Previews of local schools’ NHIAA playoff matchups
High school tournaments today
Division III championship
No. 2 Bow (20-1) vs.
No. 4 White Mountains (18-3), 4 p.m.
HEAD TO HEAD: The teams did not meet during the regular season.
pREVIOUS TOURNAMENT GAMES: Bow beat No. 18 Inter-Lakes (28-20), No. 7 Laconia (58-30) and No. 3 Bishop Brady (36-31). White Mountains downed No. 13 Fall Mountain (41-39), No. 5 Gilford (46-14) and No. 1 Conant (46-31).
NOTES: After these two teams played in the semifinals last year, a 36-29 win for White Mountains, Bow Coach Bill Vermette said, “This is a big experience for those kids. Hopefully next year, we’ll take advantage.” Next year is now here, and the Falcons have another crack at the Spartans, who went on to win the D-III title last season. No team is hotter than Bow, which has won every game it’s played since a season-opening loss to Bishop Brady. Senior Lindsey Nerbonne is the consummate point guard and leader for the Falcons and is averaging 14.7 points, 5.7 assists and 3.3 steals in Bow’s three playoff games. The Falcons have a pair of solid inside players in seniors Suzanne Barry (six points, 12 rebounds in semifinals) and Dina Tischofer (10 points, 10 rebounds in quarterfinals), and three outstanding perimeter players in Ashlie Tucker, Kirsten Bresson and reserve Taylor Marston. Amanda Murray and Madeleine Horner come off the bench with Marston to provide Bow with some valuable depth. While most of those Falcons did gain valuable experience in last year’s loss to White Mountains (Nerbonne had a team-high 13 points), the Spartans have now been to three straight D-III final fours. Senior guards Chelsea Payer (11 points in semifinals) and Payton Curtis have been key players on those three teams, and Katie Wood (12 points in semifinals on four 3-pointers) and Olivia Conway were both key players on last year’s title team. In the end, this likely will be a defensive struggle that will be won by the team that can dial in some key long distance shots.
Division III quarterfinals
No. 6 Hopkinton (15-4) at
No. 3 Newport (18-1), 7 p.m.
Head to head: Hopkinton handed Newport its only loss of the season, 58-52, on Feb. 4.
Previous tournament games: Hopkinton ousted No. 11 Bow, 55-47. Newport escaped No. 19 Kearsarge, 46-44.
Notes: Hopkinton carries an eight-game winning streak into the quarterfinals, including a gut-check victory over the rival Falcons in the second round. Hopkinton trailed at the end of the first and second quarters in that game, but ramped up its defense to keep Bow scoreless for the game’s final two minutes to preserve the win. Hopkinton can come at its opponents with a number of options, evidenced by four players scoring in double digits in the second round. Gabe Nichols led the way with 15 points and 10 rebounds, Steve Auger added 12 points and eight boards, point guard Liam McNichols had 13 points and five assists, and Jake Nelson scored 11 points with seven boards. Andrew Houde is Newport’s go-to player. Houde drained all three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt in the final seconds to give the Tigers the win in their second-round game.
Division II quarterfinals
No. 5 Dover (11-6-1) at
No. 4 Bow (11-3-4), 6 p.m.
HEAD TO HEAD: The teams tied 2-2 on Dec. 22.
NOTES: Plenty has changed since the Falcons and Green Wave last faced each other. The December tie was the beginning of a skid for Bow, which dropped three of its next four games, with the one exception being a tie against Keene. Since that last defeat, however, the Falcons have found their game, and they enter the tournament with wins in eight of their past 10 games, and no regulation losses in any of them. The Falcons, led by goalie Connor Simpson, have played tight defense, holding their opponents to two or fewer goals in seven of those games, while Hunter Berke (10 goals, eight assists), Derek Tillotson (12 goals, 12 assists), Mike Fanaras (eight goals, 11 assists) and Chris Fournier (seven goals, eight assists) have led an offense that has racked up 36 goals in that time. Cam Crowley and Joe Johnston have 11 goals apiece for Dover, while Ben Henderson and Mitchell Welch are the Wave’s top playmakers.
Division III quarterfinals
No. 5 Kennett (10-8-0) at
No. 4 Belmont-Gilford (12-6-0), 6:15 p.m.
HEAD TO HEAD: The teams split during the regular season, with Kennett winning, 5-3, Dec. 22 and Belmont-Gilford winning, 8-2, Feb. 16.
NOTES: If the regular-season trend continues, Belmont-Gilford will have the edge today, as the home team won both times when these teams faced off against each other. The Bulldogs team that handled the Eagles in February looked more true to overall form, as Belmont-Gilford, with 101 goals scored in 18 games, didn’t have much trouble putting the puck in the net. Jeremy D’Amour (29 goals, 15 assists) is the go-to scorer on an offense that has several other players capable of sharing the load. Caleb Drouin (19 goals, 13 assists) and Brogan Hurst (10 goals, nine assists) joined D’Amour in double-digit goal figures, while Daryll Cahill (seven goals, 15 assists) and Max Desmarais (six goals, 12 assists) have had good seasons, as well. If the Bulldogs can keep the Eagles – and specifically high-scoring Connor Todd (25 goals, 33 assists) – at bay, they should have enough firepower to advance.
No. 7 Moultonborough/Inter-Lakes (9-8-1) at
No. 2 John Stark-Hopkinton (16-1-1), 1 p.m.
HEAD TO HEAD: The two teams tied 2-2 on Jan. 17.
NOTES: Not many teams could stay with John Stark-Hopkinton throughout the season. Moultonborough/Inter-Lakes was one of them, however, setting the No. 2 seed up with a first playoff game that could be a bigger pitfall than expected. Still, Stark-Hopkinton has to feel confident going in, as it has won eight straight games and totaled 114 goals over the course of the 18-game season. The offense is a versatile one, as four players finished the season in double figures in goals. Simon Becka (18 goals, 12 assists) led the way, while Jake Blanchette (14 goals, seven assists), Robbie Ferguson (13 goals, 11 assists) and Garrett Thomas (10 goals, six assists) also present problems for the defense. Should Stark-Hopkinton finds itself in a low-scoring game, it’ll be prepared for that too, as goalie Connor McDonald (1.88 goals-against average, three shutouts) has been terrific between the pipes. Tim Casey (30 goals, 11 assists) and Simon Campbell (12 goals, 21 assists) have combined for more than half of Moultonborough/Inter-Lakes’s goals, so keeping them contained will be a key for John Stark-Hopkinton.