Boys’ basketball: Pembroke, Coe-Brown and Bow lead the pack among D-II area playoff teams

Pembroke senior captain Joe Fitzgerald attempts a shot as Coe-Brown's Jack Matson flies in behind him during their matchup on Mon. Feb. 19, 2024.

Pembroke senior captain Joe Fitzgerald attempts a shot as Coe-Brown's Jack Matson flies in behind him during their matchup on Mon. Feb. 19, 2024. Chip Griffin—Photos By Chip

Bow sophomore Peyton Larrabee tries to lay it in against Plymouth on Feb. 15, 2024.

Bow sophomore Peyton Larrabee tries to lay it in against Plymouth on Feb. 15, 2024. Chip Griffin—Photos By Chip

Aiden Gray dribbles between his legs for Merrimack Valley against John Stark's Joey Dykstra in a game on Jan. 18, 2024.

Aiden Gray dribbles between his legs for Merrimack Valley against John Stark's Joey Dykstra in a game on Jan. 18, 2024. Chip Griffin—Photos By Chip

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 02-26-2024 11:22 AM

Like last season, the Pembroke Spartans top the list among area teams to qualify for the Division II boys’ basketball playoffs. At 16-2, last year’s runner-up turned in another impressive season with a mostly new group of players.

Returning senior Joe Fitzgerald led the way scoring all year, but seniors Mason Gagne and Zach Al-Shawafi, juniors Evan Berkeley and Devin Riel and sophomore Zach Bemis all played crucial roles throughout the season. The No. 3 seed, Pembroke will host No. 14 Oyster River (7-11) in its first round matchup on Tuesday night. The Spartans won their regular season meeting with the Bobcats, 62-56, on Feb. 6.

“Overall just extremely impressed with the group of young men we have,” head coach Mike Donnell said after a recent win over Coe-Brown. “They’re in the right frame of mind right now. They know what’s at stake, and I think they’re giving it their best shot, and that’s all as a coach you can ask for.”

Pembroke and Oyster River also met in last year’s D-II semifinal, with Pembroke winning, 70-49. Oyster River was also the 14 seed in last year’s tournament, pulling off upsets over No. 3 Souhegan and No. 6 Coe-Brown to reach the semifinal.

Meanwhile, Coe-Brown finished the regular season at 14-4 and will play No. 13 Kingswood (8-10) in the first round. Their late-season loss to the Spartans dropped the Bears to the four seed, but head coach Dave Smith said he’s not concerned about where his group stands entering the postseason. 

“I was not disappointed at all with the kids’ effort,” Smith said after the Pembroke loss. “The effort was there all night. Just could not get good momentum. ... I don’t think we played as well as we’re capable of, and we’ll be better. Effort-wise, we’re there. Just couldn’t get it done tonight.”

Coe-Brown beat the Knights twice in the regular season, 52-39 on Jan. 3 and 64-35 on Feb. 2. Led by senior Connor Bagnell, the Bears will lean on their defense to make a deep playoff run.

Bow (12-6) snagged the No. 7 seed after big wins during the regular season over Pembroke and Manchester West, but the Falcons also had a few surprising losses against Souhegan, Plymouth and Sanborn. They’ll likely rely on the size of 6’3 sophomore Peyton Larrabee as well as 6’0 junior Keenan Hubbard and 6’0 sophomore Jake Reardon to string together playoff wins.

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“They’re young, but they come to work every day in practice; they come to work every day for a game,” head coach Scott Drapeau said following a win over Milford in January. “Sometimes the ball bounces the way it’s supposed to, and sometimes it doesn’t, but I’m impressed with just the composure for most of it.”

At 12-6, Bow will play No. 10 Souhegan (9-9) in Tuesday’s first round. The Falcons lost to the Sabers on 63-31 on Feb. 8 after a 72-64 win on Jan. 16.

Merrimack Valley rounds out the area teams that qualified for the playoffs at 8-10. The Pride were the only team in D-II to beat No. 2 Hanover (17-1) this season. MV also beat Manchester West (12-6), but inconsistency plagued the team all season. After a three-game winning streak in early January, the Pride never won back-to-back games again the rest of the regular season and alternated win-loss over the last six games of the schedule.

As the 11 seed, MV will play at No. 6 Laconia (12-6) in the first round on Tuesday. The two teams didn’t meet during the regular season.