In Division I girls' basketball tourney, all eyes focused on BG
John Fagula certainly knows something about state championships, havnig won 11 of them when he was the head coach at Nashua High.
When he sizes up top-ranked Bishop Guertin of Nashua, two things quickly jump out at him.
"Experience and matchup problems for the rest of the field," he said.
BG will begin the postseason defense its Division I title Wednesday against visiting 16th-ranked Timberlane Regional of Plaistow. It's one of eight Division I preliminary tournament games slated for 7 p.m.
Tuesday, the Division II tournament begins with eight preliminary games, one involving sixth-ranked Goffstown hosting 11th-seeded Pelham at 7 p.m.
Bishop Guertin won the regular season title with a 17-1 mark, followed by second-ranked Bedford (16-2) and third-place Pinkerton Academy of Derry (16-2).
Bedford beat Pinkerton during the regular season to gain the second spot. Fourth-ranked Londonderry (14-4) and fifth-place Nashua North (14-4) ended with same records, but the Lancers won that tie-breaker with their regular-season victory over the Titans.
"Bishop Guertin's experience is going to be a factor because most of the other teams are loaded with underclassmen talent," said Fagula. Boston University-bound Meghan Green headlines a solid quintet of BG players that include Jamie Sherburne, Madison Gibbs, Nikki Hayner and Megan Kerutis.
Taylor Choate of Nashua North, Aliza Simpson of Londonderry, the Bedford frontcourt of Haley Driscoll, Ali Glennon and McKenzie Brown along with Pinkerton standouts Kayla Stacy and Val Martin hope to lead their respective teams to the state championship in two weeks.
In Division II, regular season champion Lebanon (18-0) finished three games ahead of second-seeded Portsmouth (15-3) and four ahead of third-place Windham (14-4).
"The beautiful thing about the playoffs is it's a single game elimination tournament," said Goffstown coach Deanna Goodwin. "Anyone in the tournament is capable is putting together a four-game winning streak to win the championship. Lebanon has that mental edge. They can intimidate you with their press and they keep attacking the rim. But teams like Portsmouth, which has size, and Windham, which has very good ball handlers who are difficult to guard against, are two teams capable of beating Lebanon. I would not even look past Pembroke (8-10) which plays physical, or St. Thomas (8-10), which beat Windham during the season."
Under second-year coach Goodwin, the Grizzlies (12-6) already have improved upon last year's 10-8 regular season record. Goffstown sustained a key loss late in the season when, according to Goodwin, senior Brionne Turcotte tore her ACL and will miss the post-season.
"Brionne has been an incredible leader and despite her injury, she continues to help her team," said Goodwin. "She's taken the freshmen under her wing and that's really been the big story for us this season. We have players who care for each other and the program as a whole. Day in and day out all my players have shown up and worked hard each day in practice."
Goffstown, behind seniors Rosalie Edmunds and Lindsy Poulin, will host Pelham today at 7 p.m. Pelham handed Goffstown its first loss of the season after the Grizzlies started 7-0.
"We welcome the rematch at our gym," said Goodwin, whose team dropped a 53-48 decision to the Pythons on Jan. 11 in Goffstown.