WHEN polling coaches around the league for this season’s girls’ basketball preview, the same program was commonly uttered when asked who might challenge Bishop Guertin.
The Crusaders lost to BG in last year’s Division I semifinal 66-36 and leaned heavily on Lyric Grumblatt, Jennessa Brunette and Tamrah Gould for production. What coach Greg Cotreau realized in that moment was both he and his staff needed to work on developing players off the bench if they hoped to contend. It’s no coincidence depth is one of BG’s biggest strengths and in order to really strike fear in the Cardinals, teams will need to be able to match it to a point.
Working toward being able to do that has been a process and one that has been expedited. With starting point guard Jess Carrier getting injured during the Doug Chandler Christmas Tournament, Cotreau has been forced to go with some less-experienced players in her stead.
“I think when she went out with that injury that was the message in the locker room: This might be a blessing in disguise almost,” Cotreau said. “We know Jess is one of the top guards in all of the state, but with her going out that’s going to allow others to get the opportunity to showcase what they can do and get some experience. That’s the biggest thing with our bench is they don’t have the experience. Just the experience factor alone (is huge). In the short-term I think it hurts us but I think in the long term it’s going to really help us out down the road.”
With or without Carrier, the Crusaders have yet to lose a game. Their regular season record is 3-0 and they also won all three of their tournament games to win that title. Some of the regulars have taken on additional responsibility, but the bench has stepped up.
“One girl off our bench who has really stepped up is Lauren Bartnicki,” Cotreau said. “She’s probably giving us 17 or so minutes per game off the bench. She’s giving us some pretty decent and consistent scoring off the bench. Our coaching staff and our kids know what she’s going to give us every single night. That consistency is a very good thing for us. Ryan Moran has also done an outstanding job filling in for Jess in the starting lineup. She’s huge for us this season.”
Bartnicki and Moran each scored five points in Memorial’s win over Manchester Central in the Doug Chandler championship game, with all five of Moran’s coming in the fourth quarter of a close game as she took advantage of the attention Grumblatt, Brunette and Gould were getting.
Others stepped up by doing little —but important — things like rebounding and playing defense.
“It’s one of those situations where it’s not going to be one person,” Cotreau explained. “It’s going to be a collective effort. We’ve got some people that their strength is rebounding, so we know if we’re struggling on the boards, we can go to these one or two kids off the bench to get rebounds for us. We’ve got a couple kids that are really, really aggressive looking to score. They’re taking good open shots. I think as the season progresses and as they get used to the varsity pace, I think they’re going to see a lot more consistency with those shots falling.”
As vital as the depth will be, it’s also important to consider that Grumblatt, Brunette and Gould have all improved since last year, too. Gould has been thrust into more ball-handling duties with Carrier out while Grumblatt and Brunette have picked up their play in their own ways.
“We leaned on them really, really heavily last year,” Cotreau said of his top trio. “Two years in a row we’ve leaned on them really heavily. I would say Lyric, as a freshman, was kind of known as a three-point specialist. She can put the ball on the floor now, she can get to the rim, she has a pretty strong pull-up game. Defensively I think is where she’s made her biggest improvement. She can guard the other team’s best player while getting her own offense going.
“Jennessa is kind of the glue that keeps everything going for us. She was that way last year and she’s that way this year. She’s averaging a double-double with 11.5 points and just over 10 rebounds. She’s second on the team in assists. I would say her biggest improvement from last year to now is doing a much better job of finding kids that are open while taking care of the ball.”
Cotreau says at this point last year Brunette had a 13-assist-to-22-turnover ratio. This season you can reverse it, he says. Having an extra ball handler has helped in Carrier’s absence.
“I think the theme is to keep continuing to build out our depth,” Cotreau said when asked about his team’s strengths and weaknesses. “That’s still going to be a watch point for the whole season. We’re undersized. We don’t have a six-foot kid we can throw the ball into, so rebounding is something we talk about in practice where we have to gang rebound. I think we do an OK job of that. I think we still have a long way to go there, though.
“I think one of our strengths is we can get out and run. A lot of that is from either rebounding or creating turnovers. When we can do that we’re really tough to cover. We’ve got shooters and kids that can get to the rim. That’s probably our biggest strength we try to push every game.”
Carrier is expected to miss a few weeks while she rehabs, but adding her back to a group that includes a Player of the Year candidate in Grumblatt, a potential First Team All-Division member in Brunette and senior captain Gould should make Memorial tough to deal with. If the Crusaders can get some more contributions out of their reserves, they might be on to something.
“I think we’re in a pretty good spot,” Cotreau said. “Our players genuinely love playing together.”
Scoring in bunches
High individual point totals have been commonplace early this season.
As mentioned in last week’s column, Sarah Dempsey scored a school-record 35 points in Windham’s 58-47 win over Winnacunnet during the Hoops for the Holidays tournament.
Dempsey isn’t the only one who has been filling it up, though. Through Tuesday’s games, 21 players (17 boys, four girls) have scored at least 30 points in a single game. Seven of them have scored at least 35, with one, Conant’s Anthony Gauthier, surpassing the 40-point mark.
Gauthier’s 44 points in the Orioles’ 78-74 season-opener against Monadnock were three shy of tying the school record set in 2015 by current Bentley University women’s basketball player Maddy Springfield. They were two short of the boys’ record set by Dana Griffin in 1976.
A few others have come close to joining the 40-point club.
Goffstown’s Kelly Walsh scored 39 in the Grizzlies’ 61-35 win over Winnacunnet on Tuesday; Hanover’s Charlie Adams scored 38 in an 82-70 win over Kingswood on Jan. 3; and Bishop Brady’s Ami Rivera dropped 37 in a 67-52 win over Pelham on Dec. 16.
In addition to Dempsey, Lebanon’s Jon Willeman and Winnisquam’s Phil Nichols have also hit the 35-point mark. Willeman’s outburst occurred during the Queen City Invitational Basketball Tournament. He scored nearly half the Raiders’ points in a 71-57 win over Manchester West.
Others to score 30 or more this year: Joe Morrell (33, Oyster River); Jack Schwab (33, Wilton-Lyndeborough); Christian Barr (32, John Stark); Kevin Newton-Delgado (32, Hopkinton); Christina Balsamo (31, Hollis/Brookline); Quinn Bissonnette (31, Pittsfield); Dylan Harden (31, Hinsdale); Carson Rancourt (31, Colebrook); Gunnar Horman (30, Winnisquam); Nate Krafton (30, Raymond); Bryson Lund (30, Portsmouth Christian Academy); Andrew Normandin (30, Mount Royal); Sammy Stauffeneker (30, Mascenic); Kur Teng (30, Manchester West).
Near quadruple-double in Whitefield
White Mountains’ Jack Curtis notched a 20-point, 12-rebound and 10-assist triple-double in Tuesday’s 59-27 win over Berlin — an impressive feat to say the least. In notching six steals, though, Curtis nearly achieved the extremely rare quadruple-double. A tip of the cap here.