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College basketball notebook: Locals leading Great Bay CC's turnaround

Portsmouth Herald, N.H. — Mike Zhe Portsmouth Herald, N.H.

Jan. 13-- Jan. 13--There are breaks in basketball and then there are hiatuses.

The men at Great Bay Community College are ready to end their hiatus this week.

The Herons (5-7) haven't played a game since Dec. 8 in their return season to the hardwood after two years of dormancy. Their game at UMaine-Machias on Sunday will be the team's first in 43 days.

"That is quite the separation," said coach Alex Burt, whose team returned to practice around New Year's. "It's not ideal but every school goes through it, to some extent."

With eight games remaining before the Yankee Small College Conference tournament, the Herons have already matched the program's highest win total. With several local products playing key roles, their best victory was against nationally-ranked Vermont Tech, 96-93, shortly before break.

"I'm always someone that's had super-high goals," said Burt. "Overall, we're 5-7, which, to be honest, compared to previous years means we're doing some pretty good stuff."

Former Traip Academy star George Mortimer (13.9 points) leads the team in scoring, and forms the core of the Herons with point guard Hunter Bullock, last year's Division IV Player of the Year at state champion Epping; forward Jordan Williams; and wing player Ethan May.

Other local players like 6-foot-6 Wes Falzarano (Winnacunnet, who's averaging 6.7 points and 4.2 rebounds), Dylan Derosier (Epping, and a spark off the bench in the Vermont Tech win) and Craig Hounam (Newmarket) are in supporting roles.

The team is averaging better than 84 points a game and shooting a collective 46 percent from the field.

At 3-7 in conference play, the Herons sit in eighth place out of 10, but this upcoming stretch of games gives them a chance to leapfrog some teams in the standings.

"I really like the group of guys we have," said Mortimer. "You can tell they're really committed and want to be here."

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Two things we've learned about the University of New Hampshire men's team as it passes the midpoint of its season.

First, it's tough to play against at home. Second, there's still a major gap between the Wildcats and the top of the conference.

Saturday's 73-48 loss at first-place Stony Brook illustrated the latter. The 'Cats got buried after halftime, finishing with 19 turnovers and 24 percent shooting. Top guns Nick Guadarrama, Josh Hopkins and Sean Sutherlin were a combined 6-of-31 from the field.

The 'Cats (8-8, 1-2 America East) host Albany (9-8, 2-0 AE) on Wednesday, putting their 6-0 record at Lundholm Gym on the line.

"The one thing we try to explain to them every time we go to practice is toughness," said coach Bill Herrion. "If we can continue to get physically tougher, we'll be good."

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It will be a local clash when women's teams from Northeastern and William & Mary meet in Boston on Sunday (2 p.m.).

Northeastern's Shannon Todd of York began the year as a preseason All-CAA honorable mention, and is third on her team in scoring at 9.2 points per game. The 6-foot guard has started all 14 games for the Huskies (6-8, 2-1 CAA) and leads the team with 23 made 3-pointers.

Former Portsmouth star Libby Underwood is still fighting for minutes for William & Mary. She's seen action in six games, most recently in Sunday's 85-60 win over the College of Charleston that upped the Tribe's record to 11-4 (2-2 CAA).

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