H.S. boys’ basketball preview: Tipoff finally arrives for local cohort

  • Bow’s Matt Lamy goes up for a layup during the 2019 Capital Area Holiday Tournament championship game at NHTI. The Falcons won that tournament and then went 18-1 in Division II before last season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Lamy, a First Team D-II selection last year as a sophomore and the Cap Area MVP, is back and Bow is expected to be one of the top teams in the area. RICH MIYARA / NH Sports Photography

  • PAUL HOGAN / NHTI AthleticsBow’s Shaun Lover (33) makes a pass during the 2019 Capital Area Holiday Tournament semifinals at NHTI. The Falcons won that tournament and then went 18-1 in Division II before last season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Lover is one of two returning starters for this year’s Falcons team, which opens the season Monday against Hopkinton.

Monitor staff
Published: 1/10/2021 5:26:52 PM

Normal starting dates already have been delayed by weeks, holiday tournaments have been canceled and schedules have been shortened. The changes will keep coming tonight when the high basketball season officially tips off – players in masks, stands mostly empty and open tournaments waiting at the end, if the season makes it that far.

These changes are expected given the coronavirus pandemic, and seeing players sitting 6-feet apart on benches and all wearing face coverings will feel somewhat normal after living like this for months. Most fans won’t be able to see it in person – some area schools aren’t allowing any fans, others are allowing at most two per player – but most games will be streamed at either nfhsnetwork.com or on social media platforms.

Media access will be limited as well, but the Monitor will cover these student-athletes throughout the season. We will have photos, publish daily results in print and online and write other stories about the local high schools, like this preview of their boys’ basketball teams.

All winter athletics were paused at Concord High on Dec. 15 and did not resume again until Jan. 4, so the Crimson Tide and second-year coach boys’ basketball Jimmy Thorpe are doing their best to get up to speed.

“With a belated and unique beginning to our season, there have been more questions than answers,” Thorpe said. “But now that teams have been chosen and practices have started, there is certainly a buzz in the gym – call it pent-up energy and athletics providing what they always have – and our outlook is optimistic and grateful.”

Ivan Yen, a sharp-shooting 6-foot-1 junior guard, is Concord’s only returning starter from last year’s team that went 8-11 and lost in the first round of the Division I tournament. Sophomore Quinton Pincoske is also a dangerous shooter, but after those two, the Tide will be looking for contributions from relatively untested players. Concord opens the season with a home-and-home series against D-II Merrimack Valley on Friday and Saturday, but after that it’s all D-I opponents on the Tide’s schedule.

The only thing that really stopped Bow last season was the coronavirus. The Falcons captured the Capital Area Holiday Tournament in December 2019, earned the No. 2 seed in the D-II tournament with a 17-1 regular season record, won its only playoff game and was named D-II co-champs (along with top-seeded ConVal) when the tournament was canceled before the quarterfinals. Bow did lose some size and talent from that team, but it brings back point guard Matt Lamy, a 6-4 junior who was a First Team D-II pick last year, and senior guard Shaun Lover, a smart and physical playmaker at 6-2, 210 pounds.

The Falcons will have to adjust to a new coach as Tim Lee, a former player and assistant coach at Southern New Hampshire University, assumes the reins from Frank Moreno, who left to take over the Bedford program. Bow opens its season against Hopkinton at 6 p.m. on Monday, a game that can be heard on WKXL – 1450 AM, 103.9FM and streaming at nhtalkradio.com

After winning the 2019 D-II title with a senior-heavy team, Pembroke Academy went 5-13 last season and missed the tournament. The Spartans gained some valuable experience during that campaign and have four players with starting experience – juniors Preston Wallis, Cooper Gilman, Alex Francoer and Mike Pitman, a 6-foot guard who will be the focal point of PA’s offense.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” fourth-year coach Rich Otis said. “We are still young and inexperienced – 11 of the 14 players are juniors or sophomores – but the seniors have done a great job leading in the preseason and the kids have worked extremely hard. They have bought into our new philosophy 100 percent and they seem to genuinely care about each other.”

Gary Lavoie will take over the head coaching duties at Bishop Brady, which went 3-15 last season in D-II. Gabe Amnott, a 6-1 senior forward, is the only returning starter from that team, and Lavoie will lean on him heavily to provide leadership to the young but talented Giants. Sophomore Nathan Nelson, a 5-10 guard, impressed during AAU play this summer and fall, as did 5-11 freshman guard Cade Weaver.

“Toughness, discipline and integrity are the strengths that make up for the team’s lack of experience,” Lavoie said. “They shoot the ball exceptionally well and you’ll see the basketball move, that’s for certain. How well they handle pressure from teams that have been there before will be the key.”

Merrimack Valley made back-to-back trips to the D-II semifinals in 2018 and ’19, but the Pride was hurt last year by injuries and finished the season 2-16. Coach Tim Mucher, now in his eighth year with MV, returns a pair of starters from last year’s team – senior guard Griffin Wheeler and senior wing Eli Gove. Wheeler has a ton of varsity experience and will be a steady hand guiding the Pride on both ends of the floor. MV only had eight players on varsity roster to start the preseason, so Mucher will be looking for contributions from everyone, including freshmen Trevor Simonds and Luke Dougherty.

“We’re doing our thing and trying to maximize our time and effort each day,” Mucher said.

Coe-Brown will have only one returning starter, Keegan Paradis, from last year’s 5-13 team when it opens the season at home against Brady on Monday. The will focus on defense under coach Dave Smith, who is entering his 32nd year as Coe-Brown’s head coach and likes the potential of varsity newcomers Cole Smith, Shane Cary and Tommy Flanagan. Mike Smith, Dave’s son, is entering his 21st season as the head coach at John Stark. But practices are only just beginning this week for the Generals, who went 5-13 last year and open this season at home against Bow on Jan. 18.

Kearsarge will move down to D-III this year after finishing 9-10 and losing in the first round of the D-II tournament last season. But with schedules based on location and not division this year, nine of the Cougars’ 13 scheduled games are against D-II teams, so they won’t really feel the change to D-III until the tournament. Junior forward Adrian McCarthy started as a freshman and is healthy after missing some time last year with injury. Chris Stanchfield, a 6-1 junior guard, is the other returning starter, but coach Nate Camp, now in his 12th year, has plenty of varsity experience on the roster.

“We have some athleticism and quickness at multiple spots on the court, as well as 10 returning varsity players,” Camp said. “Those kids are ready to step up and lead, especially setting the tone defensively and attacking the rim offensively.”

First-year coach Joe Lincoln is excited about the group he’s taking over at Hillsboro-Deering. The Hillcats have three returning starters from last year’s team that went 4-14 and missed the D-III tournament – 6-1 senior forward Sam Hatcher, 5-9 senior guard Owen Coombs and 6-1 sophomore forward Zack Coombs – and three promising newcomers in freshman guard Daniel Franklin, sophomore guard Jacob Davies and senior Tucker Card, a 6-3, 250-pound football player who is new to the game.

“We’re a team that has some explosive wing players, and some guards who can really shoot,” Lincoln said. “We’re also lucky to have some big men who are great passers and know how to play undersized in the post and always talk on the defensive end. I’m hoping we can put it all together by tournament time, and show this team’s ability to play with anyone.”

Hopkinton finished 16-5 last season after losing to top-seed Gilford in the D-III semifinals, but the Hawks lost seven seniors from that team, including First Team D-III pick Kevin Newton-Delgado and Second Team selection Shepyrd Murdough. The challenge of replacing all that talent will be amplified by Hopkinton’s schedule, which features mostly D-II teams. That can result in a lot of regular-season losses, but those won’t keep a team out of the open tournament, and playing up a division can also result in a team primed for the playoffs. That’s what happened with the Hopkinton girls’ soccer team, which went 3-4-2 playing against mostly D-II teams during the regular season, but then ran through the D-III tournament to capture the title.

Pittsfield graduated four starters from last year’s team that finished 16-5 after losing to top-ranked and undefeated Littleton in the D-IV semifinals, 59-51. Senior guard Jesse MacGlashing is the one returning starter, and senior guard Jah Gordon brings plenty of varsity experience to the table, as well. Senior forwards Jordon Roode and Ben Marcotte and sophomore forwards Jared Beliveau and Abe Marcotte are all new to varsity this year and will be asked to contribute without the benefit of a normal preseason.>kern 0pt<

“With the limitations and restrictions we had this past summer and to start the season, to say we are behind is an understatement,” said Jay Darrah, who is now in his 19th year as Pittsfield head coach. “We will be very dependent upon MacGlashing and Gordon to lead this group, but they’re a hardworking group and they make strides every time we enter the gym.”




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