NASHUA — This coming winter’s Monadnock High girls’ basketball team will look a lot different than it did roughly seven months ago.
In addition to losing a handful of seniors to graduation, the Division III champions will also say goodbye to head coach Curt Dutilley after he resigned following seven seasons at the helm. A replacement has not been named.
A lot is going to change in East Swanzey, but one thing that will remain consistent is the girls’ willingness to put their best foot forward for a program that has won two of the last three state titles; work that started at Tuesday’s Granite State Games.
“It’s going to be tough coming back this year,” Sarah Landers, the school’s junior varsity coach, said. “We’re rebuilding, so this summer we’re really just focusing on bringing up those juniors. We lost five seniors and all of their experience, so we’re trying to get the juniors and sophomores well equipped for this year. It’s things like conditioning and getting them ready for this level.”
It helps that Landers, who is serving as the Monadnock region coach at the Games, is familiar with four of the players on her summer league team. She’s worked closely with since-graduated seniors Gwen Simpson and Colby Sanders, but even more so with Grace Furze and Kaitlyn Stowell. The latter two were swing players who moved up and down from JV to varsity last year.
“By the end, Grace Furze played in the championship game and ended up being a huge part of that, scoring and taking a couple charges and really just helping (to) shift the momentum,” Landers said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what she brings to the table this year.”
“I’m personally just trying to get better and work on specific things that I can use next season,” Furze said. “I think that the Granite State Games are a good place to do that because it’s kind of like freelance and there’s no real (limitations). You can kind of do whatever you want and work on your own skills.”
The Games offer a perfect environment for players such as Furze and Stowell to develop. For Stowell, specifically, it’s a chance to improve as a point guard, a position that is demanding and asks for players to be able to make the correct reads at the correct times.
The best teacher is experience. Playing in game situations over the summer at the Games will allow her the chance to see things defenses might throw at her come winter while also tuning her skills.
“If I’m going to be the next point guard, there are a lot of skills I need to develop,” Stowell said. “I just want to improve my confidence, driving to the hoop and finishing when I get there.”
Furze and Stowell have big shoes to fill, especially with Caitlyn Boucher — last season’s Division III Player of the Year — graduating. Losing Simpson and Sanders is no small deal, either. The former was named to the All-Division Second Team while the latter was honorable mention.
Players improve the most during the offseason and the Games have become a big part of that.
“I think that these types of programs are helping,” Landers said. “A lot of (our players) are involved in AAU, the Granite State Games, summer leagues; it’s just getting them in the gym as much as possible. We have a lot of committed girls and their love for basketball is really great.”