WHEN word spread earlier this year that Nashua South point guard Tim Preston had transferred to Lawrence Academy in Groton, Mass., many Division I boys’ basketball coaches figured the Purple Panthers would be a team incapable of putting up much resistance this season.
Apparently, those coaches figured wrong.
Despite losing four starters from a team that reached the Division I semifinals last season, South is unbeaten after five games. The Panthers are 2-0 in Division I, and won each of their three games in the Chick-fil-A Holiday Tournament.
South coach Nate Mazzerole said he expected his team to be competitive in every game on its schedule this season. Of course Mazzerole knew something other coaches did not. He knew the Panthers would have senior guard Yordy Tavarez in the lineup this season.
“Tim Preston would have arguably been one of the top five players in the state, but Yordy was with us all summer and we knew what he was capable of doing,” Mazzerole said. “He’s tough-nosed, talented — everything you’d want as a coach.”
Tavarez, a 6-foot senior who has replaced Preston as the team’s point guard, can also score. He’s collected at least 23 points in each of South’s five games, and tossed in a career-high 32 in a 61-59 victory over Alvirne of Hudson in the Chick-fil-A championship game.
“We have other kids who are capable (scorers), but he’s so quick and so athletic,” Mazzerole said. “He’s doing it from inside and outside. He’s increased his range and has become a very good 3-point shooter, and he gets to the rim very well. He’s also a very good on-ball defender.”
Tavarez played varsity basketball for South as a freshman and started some games as a sophomore, but was academically ineligible last season.
He scored 25 points against Spaulding of Rochester in South’s opener, and followed up that performance by scoring 28 against Pinkerton Academy of Derry. Tavarez is averaging 27 points per game through South’s first five contests.
“He told me, ‘After one game everyone in the state is going to know who I am again,’” Mazzerole said. “He’s a man of his word.”
THE Lebanon girls lost their two top scorers and their head coach from a team that won the Division II championship last season, and those losses were evident when the Raiders dropped two of their first three regular-season games.
Lebanon seemed to take a huge step forward when it won the Manchester Central Christmas Tournament, however, and certainly seems capable of reaching the Class I/Division II quarterfinals for the 36th consecutive season.
“We have some girls in new positions, new roles, but they’re starting to understand what it takes,” first-year coach Rob Marsh said after Lebanon beat Trinity of Manchester in the tournament’s championship game. “We really started to come together during this tournament.”
Marsh, who replaced Tim Kehoe as the team’s head coach, posted a 183-49 record in 12 seasons with Lebanon’s junior varsity team.
Marsh will rely heavily on senior forward Heather King and senior point guard Sam MacDonald this season. Junior center Vanessa Fleury also recently returned from a broken foot.
“Heather and Sam will lead us,” Marsh said. “It’s a matter of finding some players to compliment them.”
JUNIOR guard Brett Hanson scored 69 points to help Central win the 2013 Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament, and is one of 26 players who have scored at least 100 points in the event.
Hanson tossed in 36 points during the 2012 QCIBT tournament, and scored 10 against Manchester West, 38 against Trinity and 21 against Exeter this season.
Merrimack’s Eric Gendron, a senior guard, finished his QCIBT career with 139 points and is No. 7 on the tournament’s all-time scoring list. Former Central forward Tyler Roche holds the tournament’s scoring record (201 points).
Roger Brown covers high school basketball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @603sportsmedia.