Girls’ basketball: Six area teams qualify for Division II playoffs, led by Concord Christian

Pembroke sophomore Kate Stephens shoots over Bow’s Bryana Szepan (25) and Gabriella Tarsa (11) during the Spartans’ win on Jan. 2. Both teams are headed to the D-II girls’ basketball tournament.

Pembroke sophomore Kate Stephens shoots over Bow’s Bryana Szepan (25) and Gabriella Tarsa (11) during the Spartans’ win on Jan. 2. Both teams are headed to the D-II girls’ basketball tournament. Chip Griffin / Photos by Chip

Concord Christian guard Taylor Rioux (2) goes up against Pembroke guard Taylor Renna (22) during the first half of a Jan. 30 game in Concord. The Kingsmen, winners of Division IV and Division III state championships the past two winters, are the top seed in this year’s Division II state tournament.

Concord Christian guard Taylor Rioux (2) goes up against Pembroke guard Taylor Renna (22) during the first half of a Jan. 30 game in Concord. The Kingsmen, winners of Division IV and Division III state championships the past two winters, are the top seed in this year’s Division II state tournament. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff file photos

John Stark center Eleanor Girardet scores and gets fouled as she is surrounded by Bow players during the second half on Thursday night, January 25, 2024.

John Stark center Eleanor Girardet scores and gets fouled as she is surrounded by Bow players during the second half on Thursday night, January 25, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER

Merrimack Valley forward Jada Lucas (right) scores on a layup as Coe-Brown forward Zoey Smith defends during the first half on Tuesday, December 19, 2023.

Merrimack Valley forward Jada Lucas (right) scores on a layup as Coe-Brown forward Zoey Smith defends during the first half on Tuesday, December 19, 2023. GEOFF FORESTER

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 02-27-2024 1:35 PM

Modified: 02-27-2024 2:43 PM


Area teams make up three of the top four seeds in this year’s Division II girls’ basketball playoffs, which begin on Wednesday.

Concord Christian, playing in its only season in D-II before moving up to D-I next year, took the top seed after finishing the season 17-1. No. 3 Pembroke followed not far behind at 15-3, and John Stark claimed the No. 4 seed after a 14-4 campaign.

No. 6 Bow (13-5), No. 10 Coe-Brown (10-8) and No. 11 Merrimack Valley (9-9) were the other area teams to qualify for the postseason.

The Kingsmen received a bye through the first round and will host the winner of No. 8 Oyster River (13-5) and No. 9 Derryfield (12-6) in the quarterfinals on Saturday night. CCA didn’t play Oyster River in the regular season but beat Derryfield in the season opener, 60-25.

The team’s only loss this season came to Laconia, 48-46, on Feb. 16. CCA is looking to win its third straight state championship, after taking home the D-IV title in 2022 and the D-III title in 2023.

“Division II will lend us a little more competition, and that’s really what we’re looking for, to find a competitive season,” head coach Rebecca Carlile said back in December. “Obviously, our eye is always on the prize. It may end up that we take a couple more hits this year than we have typically as far as losses, but we’re excited to have some competitive games.”

The Kingsmen did play some tighter games down the stretch, though every D-II win came by 10 points or more. Sophomore Emma Smith, who already hit the career 1,000-point milestone earlier this season, and junior Lilli Carlile look to be the prominent offensive contributors for CCA, which has a roster of just eight players.

One of those 10-point wins came in late January against a Pembroke team that rode high for most of the regular season. Led by senior Annelise Dexter, the Spartans started the season 10-0 before the CCA loss. Although Pembroke dropped its last two regular-season games as well, to Coe-Brown and John Stark, this is still a team well-positioned to make a deep playoff run.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Mother of two convicted of negligent homicide in fatal Loudon crash released on parole
Students’ first glimpse of new Allenstown school draws awe
Pay-by-bag works for most communities, but not Hopkinton
‘Bridging the gap’: Phenix Hall pitch to soften downtown height rules moves forward
Regal Theater in Concord is closing Thursday
‘We’re just kids’: As lawmakers debate transgender athlete ban, some youth fear a future on the sidelines

“We have almost everybody back. That’s part of the help,” head coach Steve Langevin said after his team beat Bow in early January. “Now we’re the little more experienced team. Last year we were really young, and we’re still young, but young with more experience now.”

Pembroke will host No. 14 Timberlane (8-10), a team it beat, 57-18, back on Dec. 19.

While the Spartans have more experience under their belts this season, few teams have as much combined experience on their rosters as John Stark. Led by the senior trio of Abby Duclos, Eleanor Girardet and Avery Geaumont, the Generals won 10 of 11 to close out the regular season after starting 4-3.

They’ll host No. 13 Milford (8-10), a team they didn’t face during the regular season.

“Last year, we had close games in that middle chunk of the season, (and) we were never able to close them out,” head coach Tiffany Lewis said after a late-January win over Bow. “This year we’re closing the games out, and just having those older girls, we’re able to keep our composure. That was our point of emphasis: composure.”

The Falcons, meanwhile, have reached the D-II championship game in each of the last two seasons, but their path this year will be a bit more complicated, having to play a first-round game and then potentially going on the road in the quarterfinals. Still, Bow showed steady improvement throughout the season, particularly on defense, under first-year head coach Cassidy Emerson. Over the final six games of the regular season, the Falcons held their opponents to an average of 34.8 points.

“This team doesn’t give up, and that’s one thing I’ve taught, and that’s the goal for the program,” Emerson said in January. “Down by 30, up by 30, the game’s not over until the final buzzer, and that’s kind of how we coach.

“They have a lot of grit. They’re intense. They don’t like to lose. But they just don’t give up, and that’s one thing special about this group.”

Bow will face off against No. 11 Merrimack Valley, a team that won four of five to close out the regular season. The two teams didn’t play each other during the regular season but, like the Falcons, the Pride often win games on the back of its defense.

“When we get defensive rebounds, we have to get in transition, and we gotta look to run the ball first,” head coach Bob McNutt said in December after a win over Coe-Brown. “If we can defend like we did tonight and we could push the ball and get some easy baskets, I think that’ll generate some of our offense.”

The Bears are the sixth area team to qualify for the postseason. After a 2-5 start, Coe-Brown finished the year winning eight of 13, including a 52-49 overtime win over Pembroke on Feb. 19.

“You work so hard at practice, and we have been getting better every game,” head coach Joe Vachon said after the win over the Spartans. “Nice to see the girls’ work pay off against one the best teams in our division.”

Coe-Brown faces off against No. 7 Hanover (13-5) on Wednesday. CBNA lost the regular-season meeting in Northwood, 47-25.