Right where they belong: Hopkinton, Kearsarge in D-III boys’ hoop semifinals

  • Kearsarge's George Jallah defends against Hopkinton during a regular-season game on Feb. 23, in North Sutton. Jallah had 12 points and 10 rebounds as Kearsarge beat Hopkinton, 50-46. Both teams have advanced to Wednesday’s Division III semifinals in Laconia with Hopkinton facing Raymond at 5 p.m. followed by Kearsarge against Gilford.  ANASTASIA GLAVAS / Courtesy

  • Kearsarge’s Chris Stanchfield drives the baseline during a boys’ basketball game Feb. 23, in North Sutton. Stanchfield, who leads the Cougars in scoring with 16.4 points per game, had 13 points in that one as Kearsarge beat Hopkinton, 50-46. ANASTASIA GLAVAS / Courtesy

  • Hopkinton’s Mike Oberheim grabs a rebound against Mascenic during a Division III boys’ basketball quarterfinal game on Saturday in Hopkinton. Oberheim scored five points and Hopkinton won, 47-37, to advance to Wednesday’s semifinals. JEFF SULLIVAN / sullivaneventphotography.com

  • Hopkinton center Brendan Elrick shoots over a crowd during the second half of a regular-season game at Pembroke Academy on Jan. 21. Elrick leads the team in scoring (16.4 points per game) and rebounding (10.6 rebounds per game) and Hopkinton will face Raymond in Wednesday’s D-III semifinals in Laconia. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 3/9/2021 4:44:00 PM

They both came into the season with talented teams, and both were primed for Division III tournament runs by schedules loaded with D-II schools. So far, the Hopkinton and Kearsarge boys’ basketball teams have lived up to the expectations, and both will be playing in Wednesday’s D-III semifinals.

Kearsarge tips off with Gilford at 5 p.m. in the first semi at Laconia High School, followed by Hopkinton against Raymond. The winners will be back in Laconia on Saturday for the championship.

Tournament wins against Newport, 65-23, at Fall Mountain, 60-54, and at Mascoma, 52-46, brought Kearsarge (12-4) to the semifinals. The Cougars executed smoothly on the offensive end in the quarterfinals, going on an 11-2 run to close out the win at Mascoma. Kearsarge coach Nate Camp believes playing against D-II teams like Bow, Coe-Brown and Pembroke Academy helped his players develop the calm it takes to deliver under pressure.

“It was lots of good stuff down the stretch for us in that win against Mascoma, and I think that’s a testament to the fact that we’ve been tested this season,” Camp said.

Hopkinton (11-5) got lucky with the draw in this randomly seeded, open tournament. The Hawks were selected as Team One in Region Three, so they didn’t have to play a first round game like Kearsarge, they had home-court advantage and they used it to beat Conant, 46-31, and Mascenic, 47-37, on their way to the semifinals.

Mascenic, which was declared the 2020 D-III co-champ along with Gilford when last season was cut short due to the pandemic, took an early lead in Saturday’s quarterfinal at Hopkinton. But the Hawks wasted no time responding and taking control for the win. Hopkinton coach Stephen Signor thinks that kind of quick response can be credited, in part, with the difficult regular-season schedule.

“Our kids are battle-tested. They knew they couldn’t take a shift off this season or the other team would be scoring points,” Signor said. “We had to play against some really good ball players, some of those guys are going to be First Team Division II all-state, so that really helped us get that tough, game experience, because every night was a challenge.”

Hopkinton lost in the D-III semifinals last year to Gilford, yet only returned one starter from that team, Owen Milchick, and one other player with significant varsity exeperience, John Jacobsen. But the rest of the Hawks improved over the offseaason, and Hopkinton hasn’t missed a beat this year.

Brendan Elrick, Quinn Whitehead and Mike Oberheim all split time between JV and varsity last season, but this season they are all starters along with Milchick and Jacobsen. Elrick, a 6-foot-8 junior center, leads the team in scoring (16.4 points per game) and rebounding (10.6 per game) and is a menacing defensive presence.

“He really dedicated himself over the summer and came in trim and lean,” Signor said. “He’s a lot faster now and really moves on the court.”

Milchick, an athletic 6-4 wing with a nice shooting touch, averaged 11.9 ppg during the regular season, but has upped that to 16.1 over the last four games, including the two playoff wins. Jacobsen is the team’s top defender and averages 6.6 points and 5.3 assists per game.

Raymond beat Campbell, 53-46, and St. Thomas, 43-30, on its way to the semifinals. The Rams scored the final 14 points to beat St. Thomas in the quarterfinals, and nine of those 14 came from senior brothers Nate and Josh Krafton. Hopkinton will be paying close attention to the Kraftons on Wednesday night.

“Those brothers are tough and they’ve been getting better every year,” Signor said. “They also have a guard (Paul Goding) who has come into his own this year and does a nice job running the floor for them. It’s going to be another battle.”

Kearsarge junior Chris Stanchfield has put together an impressive season, averaging 16.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.4 steals per game. And junior point guard Sam Carl has also been stuffing stat sheets all season to average 9.9 points, 6.2 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 2.9 steals per game.

George Jallah (6.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Nolan Grant (5.6 ppg) are the Cougars other top scorers, and forward Adrian McCarthy (4.3 rebounds) does all of the little things well. Kearsarge also has good depth and gets various contributions from seniors Tim Flanders and Adam Reeve and juniors Connor Pillsbury, Bobby Needham and Jack Chambers.

Like Hopkinton, Gilford got the benefit of being Team 1 in its region and won two playoff games on its home floor to reach the semifinals, beating Lakes Region rivals Winnisquam, 28-19, and Belmont, 49-45. The Golden Eagles have good size and athleticism and, like Raymond, they’re led by a family connection in the Reese brothers –– senior Malik, sophomore Jalen and freshman Isaiah.

“Gilford is a very good team and their length is going to be a problem for us,” Camp said. “I think it’s going to come down to can we defend and can we rebound. If they score points in the paint, we’re going to have a tough night.”




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