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Capsule outlook of the area’s high school girls’ basketball teams

  • John Stark’s Autumn Nelson (23) goes up for a shot during last season’s Division II girls’ basketball championship at Southern New Hampshire University. The Generals expect Nelson to be among their key players as they seek another deep run in the tournament. Monitor file

  • Merrimack Valley’s Carly Huckins (13), who earned Honorable Mention honors on the Division II All-State team as a junior last season, figures to be a major factor for the Pride during the 2018-19 campaign. Monitor file


Monitor staff
Friday, December 07, 2018

The following is a capsule outlook of Capital Area girls’ basketball teams in Divisions I, II and IV:

Concord

Division: I

Coach: Tim LaTorra (2nd year)

Last year: 5-13, did not make tournament

Returning players: Quinn Daniels, sr., F, 5-10; Kylar Buchholz, jr., G, 5-6; Jordyn Lengle, so., G, 6-0; Caroline Clark, sr., F, 5-8; Ashley Nault, sr., G, 5-6; Shayla Weeden, jr., G, 5-5

Top newcomers: Elli Cox, fr., G, 5-6; Elizabeth Blinn, fr., F, 6-0; Jess White, so., F, 5-7; Megan Cox, jr., F, 5-7; Anna Brock, jr., G/F, 5-9; Sydney Plante, jr., G, 5-4; Ron-dae Burgison, sr., F, 5-9

Outlook: The Tide returns eight players to a varsity program that improved considerably in LaTorra’s first year as the head of the program, but none of them were starters. “We graduated eight seniors last year and every role possible is available to our players,” LaTorra said. “We graduated our scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, and blocks leaders from a year ago. It will take some time for our kids to adjust to larger roles, but I can assure you that they are ready to accept the challenge. The positive energy in the gym every day is what will set the tone for our growth as a program throughout the year. I am very excited to see what this season will bring.” The Tide may be inexperienced, but LaTorra likes his team’s height, interior play and intensity.

Teams to beat: Bishop Guertin, Bedford, Pinkerton, Manchester Memorial, Portsmouth

Bishop Brady

Division: II

Coach: Annie Alosa (3rd year)

Last year: 14-7, lost in semifinals

Returning starters: Kaylee Smith, jr., G, 5-7; Ami Rivera, so., PG, 5-4

Top newcomers: Isabella Rivera, fr., PG, 5-5; Libbey Hicks, fr., G, 5-6; Hannah Hicks, jr., G, 5-5

Outlook: The Green Giants lost a pair of exceptional players from last year’s semifinal team – Sam Will, the Miss New Hampshire Basketball winner who is now playing Division I college ball at Cornell, and Sarah Doherty, a First Team Division II selection. That’s a tough backcourt to replace, but Brady may just be able to do it. Ami Rivera will take over at the point, where her floor sense and vision will be put to good use, and Smith will put her scoring touch on display at shooting guard. Brady also lost talent on the inside, but Alosa believes sophomore Riley Marsh, junior Marissa Payne and senior Ariel Bergeron can fill that void. Sophomore Halle Laramie is a versatile guard who can fill in for either Rivera or Smith in the backcourt, where the Hicks sisters and Isabelle Rivera will also get some playing time, “adding some true grit and scoring touches,” according to Alosa. Seniors Emily St. Arnaud and Abigail Tremblay will be looked to for leadership on what is a young team.

Teams to beat: Hanover, Lebanon

Bow

Division: II

Coach: Bill Vermette (9th year)

Last year: 11-8, lost in first round

Returning starters: Lauren Goyette, sr., G; Julia Landcastle, sr., F

Top newcomers: Maddie Speckman, fr., G; Jessica Chamberlin, fr., F; Makayla Murray, so., G

Outlook: Vermette is a defensive-minded coach, and he’s got a team with the kind of speed and quickness he can mold into a group that’s stingy with the points, which should help as the offense gets up to speed. “Offense right now is a concern but we hope our seniors will take up the brunt until some of the young players are ready to step up,” Vermette said.

Teams to beat: Hollis Brookline, Hanover, Lebanon, Pelham

Coe-Brown

Division: II

Coach: Joe Vachon (5th year)

Last year: 7-12, lost in first round

Returning starters: Valentina White, so., G/F, 5-8; Meskereem Wallace, jr., G, 5-4; Lauren Curtin, jr., G, 5-6; Mary Thoms, jr., G, 4-11

Top newcomers: Natalie Harris, jr., G/F, 5-6; Angelina Rene, so., F, 5-10; Molly Ewing, so., F/C, 6-0; Kiersten Ranfros, jr., G, 5-6; Madison Kriete, jr., G, 5-6

Outlook: The Bears return a young core of talented athletes and are hoping to find a rhythm during the course of the season. “This group’s challenge will be to take the next step mentally in being the team that they are capable of being,” Vachon said. “They work hard at practice but may lack the physicality and mental preparedness needed to win varsity games consistently. If we can become consistent game in and game out, this team could make some noise.”

Teams to beat: Hanover, Lebanon, Hollis Brookline, Pelham

John Stark

Division: II

Coach: Bruce Johnson (2nd year)

Last year: 12-10, D-II runner-up

Returning starters: Autumn Nelson, sr., G, 5-6; Chelsea Woodsum, jr., C/F, 5-10

Top newcomers: Brooke Patnode, so., F, 5-8; Lillian Stogner, so., F, 5-8

Outlook: Nelson and Woodsum were central figures in Stark’s surprise run to last year’s D-II final and provide this team with a great foundation as it develops its own identity. “It will take some time for this group to learn their roles, but they are working hard daily and they want to return to the playoffs,” Johnson said. “We are improving in all aspects of the game each day and developing a higher basketball IQ.”

Teams to beat: Hanover, Hollis Brookline, Lebanon

Kearsarge

Division: II

Coach: Keith Roberts (4th year)

Last year: 5-13, did not make tournament

Returning starters: Meg Roy, sr., F

Top newcomers: Jordan Busch, jr., G; Ashlyn Henderson, jr., F; Mary Meagher, jr., G; Erin Wheeler, so., F; Elle Camp, so., G; Livi Hernon, jr., F; Caroline Camp, fr., G; Rayna Tucker, fr., G; Isabella Anzalone, so., G; Tori Andrewski, so., F

Outlook: With Roy as the only returning starter, the Cougars will be testing lots of new players in lots of new roles. “We are excited as a program. We will be young and eager to compete,” Roberts said. “We will be asking a lot of all the players on the varsity roster. We believe that everyone on the roster will compete for a starting position every day in practice and that the competition in practice will help us improve throughout the season. Our goal this year is to improve every day and be our best at the end of the year and push ourselves to return to the tournament.”

Teams to beat: “Every team in D-II is a team we need to compete with,” Roberts said.

Merrimack Valley

Division: II

Coach: Bob McNutt (2nd year)

Last year: 9-10, lost in first round

Returning starters: Carly Huckins, sr., G, 5-6; Aislinn McDonald, jr., C, 5-7; Kaitlyn Belanger, sr., F, 5-5

Top newcomers: Hailey Kenney, so., G, 5-2; Emily Koufos, so., F, 5-6; Alyssa Woodman, fr., G, 5-3; Morgan Tanguay, so., G, 5-4

Outlook: The Pride only lost two players from last year’s team and numbers are up this year, which should help MV’s tournament hopes. “We’ve added some depth with some young athletic kids who can help us,” McNutt said. “I’m excited about this group, having a chance to see them play a lot over the summer. If this group plays together as a team and buys into our defensive philosophy, we can compete with anyone in D-II.”

Teams to beat: Lebanon, Hanover, Hollis Brookline

Pembroke

Division: II

Coach: Michaela Champlin (2nd year)

Last year: 11-9, lost in quarterfinals

Returning starters: Madison Gaskell, sr., C, 5-8

Top newcomers: Ashley Stephens, fr., G, 5-9

Outlook: The Spartans only return one starter, but so far Champlin is optimistic about her young squad. “Preseason has been fun as we develop chemistry and skills with a new group of girls,” Champlin said. “We are young and eager and will look to build momentum throughout the season as we gain experience in a competitive division.”

Teams to beat: Kennett, Hollis Brookline, Lebanon, Hanover, John Stark

Pittsfield

Division: IV

Coach: Heidi Hall (4th year)

Last year: 3-15, did not make tournament

Returning starters: Destinee Ellis, sr., G; Cora Lemay, jr., F; Haylee Gilleney, jr., G

Top newcomers: Tori Lee, jr., G; Paige Provencal, jr., F; Ari Prentice, 8th grader, G

Outlook: The Panthers are returning three starters and have a solid core of players to build on. Lemay will anchor the inside, while Ellis and Gilleney will be the outside scoring threats, but there are plenty of players looking to fill in the remaining starting positions. Lee, Prentice and Jazmyn Price will use their running game to provide different scoring options, while Kianna Vincelette, Provencal, Sereniti Morgan and Ryan Wood will add depth to the forward positions. “Even though we are working on fitting all the pieces together I am excited about this season,” Hall said. “We are a young team with multiple players that are looking to step up to find the right combination for success.”

Teams to beat: Farmington, Hinsdale