Season recap: Concord Christian girls’ basketball the standouts among area D-III and D-IV programs this season

  • Concord Christian players Taylor Rioux (left) and Lilli Carlile (33) surround Stevens guard Bella Bovell during the second half of their D-III semifinal at Bow High School on Feb. 24. CCA made the most of its first year in the division, going all the way to win the state championship. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Hopkinton guard Ava Lambert gets fouled trying to break through two Conant defenders during the Hawks’ D-III semifinal loss on Feb. 24 at Bow High. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 3/15/2023 11:30:08 PM

Despite having one of the smallest rosters – if not the smallest – across the state, Concord Christian Academy’s girls’ basketball team finished the 2022-23 season as Division III champions. It was CCA’s first season in the division, after moving up from D-IV.

The roster of just seven dominated all season long, finishing 21-1. The only loss came to Conant on Jan. 5, a 59-58 defeat.

“We’re a small team; everyone expects to beat us with their numbers and their size,” junior Megan Muir told the Monitor after CCA’s win over Conant in the championship game on Feb. 25. “We work really hard, and we play so hard together as a team. Our togetherness helps us. We lift each other up. We push the ball and cheer each other on.”

Added head coach Rebecca Carlile: “All seven of our girls are contributors, and we know that we have to win as a team. There are no superstars. Even though somebody might be the high scorer, we have to have all seven girls playing. … There’s not a lot of drama. Everybody gets pretty much equal playing time, for the most part.”

Three of CCA’s players were named D-III second-team all-state by the New Hampshire Basketball Coaches Organization: Emma Smith, Sarah Muir and Lilli Carlile. None of the seven players on the roster were seniors this year, so they will all return next season.

No. 5 Hopkinton reached the final four under Pat Roye, the D-III coach of the year as voted by the NHBCO, and finished the 2022-23 season at 14-5 with a loss to No. 1 Conant (46-31) in the semifinals.

In contrast to most D-III schools, Roye utilized a deep bench; he played eight against Conant, including senior Maddie Carmichael who led Hopkinton’s offense with 11 points in the game. Carmichael and fellow senior Elise Miner were named to the honorable mention list – two of the eight seniors the Hawks graduate from this year’s team.

So while next year might be more of a rebuild, it’s not too late to recognize the success that Roye oversaw for the Hawks.

“I couldn’t be happier with these kids,” he said after the semifinal loss. “Achieving a final four is an amazing accomplishment. It’s unfortunate it ended this way, but they have nothing to hang their heads about. They did a great job all year.”

Winnisquam reached the D-III playoffs as the No. 6 seed, taking down Newport, 57-45, in the first round, before falling to Stevens, 52-32, in the quarterfinals to wrap up the season at 12-6.

The Bears’ best stretch of the season came from Dec. 19 through Jan. 27, when they reeled off nine wins in a row.

Mackenzie Philippy is the only senior from this year’s roster. Junior Lauren MacDonald returns next year and was named first-team all-state for D-III by the NHBCO.

Similar to Winnisquam, Kearsarge had a strong stretch that helped propel the Cougars into a decent playoff spot, when they won six in a row from late January into early February. The streak came on the heels of a 5-4 start.

One of the big issues during that uneven early stretch centered around too many self-inflicted wounds.

“Really talented teams can beat themselves but still somehow win. We’re not talented enough to do that,” head coach Ed Tenney said after the Cougars lost to Hopkinton 41-24 on Jan. 5. “We have to be better allies to ourselves.”

During the playoffs, Tenney’s group demonstrated some growth from that early season setback, beating No. 9 Gilford, 48-29, and pushing No. 1 Conant down to the wire in a 35-30 loss.

Eight seniors departed the program at the end of the season, so next year will likely be a rebuild for Tenney and the Cougars.

No. 15 Belmont snuck into the D-III playoffs but struggled mightily in its first game against CCA, losing 61-16. The Raiders finished the year 5-13 and will graduate five seniors.

Hillsboro-Deering was the only area D-III team to miss out on the playoffs. The Hillcats finished the season 3-13.

On the Division IV side, Franklin was the only area team to reach the postseason. The Golden Tornadoes finished the year 8-11, with a first-round playoff loss against Colebrook, 61-35.

“We had a great season with a young team that is still learning,” head coach Mark Dionne told the Monitor after the game. “The girls have surprised themselves with what they could accomplish and will be even better next year.”

Franklin had just two seniors on the roster; the other 11 players were all sophomores or younger.

Finally, Pittsfield missed out on the playoffs after a 2-16 campaign. The Panthers’ only two victorie came against winless Nute.


ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL is a sports reporter for the Monitor. He graduated from Northwestern University in June 2022 with a degree in journalism and spent his last two years as sports director for the campus radio station, WNUR, leading coverage for nine different sports. A New York native, he's a diehard Yankees and Giants fan much to the displeasure of most of the newsroom.

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