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December 23. 2012 1:02AM

Eric Emmerling's NH College Notebook: Strong Granite State influence in NE-10 women's basketball

Former Granite State standouts are making an impact with several Northeast-10 Conference women's basketball teams this season.

For instance, point guards Christiana Bakolas, a junior from Manchester (Central), and freshman Jane White, a freshman from Amherst (Souhegan), are running the show for Bentley University (9-0), ranked second nationally in the USA Today Sports/WBCA Division II coaches' poll.

This is the 21st consecutive poll in which the Falcons have been ranked in the top 10, the longest streak in the nation.

"Both players are focused and motivated, qualities that are nice to have in point guards," said longtime Bentley coach Barbara Stevens of Bakolas and White, former New Hampshire Union Leader all-state team selections.

Bakolas, the starter for the perennial contender, is averaging 5.4 points, 4.1 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals a game. White, who spots Bakolas at point as well as taking on the shooting guard role, is averaging 5.3 points and two assists an outing.

"Christiana is serving as a good mentor for Jane," said Stevens. "She is strong and quick and has been more aggressive offensively in her third season running the point. She understands the game and knows where to put the ball.

"Jane has been impressive already. She isn't afraid of taking the big shot if need be and we're happy about that," said Stevens. As a Souhegan junior, White swished the winning shot in the final seconds of the championship game.

"New Hampshire basketball does its women well, with good high school coaching. I wish we had more of them in our program," said UMass-Lowell coach Sarah Behn, who recruited two Granite Staters. Each scored 1,000 points in their scholastic careers and has made an immediate impact as freshmen.

Manchester's (Memorial) Amra Elezovic scored 21 points in her collegiate debut and is averaging 8.1 points a game. Despite summertime knee surgery, Melissa Frase of Tamworth (Kennett) has tallied 10 points in two games and averages 5.6 points a game. The River Hawks are 5-3 (3-3 NE-10).

Both serve as shooting guards. At 5-foot-11, Elezovic poses matchup troubles for opposing defenses with her driving ability. Frawse, at 5-foot-7, owns a lethal jumper.

"They are both players we want to have on the court and we are counting on them for the future too. Amra can score in a variety of ways. Melissa is a real threat from well beyond the 3-point arc, say 4 feet," said Behn. "They are getting a lot of minutes now, yet their best basketball is ahead of them."

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ELSEWHERE AROUND THE NE-10: Two New Hampshire sophomores helped Assumption to an 8-1 (6-1 NE-10) start. Katie Cullerot of Hampton and the all-team leading scorer at John Stark of Weare, recently tied her collegiate career high of eight points while going 2-for-2 from 3-point land. Caitlin Ackerman of Nashua (South) finished the fall semester by scoring a career-high 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting while also grabbing six rebounds. She leads the team, shooting 58 percent from the field.

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AT STONEHILL (8-1, 5-1 NE-10), Auburn's Ashley Gendron, a four-year starter at Manchester Memorial, scored 14 points in one game this season and has averaged 5.1 points while averaging about 21 minutes of play. She's yet to miss a free throw this season in eight attempts.

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IN MERRIMACK'S (8-2, 4-2 NE-10) last game of the fall semester sophomore Allison Wagner of Conway, who scored 1,600 career points at Kennett, came off the bench to record eight points, three assists and two rebounds. Bedford's Lia Nawn, a freshman and former Trinity of Manchester sharpshooter, hit two treys.

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LOCALLY: Southern New Hampshire University (2-4, 5-4 NE-10) leads the conference in Granite State influence with three players: sophomore Brooke Springfield of Jaffrey, Conant's all-time leading scorer, is contributing 4.8 points and 4.3 rebounds a game; senior Deborah LaValley of Rochester, a 1,000-point scorer at Spaulding, contributes 3.3 points a game; and junior Kelly Chergey of Bow, who chips in 3.1 points an outing.

Curran Leighton, Dover High's all-time scoring leader, is averaging 7.8 points a game in her senior season at St. Anselm College (4-5, 1-5 NE-10). Fellow senior Amanda Saab of Windham, a two-sport standout at Salem, is the second-best scorer at Franklin Pierce University, averaging 10-6 points a night and consistently posting honor roll-quality grades.

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AT SOUTHERN CONNETICUT (3-5, 1-5 NE-10), Katie Stopera, a freshman and Hollis-Brookline graduate, has started five games, averaging 6.8 points and 2.8 rebounds a game.

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SHINING MOMENT: They still talk about Sean Martin's last-second play at home last season for Springfield College. The Rindge native pulled down a rebound and drove the length of the floor to bank home a game-winning buzzer beater, causing a mass student celebration on the Blake Arena floor.

This season the 6-foot-2 junior guard, who helped Conant win three state championships, is averaging 6.3 points and 2.7 rebounds, as well as a team-leading 3.2 assists per game. He is also shooting a team-leading .622 from the floor, and a team-leading .840 from the free-throw line. Springfield owns an 8-3 record.

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Eric Emmerling's weekly New Hampshire College Notebook appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. He may be reached at eemmerling@unionleader.com.


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