I was planning to put this article together a week from now, but due to unforeseen circumstances here we are.
Today's Thursday Thoughts is brought to you by our friends at White Mountains Community College, with locations in Berlin, Littleton, and North Conway!
Year One is in the books
When Dave and I sat down last spring, I was beyond surprised he was handing me the keys to our new girls' basketball division. To be honest, I thought he was cutting me loose but here we are, still with a job!
Last year, Jennifer Chick-Ruth and I had the pleasure of covering three of the four championship games. Coming into this year I was excited to take our coverage another step forward.
Pre-season previews were just the beginning. After many hours on the phone, the content was out there, and the response was great. It seemed like everyone was on board with our full-time coverage, but that didn't turn out to be the case.
There were a total of 16 Gold Level Coaches this season, and I truly can't thank each and every one of you for your continued support throughout the season.
16 coaches was a great start, but knowing that 16 coaches out of a possible 85 is the amount we got on board this season, it makes the situation look a little bit different.
We love covering the girls. I will come out and say it now, they are much better at interviews than the boys. We want to keep creating memories for these girls and their teams, but we need more support.
To start the year Jen and I did a lot of games without asking for sponsors just to get our name out there and to show people what we could and wanted to do for girls' basketball in the state of New Hampshire. I think we did a pretty good job at doing just that.
This isn't our full-time job. Jen has a family (Avery Chick-Ruth will be doing color commentary next year, just need permission from Jen and Jill), a day-job, and works at UNH on the weekends. I am earning my degree at SNHU and also work on campus doing SNHU athletics.
We treat this as our only job because we care about the kids so much. We want to keep covering, writing articles, and doing podcasts for the girls, and we want to do it ten times better, but we need your help.
The coverage will remain the same, but the hope is that the support improves.
Player of the Week Poll
This was the most frustrating aspect of this season. We started off Week One with a bang, well, a tie. What better way to start, right?
The point of this poll is to recognize five players who had standout performances. I am not at every single one of these games. I pick recipients off of what I receive from coaches in the form of stats and messages.
I do my best to mix up the players every week and try and give everyone the chance to be spotlighted. There were times where I contemplated even putting out the poll just because of all the controversy it had been creating.
This is about the kids. We want to give them as much exposure as possible. I will leave it at that.
"These girls can play." This is a statement I started the season saying, and that statement holds true as the season has come to an end.
Girls' basketball is very overlooked. Many don't see the work these girls put in that is as equal or even more work than the boys do.
This is why Jen and I wanted to give them equal coverage because that is what they deserve. Walking into locker rooms I didn't know what to expect at times, but these girls knew just who we were and they absolutely crushed the interviews.
One of the coolest things I saw this year was Hanover and Lebanon playing the second game of the boys-girls doubleheader (yes, the trip that featured a flat tire and black ice). This is something I hope to see more and more of because there are lots of opportunities for stuff like this.
Our season started with Fall Mountain and Conant and that is the exact matchup we got in the Division III title game, with Conant capping off an undefeated season. As much as I was upset that the first game we covered was not at the Pratt (just ask Jen, I couldn't stop talking about how sad I was), it was great to be there with Conant where it all started and then again where it all ended. I'll never forget the storage closet interview.
I got my first taste of the Colebrook-Groveton rivalry and it certainly did not disappoint. This is an annual game for our site, and it was great to get the girls incorporated again. The gym was absolutely packed. The North Country is a special place. Yes, I live there so I may be biased, but they certainly love their basketball and this annual Saturday afternoon game proves that point justice.
Manchester Central and Manchester Memorial. Wow, what a game this was. This was the moment the Cardiac Crusaders came to life, and they were around for almost the rest of the season. I proclaimed this the "game of the year" during the post-game interview, and immediately after I said that nearly every game we went to was a thriller. I guess everyone decided to up their play from that moment on and make me look like a fool for saying it over and over again.
We finally got a look at the "mystery team" of Division I when Merrimack traveled to Pinkerton. Teresa Twardosky hit an absolute bomb from half-court and the Tomahawks got it done on the road 51-40. Every single player knew exactly who we were, even though we didn't really know them. Mike Soucy did a tremendous job with that group all season but since he stepped in late and had a lot on his plate, we were unable to come in contact to get stats up.
The hope is to have every team in all four divisions be featured on this site. I did my best to find phone numbers, but I also had about 50+ coaches to call in the span of three weeks. As we did this season, we will be sending out an email before the season gets started with all of our contact info. We hope to hear from more coaches next season.
In the blink of an eye, it was playoff season. There was no better way to start off the playoffs with a grind it out, and I mean grind it out, game between Monadnock and Hopkinton. There wasn't much offense, but there was a lot of heart and tons of defense. Brooke Carlson knocked down the shot of her life to give Hopkinton the lead with five seconds to go. Monadnock got fouled on the other end but ended up missing both free throws. To see the Hopkinton girls go from celebrating like crazy, to not even being able to look at the free throws being taken was gut-wrenching. I felt like I had played a full 32 minutes when I got in the locker room with them.
The Division IV Championship gave me goosebumps. It seemed like the whole town of Colebrook was beneath Jen and I when we were up in the booth. I can only imagine what being on the Woodsville side was like. The Mohawks completed their undefeated season and we were there celebrating with them afterward.
Those are the moments I look back on the most. The playoffs are so special, but what makes them even better is that we can have a camera there to capture every single basket and every single emotion. You get to live in the moment and celebrate and then get that same feeling back when you are watching the highlights the next day.
The Division III Championship was the same way. An undefeated run by Conant ended in an Undefeated Dance in the locker room. One of the best moments from this season came when Silas Bernier got to cap off her career with two free throws at the line and then hoist the plaque up with her teammates. That is a moment that will be on the site forever.
We got to crown champions, but we also got to experience heartbreak with Division II and I. Lebanon and Spaulding were both able to move onto the championship game and Bishop Guertin, Bedford, Goffstown, and Londonderry were all able to move onto the Final Four. Then, the unthinkable happened.
The COVID-19 pandemic has effected everyone, especially athletes. We got to hear from a few of these athletes in a video Jen produced yesterday (check it out here) and the video crushed me. Many can't say they relate to this because not many have had their seasons canceled.
The NHIAA made the right call, but this one still stings. To the six teams remaining, you will get through this. It was good to see that many took this as a positive and agreed with the call that has been made, but I know this will hurt for a little while. To the seniors, you gave it all you had, use this as motivation for whatever you may go onto to do in life. To the returners, use this as fuel to get back to this stage next season.
All in all, this was a great season. The level of play is on the uprise for these girls, and Jen and I can't wait to bring you all of the coverage next year and for years to come.
I just want to say thank you to all of the coaches who supported us this year. We hope to have you all back on board next season.
Thank you to the many parents who reached out or came up to Jen and I at games. It is always nice to know that we are doing is being appreciated and we appreciate all of your support just as much.
To the girls, you crushed it. We captured some great moments on camera this season, and that was all because of the players out on the floor. You showed a lot of people around the state what New Hampshire girls basketball is all about.