualifying mark?

Keep in mind, the Warriors have two apiece left with Lowell, Central and Lawrence. Add in single games with the top two rated teams in EMass, Brockton and BC High, plus another with No. 14 O'Bryant, and all of a sudden, every game means something.

One upset or one slip-up could dictate Andover's fate. "I guess we'll see how we've handled things and how we stand (tonight)," said Fazio. "It's a big one for us at home. Hopefully, this time we'll respond to the challenge."

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