Boys’ basketball: Connor Bagnell’s 28-point night leads Coe-Brown into the quarterfinals

Coe-Brown guard Connor Bagnell drives to the basket against Kingswood forward Brady Moulton during the second quarter on Tuesday night.

Coe-Brown guard Connor Bagnell drives to the basket against Kingswood forward Brady Moulton during the second quarter on Tuesday night. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Coe-Brown forward Quinn Salter gets fouled going to the basket against Kingswood on Tuesday night, February 27, 2024 in their opening round win.

Coe-Brown forward Quinn Salter gets fouled going to the basket against Kingswood on Tuesday night, February 27, 2024 in their opening round win. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Coe-Brown forward Jack Matson fights under the basket against Kingswood on Tuesday night, February 27, 2024 in their opening round win.

Coe-Brown forward Jack Matson fights under the basket against Kingswood on Tuesday night, February 27, 2024 in their opening round win. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 02-27-2024 11:16 PM

Modified: 02-28-2024 12:08 PM


NORTHWOOD – Tuesday night’s first-round Division II playoff matchup between No. 4 Coe-Brown (15-4) and No. 13 Kingswood (8-11) was the type of game any coach in Dave Smith’s position dreads: the third time playing a team you’ve already beaten twice.

For Smith’s Bears, it could’ve been easy to overlook the Knights, who they beat 52-39 on Jan. 3 and 64-35 on Feb. 2, and for most of the game, Kingswood hung around. Still, the Bears escaped with a 58-55 win as a last-ditch comeback from the Knights fell short.

“I think they probably knew a lot of the stuff that we’re going to do,” Smith said of Kingswood. “They played a great game. Played a solid game. They’re a solid team. They had a couple of big wins this year. They had a couple that maybe didn’t go their way, but they had a couple of big wins. They’re solid.”

Kingswood led 19-14 when Smith took a timeout with 4:53 left in the second quarter. Subsequently, the Bears went on a 12-0 run over the next four minutes.

“I wish I could say, ‘Yeah, let’s go score 12 points now boys,’” Smith joked. “It’s just that we weren’t in sync at that time. It looked like we were struggling a little bit, so we just had to settle in and get something good, try to find ourselves defensively again and get a good look.”

Coe-Brown senior guard Connor Bagnell carried the load for the Bears offensively with a game-high 28 points, including six made 3-pointers. Fellow senior Quinn Salter added 11 and junior Jack Matson scored eight and had a couple key blocks.

Bagnell started the game a bit cold shooting, but he turned it on the second quarter when he knocked down three of his six 3s.

“He’s been like this all year,” Smith said. “He’s been a little up and down as far as the shooting part of it’s concerned, but he’s been consistent in all the other aspects of the game which you have to be. And what a great day for him to be at the top of his game. He’s been practicing pretty well. He always practices hard, but you could tell, he’s getting in good flow the last week.”

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The win was also notable in that it was the 650th of Smith’s career. His players and the student section surprised him after the game, all holding up “Coach Smith 650 wins” posters to recognize the achievement. Smith is now the second-winningest coach in New Hampshire high school basketball history.

But in true form, that’s not what he wanted the focus to be on.

“As long as we got the win,” he said, “that’s all I care about.”

Coe-Brown advances to host No. 12 Kennett (9-10) on Friday night after the Eagles upset No. 5 Manchester West, 41-33. The Bears beat them twice during the regular season, 56-43 and 53-44, but Coe-Brown hasn’t forgotten what happened last year in a similar situation. Facing No. 14 Oyster River in the quarterfinals, the Bears – who’d won the regular season matchup by 31 points – lost, 40-36.

With that still fresh in their minds, Smith and the Bears are taking nothing for granted.

“Kennett’s a very solid team,” Smith said. “Fortunate at least we got them (at home). That’s a help, and it’s a surprise as far as standings are concerned, but Kennett’s had a couple huge wins this year. They’re kind of a similar team to Kingswood.”