NHIAA Girls' Basketball Preview: BG, Bedford should be there againBy JOE DUBALL
New Hampshire Union Leader
December 06. 2017 11:25PM
The Scoop: Girls' basketballPlayers to watch: Amanda Lemire, senior, Pinkerton; Haleigh Shea, senior, Manchester Memorial; Brooke Kane, junior, Pinkerton; Mia Roy, senior, Bedford; Aly Fillion, senior, Bedford; Caroline Hoffer, senior, Bishop Guertin; Amanda DeAngelis, junior, Londonderry; Erin Carney, sophomore, Bishop Guertin; Maddy Haynes, junior, Trinity; Katrina Krenzer, junior, Dover; Anna Pafford, senior, Exeter; Hannah Driscoll, senior, Winnacunnet; Mel Presseau, senior, Manchester Memorial; Samantha Will, senior, Bishop Brady; Rebecca Wright, sophomore, Lebanon; Carly Huckins, junior, Merrimack Valley; Abbe Laurence, junior, Portsmouth; Mia Len, senior, Souhegan; Maddie McCorkle, sophomore, Hanover; Diana Schwarz, junior, Hanover; Lois Schwarz, junior, Hanover; Danielle Sirois, senior, Pelham; Kaleigh Walsh, senior, Windham; Sarah Doherty, senior, Bishop Brady; Kelly Walsh, sophomore, Goffstown; Abby Grandmaison, senior, Merrimack Valley; Ahna McCusker, senior, Coe-Brown; Lea Crompton, senior, Bow; Mariah Chamberlain, junior Conant; Zoey Luopa, senior, Fall Mountain; Megan Roy, junior, Kearsarge; Brooke Beaudet, senior, Gilford; Ashlee Dukette, junior, Newfound; Caitlyn Boucher, junior, Monadnock; Taylor Siewierski, senior, Colebrook; Katie Martineau, junior, Farmington; Lily Kinder, senior, Woodsville; Lindsay Towle, senior, Portsmouth Christian; Emilee Flanagan, junior, Nute.
Notable quote: “I think we surprised a lot of people last year. The types of games and situations we were put in got our girls believing they could compete with anybody. … A lot of it is belief and it has these girls thinking they're really close.” - Manchester Memorial coach Greg Cotreau on the Crusaders' confidence coming into the season.
Key games: Bishop Brady at Pelham, Dec. 21; Sunapee at Colebrook, Dec. 22; Bishop Guertin at Bedford, Jan. 16; Monadnock at Conant, Jan. 26; Monadnock at Newfound, Jan. 31; Bishop Brady at Lebanon, Feb. 2; Lebanon at Hanover, Feb. 6; Memorial at Bedford, Feb. 9; Conant at Sanborn, Feb. 9; Pinkerton at Bedford, Feb. 16; Pinkerton at Bishop Guertin, Feb. 23.
As the games opens on Friday, there is a possibility that the 2017-2018 NHIAA Division I girls’ basketball season may supply fans with a third chapter in what has become quite the rivalry between Bishop Guertin of Nashua and Bedford.
The Cardinals and Bulldogs have met in the D-I championship game each of the last two seasons, with each finale resulting in a title for Bishop Guertin. Additionally, one of the two has been involved in the title game in five of the last six seasons.
It’s far from bold to predict the clubs may complete their trilogy come March, especially considering the returning talent for each team.
Defending champion Bishop Guertin has sharp-shooting senior Caroline Hoffer as its only returning upperclassman, but phenoms Erin Carney, Addison Smith, Hannah Muchemore and Aaliyah Forman are all back following bright freshman campaigns. However, key graduations like 2016-17 D-I Player of the Year Meghan Cramb put the focus and burden on the tested but youthful Cardinals.
BG’s graduations may open the door for Sue Thomas’ Bedford girls, who have 10 players back in the fold from last season. Among the notable returners is the starting guard tandem of Mia Roy and Aly Fillion.
“I’m only speaking for Bedford and our goal is to be there at the end of the season,” Thomas said. “When we talk about the season, we talk about it right up until the last day.”
The only thing changing in the Bedford system are some wrinkles to the offense, according to Thomas. Everything else will remain status quo for the Bulldogs.
“I try to play as many players and want them to be aggressive and get tired,” Thomas said. “We’re very deep. We lost five seniors and we still have good numbers off the bench.”
Roy and Fillion will solidify the backcourt and ball facilitation, but the Bulldogs will be young after graduating bruising forwards Jenoyce Laniyan and Maddie Blake. Thomas feels the strength of her team might be in the frontcourt with forwards Clare Driscoll (6-foot-1), Amanda Jonas (5-foot-11) and Kendra Barnard (5-foot-11) taking the torch.
“They’re going to surprise some people,” said Thomas of the trio. “All three have taken their post games to the next level. They’ve really stepped up.”
A team firmly entrenched as a candidate to spoil BG and Bedford’s possible trilogy is Manchester Memorial. Greg Cotreau’s Crusaders are the talk of Division I heading into the season as the second-year coach has a committed and talented group, which Memorial’s program has lacked top to bottom in recent seasons. With such focus, the Crusaders can flip-flop between a set offense and improvisation, making them a threat to opposing defenses.
“The girls like the ability to create for themselves but when things weren’t going well and they needed structure, it wasn’t there.” Cotreau said. “The system I’ve put in here gives them something to fall back on when things break down. We’re still allowing them the freedom to take opportunities to create for each other by shifting defenses when they can, along with read-and-react situations.”
Cotreau also did well keeping the team together in the offseason. The majority of Memorial’s squad played on different AAU basketball but the Crusaders came back together for the Southern New Hampshire University girls’ summer league and then the Merrimack Valley Girls’ Fall Basketball league, which featured the likes of BG and top teams from Massachusetts.
Guard Haleigh Shea leads the Memorial pack. The senior already has the inside track to Player of the Year with elite offensive skills and the ability to guard almost any position on the defensive end.
“She’s everything for us,” said Cotreau of Shea. “You think of a superstar-type player as one to score all the points and put the team on her back. The word I’d use for Haleigh though is trust. She trusts her teammates enough to where she doesn’t have to carry things and knows they’ll make the right play.
“She’s not selfish. If she sees a better shot for someone else, then she’ll make that pass every time. She definitely gets more out of giving for others rather than doing for herself.”
Mel Presseau, an outside-shooting threat, is one of many who will benefit from the attention that defenses give Shea. Seniors Sydney Robinson and Ashley Matheiu-LaFrance will also be important while Cotreau said to keep an eye on sophomores Jenessa Brunette and Lyric Grumblatt.
Pinkerton of Derry, a semifinalist last season, will also be a force to be reckoned with as Astros coach Lanni Buskey will again have the high-low duo of guard Amanda Lemire and forward Brooke Kane. Lemire, arguably the best ballhandler in the league, had her season end before the playoffs last year due to a fractured foot. Kane continued her development into one of the top post players in the division.
Merrimack is also a good bet to be in the mix. The Tomahawks were scheduled to lose just one senior from a well-balanced attack. Among the contributors for Merrimack coach Courtney Cheetham are Jenna Chambers, Jacoby Jolie and Sabrina Johnson.
Londonderry and Dover are teams to watch with the young squads poised to make good on surprising runs last season.
The Lebanon girls will defend their Division II crown with quite a different look to them. Between five graduations and the transfer of starting point guard Maddie Hastings to prep school, the Raiders are looking at just two returners from their regular eight-player rotation that led them to a 22-0 season.
“We’re not the same group and we won’t have the same style,” Lebanon coach Tim Kehoe said. “We’ll be young with some good sophomores coming up and one senior. We play a tough schedule early and are looking at some growing pains during the season, but I think we’ll be a tough out in the tournament.”
Kehoe will lean on All-State first teamer Becky Wright after the 6-foot-2 sophomore burst onto the scene last season with her post play. Anna Wolke is the other piece Kehoe is excited about following her solid playoff performance last season, which included a game-high 16 points in the championship.
Kehoe admitted the road to a repeat is tough, especially since he’s working 10 minutes up the road from the likely D-II favorite in Hanover.
“I think Hanover is clearly the team to beat at this point,” Kehoe said. “They were 15-3 last year without one of the Schwarz twins and they have pretty much everyone back. Everyone else in this league has lost something significant, so I don’t think I can find somebody ready to challenge them.”
Dan O’Rourke’s Marauders indeed have both Schwarz sisters back in the mix. Lois Schwarz returned from a torn ACL at the tail end of last season while Diana Schwarz started at point guard. Like Wright at Lebanon, Hanover has big expectations for Maddie McCorkle’s second season with the Marauders after a solid first impression last year. Forward Julia Golder rounds out what will be a strong crew for Hanover this year and beyond.
Merrimack Valley of Penacook should factor into the D-II equation. The Pride will rely on All-State selections Carly Huckins and Abi Grandmaison to help the club improve on their 12-win season last year. Former Winnisquam coach Bob McNutt will guide Merrimack Valley, taking over for the late Dave Huckins.
Pelham is another group primed to make noise. The Pythons lost the likes of Lilly Schlimon and Emily Bevens, but 6-foot-1 Danielle Sirois’ presence alone puts the team back in the discussion of contenders. Joining Sirois as weapons for Pelham are Olivia Gagnon, Ava Owens and Caitlin Riordan.
Portsmouth’s Abbe Laurence and Goffstown’s Kelly Walsh, both all-state picks last season, are top players for their clubs, both of which will look to make a splash with plenty of new faces.
This might be the most undefined division in terms of contenders. The four teams that reached last year’s D-III semifinals — champion Monadnock of Swanzey, Conant of Jaffrey, Newfound of Bristol and Prospect Mountain of Alton — each did so with senior-laden cores, leaving them all with somewhat clean slates as the season got underway last Friday.
Monadnock has proven early that it’s ready to face the challenges of retaining its title. The Huskies showed as much by beating Conant in Tuesday’s D-III title game rematch. Caitlyn Boucher, who scored a team-high 12 points for the Huskies Tuesday, is the lone starter back for Curt Dutilley. Abby May’s shooting prowess shined in last year’s championship game and will be a valuable asset for the Huskies, as will guard Gwen Simpson.
Despite Tuesday’s loss, Conant isn’t going to fall out of favor any time soon. Mariah Chamberlain’s post play along with capable perimeter shooters around the arc should help the Orioles do plenty of damage and make a run at redemption.
Newfound, which rolled to a No. 1 seed with an 18-0 regular season last year, will be a team to look out for again as well. The Bears were arguably hit the hardest by graduations out of last year’s semifinalists, but reigning D-III Player of the Year Ashlee Dukette appears ready to make up for losses. Dukette, a junior, scored 34 points to go along with 19 rebounds, four steals and four assists in last Friday’s opening win against Belmont. The efforts of Dukette, along with senior off-guard Savanna Bony, will likely dictate the hopes of the Bears all season.
Sanborn of Kingston and Kearsarge of North Sutton, both 14-4 clubs a year ago, are worth keeping tabs on. Brian Gray heads into his second year leading the Indians, who grasped their longtime junior varsity coach’s system quickly and should be able to follow it to further success this season. The Cougars have enough returners surrounding All-State selection Megan Roy to put them in the conversation.
Like many other Division IV girls’ sports, the league looks a lot different now that powerhouse Sunapee has had its prolific club disassembled.
The Lakers graduated D-IV Player of the Year Kate Frederick, Faith Larpenter, Sydney Clark, Mary Grzanna and Meghan Frederick. Losing your starting five from back-to-back championships is a tough pill to swallow, but then Sunapee lost head coach Tim LaTorra, who moved up to Division I with Concord. Sarah Larpenter now patrols the sidelines for the Lakers, who are mostly juniors, including Hannah Cooney and Kalleigh Durkee.
Northern teams that played second fiddle to Sunapee figure to reap benefits of the Lakers potentially falling back down to earth. Littleton is chief among those teams as Dale Prior was scheduled to lose just one player from a club that lost to Sunapee in the semifinals. Colebrook also will have a say up north as last year’s runner-up Mohawks are led by Taylor Siewierski, who tallied a triple-double in Colebrook’s season-opening win on Tuesday.
Down south, Newmarket and Epping are consistently in the conversation and this year is no different. The Mules are a year older under second-year coach Meghan Averill and figure to see good production from Paige Fowler and Reagan Jordan, who finished with 12 points and nine boards in Tuesday’s opening win. The Blue Devils might be in a greater position of strength though with Ed Meade’s entire roster back from a year ago, where Epping went 9-9 playing with mostly underclassmen.