In Division IV, more so than any other division, it’s all about earning home-court advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs. That’s because one spot in the standings can mean the difference between a home game in front of a packed house and a two and a half hour bus ride to a school your kids couldn’t find on a map.
You see Division IV is different than any of the other three divisions in the state in that there is a big difference between Merrimack traveling to Spaulding for the quarterfinals and Epping driving out to Groveton.
About 100 miles difference.
These are not coach buses the kids are usually riding in and even the size of the floor may be different than the one you practice on four days a week. So what is more important for your team; being battle-tested by a tough schedule or taking an easier path to a Top 4 seed?
“I kept hearing for years about how tough Newmarket’s schedule was and how battle-tested they would be come March,” said one Division IV tournament coach. “Well come March when they are losing in the quarterfinals at Littleton in back to back years tell me, how did that help them?”
A fellow coach agreed, “In this division having those two home playoffs games is crucial. If you are forced to play on the road you could be on a bus for three hours, and this season there won’t be a ton of separation between the Top 8 teams. Playing on your home floor could be that difference between getting to Plymouth State and going home.”
The statistics bare those theories out. In the last five seasons, the home team in the Division IV quarterfinals has gone 18-2. Only Lisbon winning at Profile in 2013 and Groveton winning at Sunapee in 2016 kept it from being a clean sweep.
The difference this year between teams 3 thru 9 is minimal, more so than any season in recent memory. Meaning the homes games could be the difference in the end.
Home court was the topic that came up more than any other common theme in my 18 conversations with coaches in the division. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that eight to twelve teams feel like they have a shot to host not just one but two games once we get to the post-season.
Today we take a look at Division IV in our first of four pre-season basketball previews as 22 teams fight to stand at midcourt in Plymouth as Groveton did last March.
Division IV Predicted Order
Lurking outside the Top 10: Lisbon, Colebrook Academy, Hinsdale, Sunapee, Mount Royal Academy & Portsmouth Christian
A quick explanation of our coverage: Our team of six will bring you five columns per week, statistics & scoring leaders for the entire division and up to four games per week with video highlights & a post-game interview with the entire winning team. If you are a registered user you will see every single article and video highlight in addition to the player or players in your home being featured in our Players Locker Room and Monday Performance Roll Call. If you are a Gold Level member you will be listed as such throughout the year and have access to the fully produced full-game videos of every single game we cover.
To join today and become a member of NHsportspage, choose your level and you will hear from me via email shortly afterward.
For non-members, there will be articles and possibly videos you will not have access to this season. We hope as a regular reader you’ll join our other subscribers and we’ll set the player in your home up as a featured member with a picture for his/her player profile page.
There can be a downside to having our cameras at your home playoff game and in the minutes after Portsmouth Christian came in as a 13 seed to upset Pittsfield the Panthers felt every bit of it. PCA players were being moved off the court and into their visitors’ locker room as Pittsfield absorbed the reality of the moment. Their season was over. “That really hurt,” admitted longtime Pittsfield head coach Jay Darrah. “We sat in that locker room and there was a feeling of, we never want to feel this way again.”
Led by the pre-season player of the year the Panthers come into 2017 with a lot of confidence and seven of their top eight players back from a 16-2 team of a year ago. “We always play a lot during the summer, we play as many different schools as we can,” said Darrah. “The difference I saw this summer was that instead of just running up & down the court we were focusing on running our offense and defending at a high level. They (the players) were preparing for the season, and they were doing it in July.”
First-team all-state point guard Cam Darrah, the leading scorer in Division IV last season, returns as do starters Casey Clark, Dylan Bocash, and 6’4 big man Josh Whittier. “These guys have been playing together since kindergarten so there is just a connection on the floor that you don’t have with a lot of teams,” said Darrah. “Coaches always talk about having that special kind of chemistry. This team has that.”
A lot of that chemistry comes from the universal opinion that everything will run through Darrah. Casey Clark has become a very good spot up shooter, Josh Whitter has worked very hard on his back to the basket game as well. His work with assistant coach and former Plymouth State standout Tony Martinez has also seen the development of his baseline jumper. “Josh has the 10-foot jumper from the short corner down. If his guy leaves him to stop Cam’s dribble penetration he knows he’s getting that pass and can knock down that shot.”
Dylan Bocash, a member of our ‘All Glue-Guy’ team a year ago, can cover guards out on the perimeter or bang on the low block with a big man. “He’s a workhorse for us,” says his head coach, “he just does whatever we need to win.”
Garrett Guerrero-Hadley goes from energy guy off the bench to a starting role. His improved decision making means he can play the point and allow Darrah to play off the ball at shooting guard. “The game has finally slowed down for him and he’s making very good decisions with the basketball.”
6’4 center Brandon Bojarsky gives Pittsfield size off the bench for what Darrah sees as an 8-man rotation. “We want to be a Top 4 team, that’s the goal,” said Darrah echoing our pre-season theme. “We know there are a lot of good teams in this division and the mission is to finish the season in a way we weren’t able to a year ago.”
Jamie Hayes has been to enough final fours as a head coach (7) to know when he has a Newmarket team capable of winning a title, and a year ago he didn’t have it.
In 2017-18 Hayes feels like his team is ready to make a title run.
A change in attitude and the maturity that comes from being a senior and no longer an underclassman may play a big part in a possible eighth trip to the semifinals. “We had chemistry problems last year and it stemmed from four different guys thinking they were the Alpha Dog,” said the veteran head coach. “Last season getting their shots were more important than winning. This year there is a maturity level I see that we frankly didn’t have a year ago. Winning has become the most important thing to our team, and the five seniors know this is their last go –around.”
Shooting guard Anthony Senesombath was the ‘where did this kid come from?’ performer of the Division IV season a year ago. After making a run at the scoring title Hayes sees nothing but improvement from his all-state guard. “He’s better at attacking the rim and passing when the defense shuts him off,” said Hayes. “His defense has improved and that’s a key for us becoming a very tough team to score on.”
Simon Cote returns to run the point and at 6’1 has the ability to take smaller guards playing man to man into the post. “I have a ton of confidence in Simon running our offense. He settles us down when we get out of whack.”
Travis Moseley is the Mules, emotional leader, oftentimes demonstratively calling for his teammates to rally around him. Hayes feels Moseley has matured over the past six months and is going to be a huge part of Newmarket’s success. “Travis has done a good job keeping his emotions in check and he’s a player who can guard several different positions for us. He’s a slasher but has proven he has the ability to knock down perimeter jumpers as well.”
Craig Hounam, at 6’1, doesn’t have the size of a lot of centers but he makes up for it with his athleticism. “Craig has worked hard to improve and he’s better now at facing up to the basket,” said Hayes. “We’re going to rebound as a team and Craig is a big part of that.”
Hayes expects eight different players to start at one point or another during the season. Sophomore Players Locker Room member Will Chase is one of those players who is going to get his chance right away. “Will has an old-school game,” said Hayes essentially throwing me a 50 mph fastball down the middle of the plate, “he’s one of those players teammates love playing with. He’s really beyond his years as far as his understanding of the game. He’s a fun player to coach.”
Newmarket ended their season in the quarterfinals a year ago at Littleton and get their shot at revenge on opening night when Trevor Howard and the Crusaders come to town. “That’s a big test on opening night so we’re excited about the challenge,” said Hayes. “We play Pittsfield, Derryfield, Epping, Groveton…so it’s going to be a tough schedule but the focus is where we are at as a team in March.”
Jamie Walker and Woodsville will try to advance to their third consecutive final four. To get there they’ll need an all-state season from their combo guard, and maybe their center too, as well as contributions from a pair of talented freshman as the season goes along.
“I’m comfortable with our five starters and have a pretty good idea of what they will bring to the table night to night,” said Walker of his five returning rotation players from a 17-1 team a year ago. “It’s when we go to the bench that is our big question mark. We don’t have one player off the bench who played a varsity minute a year ago. How they come along will tell you a lot about how we end up. I anticipate it’s going g to be a slow start for them. There is just a different speed to the varsity game then you’ll get at the JV or middle school level.”
The reason that inexperienced bench doesn’t push Woodsville further down the standings is because they may have the best guard in Division IV in Garrett Olsen. The now 6’2 guard was a spot up shooter two years ago on the Engineers final four team but has evolved into a point guard who can run an offense while putting up over 20 points a night.
Olsen was the best guard on the floor in last season’s semifinal game loss to eventual champion Groveton and has over 30 starts and six tournament games under his belt as he begins his senior season. “He’s greatly improved and you see it day to day in practice,” said Walker. “He’s someone who leads by example. He’s not going to be vocal on the floor like Derek Maccini was two years ago but he talks to the underclassman one on one about where they need to be on the floor.”
Woodsville will start four guards with center Cooper Davidson manning the paint. The 6’4 center is as strong as any big man in the division and in 2017-18 Walker needs him in the paint. “With (former all-state forward) Sam Pushee on the floor Cooper could move away from the basket at times knowing that Sam was setting up on the block. Sam’s graduated and with a guard-heavy team Cooper has to be that post-presence for us. Not only for his ability to rebound but it will open driving lanes and looks on the perimeter for our guards.”
Billy Green and Adam Cataldo may not wow you with their playmaking ability but both are tough defenders who can handle the ball and score when given the opportunity. Junior guard Connor Maccini should be able to allow Olsen to play off the ball at times by running the point.
Freshman Brandon Walker (Jamie’s son) and Corey Bemis (all-state shooting guard Jared’s younger brother) are going to get plenty of opportunities to make an impact.
Woodsville will face a tough schedule with crossover games against Epping (on the road on opening night) and top-seeded Pittsfield in addition to a trip to Littleton & a pair of games with a Rivendell, Vermont team that returns all five starters from a team that took the Engineers to overtime a year ago. “The Top 4 seed is crucial, with our cross-over games and the trips to Littleton & Rivendell we’re going to have to prove we can beat good teams away from our gym,” said Walker. “How the bench develops as the season goes along with be a big key for us.”
Logan Briggs was our Division IV player of the year last season not because he was a prolific scorer but because the 6’4 center did so many things on the floor that helped Littleton to a 21-1 season.
A year later his former head coach and teammates are realizing just how many little things there were. “You see a player drive to the basket and convert and think ‘Logan would have blocked that’,” said head coach Trevor Howard. “ We lost not only Logan but a really special senior class and we’re finding out in practice what I already knew last summer; it’s not going to be easy to replace them. We’ll probably dial back our pressure defense early in the season because Logan isn’t at the back end of our press anymore.”
Sophomore Danny Kubkowski, a second team all-state selection by NHsportspage last season, is the lone returning starter after Cooper Paradice, Gabe Anan, Cy Kezerian and Briggs graduated after going 43-1 their final two seasons.
Kubkowski benefited from Briggs being at the back of Littleton’s vaunted press a year ago and now it might be the 6’1 forward serving as the anchor this season. “Danny is a very good player but he benefited from playing with four really good seniors last season,” said Howard. “Now it’s his team to lead.”
Senior Jean Rodriguez is the only player besides Kubkowski who saw meaningful minutes at Plymouth a year ago. A knee injury suffered during the team’s second practice may leave him unavailable for the short or even long-term future. “Rodriguez is our best on the ball defender, he’s someone who will really increase the effectiveness of our pressure defense so his availability is pretty important to us.”
Jason Brammer has battled ankle injuries in the pre-season but should contribute right away along with senior center Brody Fillion and sophomore guard Parker Briggs, Logan’s younger brother. “Brody has a chance to help us on the glass,” said Howard. “He’s a project as far as offensively but he works hard and listens to coaching. I think he’ll help us this season.”
Guards Jacob Allaire, Todd Krol-Corliss and even three freshmen new to the roster all are going to get their chance to earn a spot in Howard’s rotation. “Right now it’s about getting the team acclimated to varsity speed. Everything has to be quicker & stronger at this level and that takes time to adjust to.”
There will even be adjustments for his star forward. “I’ve already talked to Danny about not trying to force things to happen, about passing out of double teams and using his teammates when the other team puts their focus on stopping him,” said Howard. “It’s an adjustment period for us right now and I know how spoiled I was for the last four or five years.”
“We know everyone in the North Country wants to beat us because of the run we’ve had. I think we are going to be very good in a year or two but right now it’s about developing the younger guys and that takes time.”
It’s always nice for parents when their kids come home. It’s even nicer when your kid is a 6’6 center and you’re the basketball coach.
“Having Reese back will make a big impact for us,” said Moultonborough head coach Matt Swedberg of his starting center/forward/occasional point guard who returns to the team after a year at prep school. “He’s very dynamic as a player, very unselfish and he has a very high basketball IQ.”
The Panthers were a team loaded with underclassman a year ago and with the return of Swedberg and combo guard Joey McClay this is a team capable of a run to Plymouth. Although their head coach wouldn’t go that far in early December. “We could be pretty deep but we have a lot of players returning that need to develop,” said Swedberg who has coached three Moultonborough teams to Division IV (Class S) titles. “ Joey (McClay) is a good example of that; he shot 13 free throws a year ago. That tells me he’s not getting to the basket off the dribble enough. We need him to be able to take advantage of teams overplaying his jump shot by taking them to the basket off the dribble.”
Noah Robinson, Devin Rooney and Steven Woods all started at times a year ago as a freshman and with a leap in ability as sophomores each is expected to contribute right away. “ We are going to try and play more man to man defense this season because I think we have the players to do it,” said Swedberg. “ How will we fare against the rest of the division? That’s hard to tell now but with two games against Inter-Lakes (of Division III) and an early trip to Littleton we’re going to find out pretty soon.”
The word from pre-season scrimmages is that defending champion Groveton will be a team that will defend at a high level and protects the glass as well as any team in the division. That may very well be the case, but their future Hall of Fame head coach isn’t seeing that. Yet.
“ We need to rebound much better than we have been in practice & in the (pre-season),” said head coach Mark Collins. “ Right now we’re too slow to our spots on defense and I don’t see the commitment to being a good rebounding team. We’re going to struggle to score in the half court so that’s going to have to come along for us.”
All-state guard Austin Lesperance is the lone returner who played big minutes in the playoff run a year ago.
Lesperance, who played shooting guard on the opposite wing of 1,500 point scorer Corey Gadwah a year ago will have to handle the ball at times and now will get all the attention paid to Gadwah & point guard Daegan Perras last season. “ Austin is not going to be able to sit on the perimeter and wait for the ball reversal,” said Collins. “ He’s going to have to work harder to score and be quicker with his decisions.”
Lesperance is a player who can put the ball on the floor and he has the body to get his shot up & in against contact in the paint. The Groveton frontline of Ryan Laverty & Dylan Rogers also graduated but Matt Mason (an all-glue guy selection a year ago) returns and will be counted on to score. “ We need him to score and he understands that’s his role,” said Collins. “ We saw it in spurts last season but he is one of our main guys now.”
6’2 sophomore forward Josh Wheelock has had a good pre-season and will contribute right away. Wheelock ( a fairly famous name up in the North Country) can shoot it from the perimeter and get to the rim off the dribble. “ We may have to play Josh out of position at times if we need more shooting on the perimeter to space the floor. He’s capable of helping us in a couple of different areas,” said Collins. “ He’s had a good pre-season.”
Point guard Matt Guay saw limited minutes in the final four a year ago backing up Perras and now gets the keys to the Groveton offense. “Matt makes good decisions with the ball and his defense will be important to us when we pressure full court.”
Groveton hasn’t pressured full court often in the pre-season but plans to as the season moves along. “ We’re not ready yet. We’ve gone full court in spots and gotten beat by it,” said Collins. “Until everyone is on the same page we’re just setting ourselves up to give up easy baskets.”
Gavin Simpson will get minutes in the frontcourt while Collins likes the spacing Matt St Cyr will create with his ability to shoot the basketball. “ We need a stronger sense of urgency from this group because they haven’t done anything yet as a group,” said Collins.
The defense of their title begins Friday night in Pittsfield in a game Jennifer Chick-Ruth will bring you full coverage of.
During an early practice at the Derryfield School, longtime head coach Rob Bradley watched one of his guards make a move baseline and score easily at the rim, and it struck him why this was something he was going to have to get used to. “ I immediately thought, a year ago Sam Anderson throws that shot against the backboard,” said Bradley.
Much like Trevor Howard at Littleton Bradley is getting used to life without a true shot blocker. “ When you have a defender like that in the paint, well it cleans up a lot of mistakes.”
If Derryfield is going to make another run to Plymouth it will be behind a very good backcourt and some emerging underclassman. Andrew Dubreuil is one of those guards who never wows you, rarely goes off for 25 points or buries a jumper in your face from far behind the three-point line. He’s just a guard you win basketball games with, and his level of play at guard last season was a big reason the Cougars advanced to the semifinals again. “ Andrew is a very good ball handler but is also a good defender as well,” said Bradley. “ You need to have players in this division to handle the ball and stop the ball. Andrew does both for us.”
Joining him in the backcourt will be Jeff Pratt, poised for a breakout senior season, and the emerging Max Byron. The 5’10 sophomore guard is the team’s best ball handler and is getting more accustomed to his assignments on the defensive end. “ The issue with Max in the past has been taking good shots and playing well defensively. I see improvements in both and as he grows as a player I expect him to be a big-time contributor.”
There is no one on the roster to replace Sam Anderson, a three-time all-state pick, so Derryfield will try and do that in the aggregate. Cody Bournival is a 6’2 forward with a nice stroke who has waited to get his opportunity after backing up Anderson a year ago. “ He’s excited to get his shot,” said Bradley. “ When you have a player as good as Sam you see the ball find its way to him instead of the ball being moved around in the flow of your offense. What I see early on in practices is players not worrying about who gets the ball but just working to get the best shot on each possession.”
6’5 Max Karpawich is raw but loves the game and tends to pepper Bradley with questions before and after practice about how he can improve. “ As a coach, you just love that.”
Bradley sees a team capable of being in the mix once again come March, but this is a group that will have to come together in order for that to happen. “ There really isn’t a ‘best player’ on our team this year. One thru six in our rotation is fairly even and if they play unselfishly together I think we can have a pretty good season
Justin Stroup takes over as head coach of the Profile Patriots after longtime coach Paul Greenlaw decided to retire after last season.
Greenlaw did not leave the cupboard bare as six of the Patriots top seven players’ return from a tournament team a year ago. “ We’re going to focus on being a very good team defensively,” said Stroup, who previously served as the Profile JV coach. “ We have the players to play very good man to man defense and to quicken the tempo with our pressure, which is a goal of mine with this team.”
River Baker returns poised for a big senior season along with forward Dylan Laleme, Jordan Brusseau, Dylan Robie and Cam Hoyt. Sophomore Connor Ash will run the Profile offense from the point guard spot as Robie moves over to shooting guard. “ I want to take advantage of Dylan’s ability to spot up as a shooter,” said Stroup. “ Connor really took on a leadership role over summer league and I’ve been very impressed with his ability to handle pressure & see the floor. With teams like Colebrook, Groveton and Littleton applying pressure taking care of the basketball is huge for us. Connor is ready for that role.”
Without a true big man, Stroup is going to have five mostly inter-changeable players on the floor at all times. The first year head coach is excited about the versatility that gives him. “We’re going to push the ball this season and offensively look to use screens and backdoor cuts. We’ve been a team that ran a lot of set plays in the past, this is a team that I want to see us spreading the floor and moving to get open.”
Division IV Gold Level Coaches and Families: Mark Collins of Groveton Basketball, Jay Darrah of Pittsfield Basketball, The Lesperance family of Groveton, Rob Bradley of Derryfield Basketball, The Chase Family of Newmarket, The Rivers family of Epping, The Olsen Family of Woodsville and The Legere Family of Gorham (and my buddy Lance)
If you were drafting a high school basketball team you’d be wise to start with a big man and a point guard. After a quarterfinal appearance a year ago in his first season, Nick Fiset lost both when all-state forward Jackson Rivers and Tommy Bullock graduated from Epping a year ago. “A lot of what I was able to scheme last year came from having, in my opinion, the best big guy in the division and a point guard who I knew would get the ball to the right guy,” said Fiset. “ So certainly that’s a loss we have to deal with. I like the group we have coming back, we’re more of a perimeter team than we were a year ago but I also think you’ll see us push the ball more as well.”
Shooting guard Doug Nadeau, last seen scoring 17 points in Groveton in the quarterfinals, will assume the role as the teams #1 option. “ He can really shoot it,” said Fiset, “ and he’s the kind of kid who if two go in, six are going in and also if he misses five in a row he’s not afraid to take that sixth shot. He’s got the confidence a good shooter needs.”
“ Doug knows he can’t float out on the perimeter anymore, that’s something having Jackson allowed us to do.”
Hunter Bullock feels like a trusted veteran at this point and should have no trouble taking over his brother’s role at the point. “ I have a ton of confidence in Hunter,” said Fiset. “ What he needs to do is stay out on the floor and out of foul trouble. Last year the turning point of our loss at Groveton was when Tommy fouled out in the fourth quarter. Hunter is a kid who goes for a lot of steals, and I want him to be aggressive, but he needs to pick his spots.”
Jake Bisaillon and Adam LePage will both start from day one (a home opener against #3 Woodsville). LePage gives Fiset another shooter while Bisaillon fits right into Fiset’s desire to pressure the basketball and turn the game into a track meet. “ We want to dictate the pace and with this group, we can do that. We’re not deep right now but I expect a couple of guys to really emerge as the season goes along.”
Farmington head coach Adam Thurston hopes a young nucleus can earn the Tigers a home playoff game come March. “ I like what I’ve seen from some of the younger players. There’s a group of underclassman that I want to see really develop as the year goes along, to the point where we might be able to make some noise in the post-season.”
Setting the tone is junior forward Logan Ebare, who as an undersized forward led the team in rebounds a year ago. “ Logan is a kid who leads by example in that he never takes a play off,” said his head coach. “ His focus is on making whatever play he has to for us to win.”
Krys Demers was the Tigers leading scorer a year ago and has shown flashes of all-state ability in his career at Farmington. Thurston wants to see those flashes turn into something far more consistent. “ He can score 20 plus on any given night,” said Thurston. “ I never question his ability. What we need from him is to become a better leader, a better player and to be more consistent with his effort & decision making. I want him to be a guy the team looks to in big moments because I know he’s capable of winning games for us late in close games.”
Ryan Seawards and Josh Tufts are a pair of seniors who will start alongside Ebare & Demers. “Ryan is usually forced to play out of position at the center spot,” said Thurston. “ He’s someone we need to be a post presence for us.”
A pair of sophomores, Brad Brooks and Marcus Berko, should contribute right away. “ Marcus is a player who can really handle the basketball and he might be our best decision maker with the ball,” said Thurston. “ Brad is a good athlete who just needs experience out on the floor. He’s raw but I think he can really be an impact player for us as the season goes along.”
You could make a pretty compelling argument that Josh Woods is the best basketball player in all of Division IV. That still won’t get America’s Team the Lisbon Panthers into the upper echelon of the division if there isn’t help around the 6’1 guard. “ We depend on Josh to score, bring the ball up, defend at a high level and rebound,” said head coach Sam Natti omitting only the halftime 50/50 raffle on Woods list of responsibilities. “ If we work as a team he’s going to find guys for easy looks because of the all the attention being paid to him by the defense. If we stand around and watch Josh try to score on two or three guys then it’s going to be a very disappointing season.”
“Finding a second scorer is going to be critical for us,” said Natti. “ I’m not expecting us to find that in the half court, we need to push the basketball and score off of turnovers. We have the athletes to do it and the guys have been working really hard in practice.”
Parker Thornton returns to the starting lineup and is a very good candidate to take some of the pressure off of Woods. Jacob Deem will be looked upon to rebound as the all-state soccer goalie settles into his second season of basketball since he was in elementary school. “Jacob is a great kid, you see he wants to get it,” said Natti. “ It just takes time.”
Jared Jesseman is a sophomore center who will have the opportunity to contribute right away for a team that put a scare into Woodsville in the first round of the tournament a year ago. “We can’t take possessions off, we’re just not skilled enough to do that. If we out-work the other team and force turnovers we have a chance to be alright. The kids understand they are lucky to be playing with a player like Josh because he is going to find them when they’re open. We just have to make the most of those opportunities.”
For the first time in ten pre-season previews, Colebrook Academy is not sitting somewhere amongst the Top 10. The unexpected arrival of all-state point guard Jose Alvarado two years ago delayed that distinction but with Alvarado graduated head coach Buddy Trask will now go back to what he knows best. “ We don’t have the shooters or the players right now who can create their own shot with this team so if we are going to score it’s going to be with our defense and our pressure. That’s the way we’ve done it at times in the past and its how we are going to have to do it now. The ability to score from the outside may come as the season goes along but we don’t have it right now.”
Jon Scherer and Cam Frizzell are two returning rotation players from a year ago. More than any other player on the team Scherer has the ability to get hot from the outside but Trask has asked his junior guard to make a commitment on the defensive end. “ He has the potential to be one of the better defenders in our division, he has a lot of athletic ability. He just has to apply himself and early on in the pre-season he does seem to be buying in.”
Frizzell will start at the center spot after Garrett Purrington graduated last year while Harlee Weir will take over the point guard spot vacated by Alvarado. “Harlee will be a key guy for us because he’s going to have to make decisions with the basketball against teams like Groveton and Littleton that will pressure us.”
Degan Riff will play a key role in the Mohawks ability to turn their opponents over. The speedy guard might be the toughest player on the floor. “ He really competes,” said Trask. “ He just doesn’t have the size to mix it up in the paint. As far as toughness he gives you a lot of it from the guard spot.”
Everyone on the roster will get their chance to make an impact, including Les Lord, Dylan Carpino and sophomore Malik McKinnon (Sedrick & Parker’s little brother). “ There are no seniors on the roster so this is a group that has the time to grow as a team. They didn’t get a lot of team or individual work done over the off-season so you start day one of practice, and that’s starting very late. If we can pressure the basketball and out-work every team we play we may be able to get back into the tournament. We’ll have to see if the work gets put in.”
As the old adage goes, ‘The best thing about freshman is that they eventually become sophomores.’ Last season first-year head coach Tim Puchtler was forced to use five freshmen in his rotation before they were quite ready. In 2017-18 the Sunapee head coach hopes it’s the beginning of a nice run for the Lakers. “ Last season we had our struggles, which I expected because of how young we were, but by the end of the season you could start to see it all starting to come together,” said Puchtler.
The Lakers will be led by a trio of upperclassman; Sean Shisko (who averaged 11 ppg. last season), Cade Robinson and Nick Ducharme. “ Nick has been battling injuries in the pre-season but he’s a player who really came into his own last season,” said his head coach. “ Sean is a player who is working to improve his ability to create his own shot and also set his teammates up for good looks.”
The five sophomores will be joined by a promising group of freshman that Puchtler hopes will contribute as the season progresses. “ I’m really excited about this group and how they have learned our system together. The experience those freshmen got a year ago makes us a fairly deep team this season. I feel like any one of ten different players can make an impact for us game to game.”
Portsmouth Christian has won tournament games in back to back seasons. If head coach Derek Summers and the Eagles are going to make it three times they’ll do it behind a young backcourt. “ We lost four of our top five scorers from a year ago and even more than that some really good team leaders,” said Summers. “ The good news is we had so many injuries last season that a lot of these guys saw time on the floor. They might not have been ready for that a year ago,” said Summers, “ but it certainly makes the transition this year a little easier.”
Senior guard Ethan Foley and forward AJ Chase lead the group of returners. Foley will play both the point and off the ball at shooting guard while Chase will play the forward spot manned by former all-state forwards Paul Staude & Drew McCormack. 6’4 center Bryson Lund will man the post against one of the toughest schedules in Division IV.
“ I’ve seen a lot of improvements from this group from the summer to where we are now in the pre-season,” said Summers. “ We play (Division III) St Thomas twice, Pittsfield twice and Newmarket twice as well so it’s going to be a challenging schedule for sure. We have to keep the focus on getting better as the year goes on.”
Jean Desire takes over as head coach at Gorham from Dan LaFlamme and hopes one of his underclassmen will emerge to handle point guard duties. “ We have a lot of freshmen that are going to get a chance to play so you want to see improvement as we go along.” Forward Lance Legere returns to lead a frontcourt that will include AJ Landry. “ Lance is a really good leader and someone who will get us points in the paint.”……………Hinsdale might be a sleeper team in the division behind all-state guard Ryan Boggio. The 6’3 combo guard battled injuries a year ago but returns along with point guard Peter McCosker and shooting guard Caleb Steever. McCosker is a four-year starter and if Boggio has a big year & Steever, who might be the most improved player on the team, is effective getting to the rim the Pacers might sneak up on the rest of the division.....Sean Young takes over as head coach/AD at Nute after a very good run at Epping two years ago. With only two upperclassmen on the team, the Rams will lean heavily on a very young nucleus led by sophomore Colby Jenkins & Spencer Bridges.
Pre-season player of the year: Cam Darrah of Pittsfield
Pre-Season First Team All-State
Cam Darrah of Pittsfield
Garrett Olsen of Woodsville
Reese Swedberg of Moultonborough Academy
Josh Woods of Lisbon
Anthony Senesombath of Newmarket
Danny Kubkowski of Littleton
Austin Lesperance of Groveton
Doug Nadeau of Epping
River Baker of Profile
Ryan Boggio of Hinsdale
With apologies to: Josh Whittier & Casey Clark of Pittsfield, Craig Hounam & Simon Cote of Newmarket, Cooper Davidson of Woodsville, Ethan Foley of Portsmouth Christian, Jon Scherer of Colebrook, Peter McCosker of Hinsdale, Sean Shisko of Sunapee, Josh Wheelock of Groveton, Logan Ebare & Krys Demers of Farmington, Joey McClay of Moultonborough, Lance Legere of Gorham, Jeff Pratt & Andrew Dubreuil of Derryfield, Hunter Bullock of Epping, Jean Rodriguez of Littleton and Jake LeVert of Wilton-Lyndeborough
The New Hampshire High School Hoops Show returns Saturday morning at 9:07 am. Pete Tarrier & Dave Haley re-cap every game from the Friday night schedule while covering all four divisions. We’ll have two coaches on the show every week and you can listen in right here on our homepage by clicking the LISTEN LIVE BUTTON. The show comes to every week on 99.9 FM & 1370 WFEA radio in the Manchester area or listen in on your TuneIn Radio App.
This Saturday morning we will be broadcasting live from NHTI, site of our 5th Annual Coaches for a Cause Jamboree with six games between the best teams in the state beginning at noon.
Coming Wednesday: Division III