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The Great Bay C.C. Division I Girls Basketball Preview

By Lance Legere, 01/13/21, 6:15AM EST

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Sydney Taylor and Exeter come in at #6 in the pre-season (photo by Matt Parker)

 Who would be the team to compete with BG? That was the storyline coming into last season in Division I.

 The Cardinals were coming into the Division I tournament as the top seed and had a hungry Bedford team waiting for them in the semis.

 On the other side of the bracket, we saw several upsets. Londonderry had won five games in a row coming into the postseason and that momentum carried them to upsets over Pinkerton and Merrimack. 

 Kelly Walsh played like the Player of the Year candidate she was all season and helped Goffstown upset Memorial in a thriller. 

 The matchups were set. Two of the best teams in the division on one side and two of the hottest teams on the other. 

 This was going to be a Final Four that no one had seen coming, and unfortunately, no one got to see it at all. 

 BG and Goffstown were named co-champions and Bedford and Londonderry were co-runners up, two titles that neither of the four teams wanted to have at the end of last season. 

 This year, BG and Bedford are the two teams to beat, both with a mix of seasoned veterans and new up and coming players that will certainly make some noise throughout the division. 

 Concord is certainly on the rise after their young group overachieved greatly last year and they come back this year more experienced and are more than capable of competing with anyone. 

 From there, the rest of the spots are up for grabs really. Your usual suspects like Pinkerton and Memorial should be competing late into the year and teams like Nashua South, Windham, Exeter, and Spaulding, who makes the jump up from Division II this year, are all going to be looking to make deep playoff runs. 

 As always, Division I is going to be a fun one.  

 Today’s column is brought to you by our friends and longtime partners at Great Bay Community College. 

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Division I Pre-Season Top 10 

1. Bishop Guertin 

2. Bedford 

3. Concord 

4. Pinkerton Academy

5. Manchester Memorial 

6. Exeter 

7. Spaulding 

8. Nashua South

9. Windham 

10. Nashua North 

Outside of the Top 10: Manchester Central, Goffstown, Salem, Portsmouth, Merrimack, Londonderry, Winnacunnet, Alvirne, Dover, Trinity 

 

 Bishop Guertin will look a bit different after the senior class of Erin Carney, Hannah Muchemore, Addison Smith, Bri Wilcox, and Aria O’Connell have graduated, and were one title short of four in a row. 

 That class came in as sophomores and immediately contributed. They formed an identity for BG that will now be reshaped by a new sophomore class. “This year feels a lot like when last year's seniors came in as sophomores,” said head coach Brad Kreick. “The potential is there, all seven returning sophomores played varsity last year.”  

 Two of those seven sophomores who really came into their own down the stretch last season were Meghan Stack and Kailee McDonald. Both were inserted into the starting lineup late into the year due to injuries and they made the most of their opportunities. “They have tons of experience coming into this season,” said Kreick.

 Stack is a 6’0” forward who will be a mismatch problem for many not only due to her size but also because she is a rare left-handed player that many don’t know how to guard. “She comes back bigger, stronger, and certainly better than last year,” said Kreick. 

 McDonald is a physical 5’8” guard who took Kreick and his staff by surprise last season. “She came on like a freight train during the second half of the season. She has a huge upside.” 

 Brooke Paquette backed up players like Erin Carney and Hannah Muchemeore and certainly learned a lot as she was the first guard off the bench as a freshman. “She is going to be an important piece to what we do,” said Kreick. 

 Another great addition to this sophomore class will be Olivia Murray, who was a standout freshman at Salem last season. “She is a really talented kid,” said Kreick. “This is definitely a different situation for her but she has bought into what we believe in and has fit in really well.” 

 Murray was bound to be the top option for the Blue Devils this season and now comes into a situation where there won’t be as much of a load on her shoulders. “We hope she can flourish in our system,” said Kreick.  

 This will be a different team than we have seen in year’s past, but the overall talent is still there for the Cardinals. “We will certainly have our growing pains, but I wouldn’t trade our crew for anything,” said Kreick. “It’s their turn now, this is their team.” 

 Their youthfulness may show from time to time, but this is a successful program that has been built on young talent and has a great head coach to lead them in the right direction. 

 Bedford was ready for a much-anticipated matchup with Bishop Guertin in last year’s semifinal. “We were more than ready for that game,” said head coach Kevin Gibbs. “The returning players feel like they have unfinished business. 

 Leading this team will be Isabella King. The Bucknell commit is the best player in the state and even that label hasn’t stopped her from continuing to work on her game. “She didn’t sit back after singing her NIL last year,” said Gibbs. “She has been in the gym every day getting up 500-1,000 shots a day and working on her overall game.” 

 When your best player is setting that kind of example, the rest of your team will follow suit. “The girls have been in the lab early and often,” said Gibbs. 

 What makes King so dangerous is the variety of ways she can score the basketball. Having a point guard like Alli Morgan last year certainly helped her find open looks, but she can create her shot as well as being a great spot-up shooter.

 “Not only has she elevated her game offensively but now she is a tenacious perimeter defender,” said Gibbs. “She has also turned into a great facilitator for us. She sees the floor so well now.” 

 King wants to be the best she can be and lead this team to be the best they can be as well. “She is one of the most focused players I have ever coached,” said Gibbs. “She is a quiet leader, but a great team leader at that. She really has embraced the culture we have been building.” 

 Marina and Christina Braga will be the other two captains for Bedford as seniors. “Christina is going to be a varsity rotation player for us this year,” said Gibbs. “Marina breathes fire. When she wants a rebound, that rebound is hers.” 

 The Bulldogs also return four juniors in Sydney Suozzo, Saphia Mumpini, Catherine Penick, and Emma Kasyjanski who will all be impact players after developing as sophomores last season. “They are all going to see significant minutes,” said Gibbs. They’re going to be vital parts of our offense.”

 Penick and Kasyjanski play two similar brands of basketball. “They can both slash, hit the three, rebound, play good defense, they’re very versatile,” said Gibbs. “They will both be asked to do different jobs this season.” 

 Sydney Grogan was the first guard off the bench as a freshman and will be stepping into a bigger role as a sophomore. “She is by far our best defender,” said Gibbs. “She has footwork like you can’t believe. She will also share the ball-handling duties with Isabella.” 

 Olivia King and Ava Dubois will make the varsity roster as sophomores. “This will be a good experience year for those two,” said Gibbs. 

 Two marquee freshmen will step onto the scene for the Bulldogs this season. 6’1” wing Sophia Legoullon and 6’2” center Lana McCarthy will be impact players right away. 

 “Sophia has a lot of serious upside,” said Gibbs. “She’s long, can take it to the hole, and will be a serious offensive threat.” 

 “Lana’s game is everywhere out to 15-18 feet,” said Gibbs. “She can knock down the outside shot, has a good handle, can play inside and out, go left and right. She is just as likely to bring it up and also be up ahead for the layup. She is the real deal.” 

 Any freshman will have an adjustment period, and the same will go for Legoullon and McCarthy, but you can’t help but get excited with the potential those two have. “It will be a joy to have those two for four years,” said Gibbs. 

 If anyone is to compete with BG, this is the year and this is the team to do it. “Watching them come together as a team has been great to see,” said Gibbs. “It’s a new season. We’ve reloaded and the game plan is set. We’re ready to go.”

 Concord was maybe a year ahead of schedule last season. The Crimson Tide earned the #8 seed and a home playoff game with a core that consisted of mainly freshman and sophomores. 

 Now those players have a year of experience under their belts as sophomores and juniors and are ready to take an even bigger step this season. “There is certainly a bit of buzz around our crew,” said head coach Tim LaTorra. “We took a big step last year and we’re looking at this year like we are still a young team.” 

 LaTorra feels he has a rotation that features players that can all make an impact. “I have ten players who can all go in the game and do something every single night. We want to focus on defense this year and give ourselves more chances to score.”

 Headlining this young roster is sophomore Ava Woodman and junior Elizabeth Blinn. “They’re certainly a great one-two punch om offense,” said LaTorra. “Ava is long and can get to the rim and Elizabeth has worked on her strength and expanding her game over the summer. We’re hoping to run a lot of pick and pop action between those two.”

 Woodman took the division by storm as a freshman as her skilled offensive arsenal translated seamlessly to the varsity level. “

 Blinn established herself as a great young center down low and is looking to take an even bigger step than she did last season. 

 “I’m looking for Elizabeth and Ava to gel and learn to play with each other even more,” said LaTorra. “The big thing for us is making them comfortable and confident playing together.”

 “With those two as talented as they are for us, there is zero ego, they are team first kids,” said LaTorra.  

 Ellie Cox has two years of varsity experience at the point guard position and her coach couldn’t be more excited to see what she does this season. 

 “Her freshman year was a tough situation. The game was a completely different speed for her then. The ball was in her hands for 32 minutes and she was getting swarmed by top guards,” said LaTorra. “We balanced it on the ball and off-ball with her last year. It took some time for her to learn how to play off the ball, but that will only help her this year.” 

 Cox looks “confident and composed” according to LaTorra, and he is expecting a big jump from her this season. 

 Senior Jordyn Lengle has been through it all. “Jordyn has been through all the bumps in the road, all the struggles,” said LaTorra. “She may not put up the numbers but she does all the little stuff you don’t see in the box score. She keeps us organized out there.” 

 Olivia Crawford and Rose Layton will certainly have their chances to get minutes this year. “They know the opportunity is there for them,” said LaTorra.

 6’2” freshman Sofia Payne could be a spark plug for this team off the bench. “She could definitely be helpful down the line,” said LaTorra. 

 Expectations are a lot higher this time around for Concord. They are still young, but they have the talent to compete with the best in Division I. “The expectation for ourselves has changed,” said LaTorra. “We need to keep doing what we’ve been doing and let the results speak for themselves.”

 Pinkerton Academy has been a competitive group under head coach Lani Buskey for many years. The Astors finished as the #7 seed and were a team with great senior leadership and a plethora of young talent. 

 That young talent is a year older now and looking to keep Pinkerton’s winning ways going. “We have a talented young crew,” said Buskey. “The jitters are gone now. We want them to take over games with confidence.” 

 Avah Ingalls shined bright as a sophomore and her game grew as the season progressed. “She was young last year,” said Buskey. “She got me the points, but this year will be about handling the pressure she is going to see every night and playing a game from start to finish.” 

 Ingalls will be the catalyst offensively and will need to create for not only herself but her teammates as well. “If she can do that she can be dynamic,” said Buskey. 

 Kristina Packowski was the big off the bench for Pinkerton last season and this year steps into a starting role. “She is a complete and utter dirt dog,” said Buckley. “I don’t think there is a kid that works harder than her. She's refined herself offensively and as always is pure energy and pure heart the entire time.”

 Another role player stepping into the starting lineup this season will be Sammy Franks. “She was our sixth man last season and she took pride in that role,” said Buskey. “She brings great instincts to the floor. We trust her to cover the best offensive player for the other team and limit them.” 

 Senior Allie Ingalls will be a major part of what Pinkerton wants to accomplish this season. “She is our big who is tough in the paint but can also light it up from outside,” said Buskey. “Her feet have gotten quicker on defense and she is an offensive asset for us. The longer she stays in the better we are.” 

 Abby Marasco could be the x-factor off the bench for the Astros. “She lives and breathes basketball,” said Buskey. “She is a gym rat. She will make value out of all the time she earns.” 

 Freshman Elizabeth Lavoie could make an impact early on in the season. “She could make a real difference for us, she’s a basketball player for sure,” said Buskey. 

 Hailey Frost and Lily Melton are two more players who will be moved up in the rotation this year. “They will make use of the minutes they get, I know they will contribute.” 

 As always, Pinkerton will be a defensive-minded team. “My girl's buy-in, we are going to compete for every game,” said Buskey. “If we play our cards right we will surprise some teams. We need to work hard and play defense as a team.” 

 

Gold Level Coaches/Programs as of 1/12:

 Kevin Gibbs of Bedford

 Greg Cotreau of Manchester Memorial

 Tim LaTorra of Concord 

 Ernie Clark of Dover

Bryan Duggan of Merrimack

Brad Kreick of Bishop Guertin 

Frank Girginis of Alvirne

 

 Manchester Memorial, or the Cardiac Crusaders as I like to call them (thanks to Justin McIsaac), will be in search of a new identity this season. Lyric Grumblatt, Jenessa Brunette, and Tamrah Gould were the faces of this program the past few years. “Those kids you can’t replace,” said head coach Greg Cotreau. 

 A good chunk of production has been lost to graduation, but Cotreau is excited with the roster he returns. “We are still going to play the same way. Just looking at our roster we are bringing back, we have 5-6 girls who contributed for us last season.” 

 The team starts with point guard Jess Carrier. She was a great fit with last year’s seniors, but this season she will need to become more of a scorer as well as a playmaker. “She can score the ball, she just didn’t have to last year,” said Cotreau. “This year you will see that Jess can make plays for others but she can score the ball a lot too.” 

 Carrier has had injuries throughout her whole career, but she comes in this season the healthiest she has ever been. 

 She is the most experienced player on the team and she will need to be the leader in tough moments. “In Jess’s own kind of way she has been a captain without the title,” said Cotreau. “She is such a great court presence. She is our coach on the floor and that is something she has been developing ever since her sophomore year.” 

 The other lone starter returning this year is junior Elizabeth Barrientos. “She was our defensive anchor last season,” said Cotreau. “This year you will see a lot of offensive production out of her.” 

 Barrientos played her role to perfection last season. She played hard defense, controlled the boards, and scored mainly on putbacks. This year she will be a first or second option at times and will need to show how much she has grown. 

 Ryan Moran probably saw the most floor time out of the returning rotation players for the Crusaders. The senior will be a captain this year and play a much bigger role in the starting lineup. “She was our utility knife last season,” said Cotreau. “Although she is only 5’8” she played a lot bigger than she was last year when Liz was in foul trouble. She’s not afraid to mix it up.” 

 Moran will be a secondary ball-handler and also the one Memorial will look to in clutch free throw situations. “She iced some games for us last season and she will surely have opportunities to do the same this year,” said Cotreau. “I’m excited to see the type of season she will have.”  

 Emma Rossi swung for the Crusaders as a freshman and will play big minutes this year as a sophomore. “She is a rugged defender who can really shoot the basketball,” said Cotreau. 

 Another great defender will be Ciara Banks. “Ciara and Emma can change the course of a game with their intensity,” said Cotreau. 

 A player Cotreau is excited to see progress from throughout the season is freshman Madison Pepra-Omani. “Coming from middle school to varsity is going to be an adjustment,” said Cotreau. “She is trying to make that adjustment defensively, but is one kid working hard on that end.” 

 Pepra-Omani will be thrown into the fire early in her career, but she is certainly up for the challenge. “She is really gifted offensively,” said Cotreau. “She will take the pressure off Jess handling the ball. She can create her own shot, shoot from distance, get to the rim, create for others, she can do a lot with the basketball.” She will certainly be a player to watch. 

 Paige Thibaut is another player who will emerge this year and make the most of her minutes. “She really started coming into her own at the end of last season,” said Cotreau. 

 This will be a new-look team, but many of these girls have been waiting for their opportunity to come. “These girls are out to prove they belong,” said Cotreau. “A lot of them were lurking in the shadows last year and now their turn is finally here.”

 The “Let It Fly” Exeter Blue Hawks have 14 returners from last season's 8-10 team. Head coach David Sokolnicki feels his group took last season's playoff loss to Bedford to heart. “We got what we deserved from a good Bedford team,” said Sokolnicki. “This year we have a little taste in our mouths. We have high expectations. 

 The Blue Hawks play an uptempo brand of basketball with a lot of full-court pressure and three-point shooting in their game plan. Leading that charge is point guard Sydney Taylor. “She’s been running the show for four years now, she’s ready for a big senior season,” said Sokolnicki. 

 Taylor was an all-state honorable mention recipient last season and is looking to put things together in her senior year. “She is just an all-around great athlete,” said Sokolnicki. “She brings that different level for us.” 

 Christina Snicer will join Taylor in the backcourt to create havoc defensively and also brings a good offensive game to the floor. “She was a really good guard for us last year and she has been our most consistent player early on in practice,” said Sokolnicki. 

 Seniors Kate Heslop and Taylor Pierce were both impact players for Exeter last season. Heslop is a great outside shooting presence and really started to come into her own in her junior season. Pierce brings a good all-around game to the floor and is an important rotation piece. 

 Emma Smith will be a player to watch as a sophomore. “We threw her into the fire last year. She’s cool as a cat, nothing fazes her out there,” said Sokolnicki. “She is as talented a player we’ve had since I have been here.”  

 Mia Loosman has been a four-year starter down on the low block and is a captain for the Blue Hawks this season. "She is a great shot blocker and gives us a real post prescesne on offense," said Sokolnicki.

 While Exeter likes to fill up the box score, Sokolnicki feels they have a lot of work to do on that end. “We score a lot of points but we haven’t been a good offensive team,” said Sokolnicki. “Our trap and pressure is what scores points for us.” 

 It will be about focusing on the little things for the Blue Hawks. “Rebounding and free throws cost us many games last year. We’ve focused on those two things heavily early on,” said Sokolnicki.

 With a team that goes almost nine deep and has the whole rotation back intact, defensively Exeter should be sound from the get-go. “Defensively when you have everyone coming back you don’t have to re-introduce anything,” said Sokolnicki. “We can pick up right where we left off and get off and run.”  

 Sokolnicki has one big question coming into the season, can this team put it all together? “Every girl in our program played meaningful minutes in first halves last season,” said Sokolnicki. “If we can play at our pace we can compete. It’s a good time to be a Hawk.”

 After a magical run in Division II last season, Spaulding will make the jump up to Division I and have a new head coach in Scott Blake leading the way for the Red Raiders. “We are excited about the challenge of Division I,” said Blake. 

 The Red Raiders were a young group last season and all seven rotation players are back and wanting more. “This group is dedicated,” said Blake. “The goal this season is staying within ourselves and not getting carried away.” 

 Mary Paradis made her name known last season. She emerged as one of the best three-level scorers in the state and even developed great playmaking skills. “She comes in and works hard, she gets after it,” said Blake. “Her ability to get to the rim and her great moves around the hoop are tough to stop. She is a slasher first but can still knock down the jumper.” 

 Paradis was a first-team all state-level player in Division II and is certainly capable of playing at that level in Division I. 

 Abby Ward ran the offense as a junior last season and Blake is expecting her to have a great year shooting the ball. “She is phenomenal,” said Blake. “Her shooting ability is great and she’s been tearing it up in practice. She is ready to shoot it every time she gets it. She has a lot of confidence coming into this season.” 

 Jenna Philbrook and Ambra Breakfield have looked in the mid-season form to start the year and are shooting the ball at a good clip. “Ambra thinks nothing of it when she puts it up,” said Blake. “We are confident in all of our girls shooting the basketball.” 

 Mackenzie Brochu and Ashley Trogler are back to cause havoc on the defensive end and be reliable spot-up shooters on offense. 

 A new addition to the group is sophomore Hannah Drew. She was a starter as a freshman at Noble High School in Maine and brings a great skill set that Blake is excited to unleash this season. “She is very similar to Mary,” said Blake. “We have matched them up a lot in practice and it has been really good back and forth. She is going to help us out a lot.” 

 Early on for Spaulding, it will be about proving they belong in Division I. “They shouldn’t be scared,” said Blake. “This is a group that believes they can compete with anyone.”

 An upset in the first round over #5 Manchester Central in last year's first-round has created a lot of buzz around Nashua South coming into this season. 

 Head coach John Bourgeois has a good group coming back even with losing three starters to graduation. “It was good for the girls to feel what a playoff win is like and what it takes to get there,” said Bourgeois. “We want to take that and add to it.” 

 Maya Rioux only appeared in 4 games last season due to concussion problems. “We are excited for her to get back into it,” said Bourgeois. “She was one of our leading scorers before she got hurt and we think that can be the case again this season.” 

 Aryanna Murray has been a four-year starter for the Purple Panthers. “She’s our point guard and our leader,” said Bourgeois. “She sees the floor so well and one of the most underrated parts of her game is her defense. She helps us out so much in key situations to take other teams' first option away.” 

 Murray has been a good presence for this group and was a key part of their upset over Central. She wants to end her career in the right way and is certainly willing to do anything on the court to do so. 

 Iruka Obinelo and Julianna Martin are two important pieces for Nashua South. “Iruka is someone who will help us in the post,” said Bourgeois. “We lost a lot of rebounding to graduation and she will help fill that void.” 

 Martin had some big games last season, especially in the North-South rivalry matchup where she scored a season-high 16 points. “She is our vocal leader and spark to our team,” said Bourgeois. “Her scoring has always been there but her defensive tenacity will be very important this year.” 

 Morgan Gillis will be a freshman to watch for and Bailey Carroll and Elizabeth DeRusha are two players who put a lot of work into their games this summer.  

 “If we stay healthy we can compete this year,’ said Bourgeois. “We have fighters that will go for all 32 minutes.”

 Head coach Anne Haky has all five starters returning for a Windham team that feels they underachieved last season. 

 “It was not an acceptable year for us,” said Haky. “We have been salivating since March to prove who we are.” 

 The Jaguars are one of the most athletic teams in the division and it all starts with Sarah Dempsey. “She is unbelievable,” said Haky. “She doesn’t care about the stat book. She is a kid who wants to win.” 

 The all-state forward is a great X’s and O’s player whose leadership will help Windham in the tough games this season which will hopefully be enough to get them over the hump. 

 Abby Husson and Livi Tsetsilas return to the starting lineup a year better and more confident. “Both are going to be impact players for us,” said Haky. Tsetsilas was the second-leading scorer for this team and brings great energy along with Husson who was a great role player last season. 

 Bree Amari is a player who could make the sophomore to junior jump this year. “She did some really good things for us last year,” said Haky. “She is used to the varsity speed now and should be ready for a big season.” 

 Hannah Smith and Chloe Weeks made strides as sophomores and will be relied upon to play quality minutes as juniors. “We will need them to make an impact defensively, they’ll have the minutes to do so,” said Haky. 

 Windham is out to prove they are more experienced and ready to be a top ten team. “We aren’t satisfied from last year,” said Haky. “We are all about competing the whole game, earning from mistakes, and having the next play mentality. We want to do something this year.” 

 Nashua North has a competitive senior class returning along with most of the varsity roster from last year’s 7-11 team. 

 Head coach Curt Durtilley has a mix of five seniors, four juniors, and one sophomore who will fill the rotation for the Titans. “They have a good team chemistry,” said Dutilley. “They put in the work and want to make it happen.” 

 Senior Victoria Conrad is only in her third year of basketball, but Dutilley has really liked the developments she has been making. “She really came on at the end of last season,” said Dutilley. “She really has picked things up quickly. I expect her to have an outstanding year.” 

 At 6’2” Conrad can tower over defenders and be a real force down low in Division I. “She has put in the work leading up to this year, I’m excited to see what she can do,” said Dutilley. 

 Lillian Brooks was one of the leading scorers for North last season. “She is another player who really stepped up last season,” said Dutilley. “Not only did she score for us but she also led us in assists as well. She does well in multiple facets of the game for us.” 

 Kaitlyn Laurendi comes back as a senior as one of the Titans' best defenders. “She is all-out hustle,” said Dutilley. “She is a great team leader for us.” 

 One of the most intriguing players will be Grace Cardin. She was the leading scorer for Nasha North as a freshman and is certainly in for a big sophomore season. “She hesitated at times last year being our top option,” said Dutilley. “She looks a lot more comfortable in her role and is willing to take more shots.” 

 Last year was a year of growth and seeing what they had to work with. This season for the Titans will be about putting everything together.

 The Little Green of Manchester Central were hit hard with the graduation losses of Destiny Jordan and Jessica Lewis, and even the transfer of Emily Greenwood to New Hampton Prep. What Mike Wenners does know is that everyone who is returning for this season will give all-out effort. 

 “We are going to go as hard as we normally do from the first inbound,” said Wenners. Central just recently got approved to get on the floor for practice, so the beginning of the season will be a lot like an extensive preseason. “In all reality, it is a 12-game preseason.”  

 The heart and soul of this team will be Erin Flurey, a feisty defensive-minded guard who will be called upon to step up her offensive production. “She is going to be our engine like usual,” said Wenners. “Her competitive spirit gets a lot of things done on the floor for her.” 

 Another key returner will be Gabrielle Pietroniro-Hamilton, an undersized forward who’s shot started to fall as the season went along last year. “She is a tough post presence even though she isn’t that tall,” said Wenners. “She works hard every night and I don’t expect that to change.” 

 The backbone of this group will be Cadie Chaisson. “I would take a team full of Cadie Chaisson’s if I could,” said Wenner. “Her mentality is the kind you wish every high school athlete had, she is a team-first kid.” 

 The Little Green will take this season one game at a time. “I always say I want us to be better today than we were yesterday,” said Wenners. “We need to be playing our best basketball when it matters most.”

 The Goffstown Grizzlies were minutes away from leaving for Exeter High School to play Londonderry in the Final Four before head coach Steve Largy got a phone call he never imagined he would receive on such a big day for his team. 

 “It was hard not to get any closure,” said Largy. “Especially for our seniors to go out that way, that was tough.” 

 Player of the Year Kelly Walsh and her eight senior teammates led Goffstown on a magical run to the Final Four, a run that they would never get to finish. 

 Fast forward nearly ten months later and the Grizzlies are a completely new team with only four returning varsity players from last year’s squad. 

 Senior Emily Peterson was the sixth man for Goffstown. “She was a part-time starter for us but whenever she came off the bench I told her she was our sixth starter,” said Largy. “She was such a good energy player that we needed to have off the bench, no one else would have been able to lift us like that.” 

 Peterson does all of the little things for the Grizzlies and will certainly be a great player from a leadership standpoint. “She works so hard on both sides of the ball,” said Largy. “She sets a great example of how to play for everyone else on the team.” 

 Center Molly Strong is a different player coming into her senior season. “Her aggression is there this season,” said Largy. “She has also been a great leader for the newer players coming in. She’s done a great job of explaining things and taking players under her wing, you need that.” 

 An intriguing returning player is Ava Winterburn. The 6’0” sophomore showed flashes in her first season and should be a player to watch for throughout the year. “She is starting to come into her own,” said Largy. “She is dynamic on both the block and the wing and defensively she has played with a lot of aggression early on.” 

 Noelle Simmons has been waiting for her moment the last two seasons. “There was a lot of good talent in front of her. I kept telling her that her time was coming and now it finally has,” said Largy. “She was the next guard up for us last season and she helped us in a lot of key situations.” 

 Maggie Sasso will be a newcomer to the varsity level and has looked promising early in practice. “She is going to get the opportunity to improve her game playing varsity basketball,” said Largy. “She can play the 1-3 and is great at scoring from the outside and attacking the rim.” 

 Largy has liked how things have come together for his new-look team. “The pieces fit really well this year,” said Largy. “We’re adding some young faces in with kids that have basketball experience, it should be a really fun year. This is a new year, a new environment, and a new Goffstown basketball team.”

 Salem will be a completely new group that head coach Ricky Oliver is excited to get to work with. “It's been fun to be able to start from planting the seed.” 

 The Blue Devils finished last season at 11-7 and fell to a young and hungry Concord team in the 8-9 matchup. Olivia Murray has transferred and Jordyn Franzen has graduated along with five other seniors, leaving Oliver with a group that is excited to get their opportunity. 

 “We certainly have our work cut out,” said Oliver. “We’re taking it slow so the kids can buy-in and understand what we’re trying to do.” 

 Bri Boucher and Sydney Emerson are the most experienced players coming back and will be called upon early to get everyone up to speed. “They provide the leadership we need,” said Oliver. “We’re going to start with them and go from there. We’ll be fine, we have work to do and that is no different from any other team.” 

 Charlotte Hinchey, Chelsea McGiven, and Jennifer Othen join the program as freshmen and will get a lot of reps this year to learn and grow through the 12-game schedule. “I’m excited to see what they can do this year and for years to come,” said Oliver. 

 Oliver is one of the best coaches in the state and will certainly have his group playing good basketball at the right time. “We all have to get through the adjustment, we’ll all be better for it,” said Oliver. “We’ve revamped a lot of things and are going to be playing a new brand of basketball that I’m excited about.”

 The defensive-minded Portsmouth Clippers will have a young team this year that features four freshmen and four sophomores.

 “We’re going to be young and inexperienced,” said head coach Tim Hopley. If there is any year where you want to have a young group, it would be a season like this where the regular season is more about improving game to game rather than focusing on getting the bye or trying to win a certain amount of games to make the playoffs. 

 As stated above, Hopley preaches defense with his teams and that is always a factor that keeps Portsmouth in any game they play. “With a fairly new group we have been getting everyone up to speed on defense and focusing on that a lot in practice,” said Hopley. “We come in with a team that is a lot more accomplished offensively than we have had in years past.” 

 Juniors Mia Smith and Caitlin McDonough are both three-year varsity players and have the most experience on the roster. “Mia was in our rotation as a freshman when we went to the finals, she brings a lot of experience,” said Hopley. “Caitlin’s IQ and knowledge have been great. She has steadily improved over time.” 

 Sophomore Bella Slover took over the starting point guard position midway through last season and will try to build upon the progress she made. “She has a good mind for the game and knows when to push, she’s willing to be the on-court leader,” said Hopley. “She knows how to direct the team. She’s certainly earned her spot.” 

 There will be a bit of a feeling-out period early on for the Clippers and Hopely understands it will take time for things to gel. “A lot of players are very similar in style, and size, some a little better offensively, some better defensively,” said Hopley. “We are going to mix and match and try and find the right combinations that work for us.”

 Merrimack took Division I by storm last year as the #2 seed. They had a senior-laden group and were led by junior standout Theresa Twardosky. Those seniors have graduated and Twardosky has left for prep school. 

 The Tomahawks will be starting from scratch this year and have been taken over by Bryan Duggan, former Division I MVC boys basketball coach from Chelmsford, MA. “I’m excited to be here,” said Duggan. “The girls have handled everything I’ve thrown at them.” 

 There will be eleven on the varsity roster for Duggan’s team, none of which were starters on last year's 16-2 squad. “These girls have been a part of the winning culture,” said Duggan. They have just been waiting for their turn to show what they can do.” 

 Keira Bike and Gillian Waller are two seniors who have a lot of potential coming into this season. “Those two will surprise some people this year, they have been waiting for their opportunity.” 

 Emma Valluzzi will run the point as a junior. “She is super athletic, she flys up and down the floor,” said Duggan. “It will be an adjustment at first, but she is up for the challenge.” 

 Seniors Lilli Dabillis and Olivia Cote will bring a sense of leadership and a good work ethic that will benefit the Tomahawks. Junior Shannon Shandwani is another great athlete to add to the rotation that is very quick and is a hard-nosed defender. 

 “I play an uptempo style and I have athletes,” said Duggan. “I’m excited to start incorporating basketball stuff into what we do daily.” 

 It will take time for this new team to pick up speed and get their legs under them, but the attitudes and efforts early on give Duggan great hope for this year. “The big thing I’m stressing is competing in everything we do,” said Duggan. “Our biggest challenge is ourselves sometimes. We are going to learn as we go.”

  Head coach Nick Theos always seems to have his Londonderry Lancers playing their best basketball at the right time. Londonderry made a surprising run to the Final Four last season and will always be a team no one wants to see in the playoffs. 

 “That's how I prepare the season, have the kids play their best basketball at the end,” said Theos. “It may not be perfect, and that's okay with me. I don’t need them to come on right away at the beginning of the season, we need to be perfect at the end.” 

 Courtney Shay was a great leader for this team last season as a senior and those duties will be turned over to seniors Ashley Rourke and Ashley Schmitt who were both starters last year. “We’re certainly going to be an older group,” said Theos. 

 Juniors Olivia Chau and Madelyn O'Shaughnessy will take on bigger roles this season. “Olivia gave us good quality minutes down the stretch during our win streak,” said Theos. “I’m excited to see how she handles a new role.”  

 O'Shaughnessy dealt with many concussions last year but Theos sees great potential in her game. “I’m curious to see how she’ll play after missing a whole year,” said Theos. “There will definitely be a learning curve, but if we can continue to build with her we will hopefully see progress.” 

 Jordan Furlong made great strides as a freshman. “The Pinkerton game was huge for her,” said Theos. “Jordan stepped in and played wonderfully. I’m excited to see what she can do in an expanded role.” 

 Another sophomore who will be a work in progress this season is Shannon Ball. Ball sustained an ACL injury in the first game of the season last year. “She is working her butt off to come back,” said Theos. 

 While the Lancers will have a different look this year, Theos still likes his group's chances coming into the season. “Regular season records are great, but championships are what you play for,” said Theos. “We got lucky and got hot last season, nothing says that can’t happen again.”

 The Winnacunnet Warriors will be a young group consisting of seven sophomores and five juniors. “We had 4-5 freshman who played significant varsity minutes last year,” said head coach Tom Hayward. 

 This season will be about getting another year of experience under their belts and improving for the future. “We’re in a huge positive position of being so young this year,” said Hayward. “The pressure of having to win certain games against certain teams is gone, We have different ways of practicing and preparing.” 

 Sophomores Casey Coleman, Riley Kearns, Abby Rayder, and Marisa Reuss all were important parts of last year's team and are going to be big pieces of Hayward’s plans with this group. “They all should be motivated for this season.” 

 The biggest problem for the Warriors last year was their trouble scoring the basketball. “We could not score last year. Some of it was youth, some of it not enough skill at that shooting position,” said Hayward. “If we can be more confident in how we shoot, that problem will be taken care of.” 

 It will be another year of progress for Winnacunnet and hopefully, one that sees the young Warriors take a big step. “It will get better with time,” said Hayward.  

 Head coach Frank Gingris couldn’t be a better fit for the Alvirne Broncos program. “Going back to Alvirne was like coming back home,” said Girginis. 

 Girginis is a Hudson native and has a great connection with these girls from coaching most of them in middle school. “We are clicking, we understand each other.” 

 Jess O’Connor will be the leader for a Bronco’s team looking for an identity. “She is a phenomenal leader,” said Girginis. “She wants to lead this team down the right path.”  

 Senior Ella Davis is another captain for the Broncos and is just two years removed from an ACL injury. “It is another year of recovery for her but I am expecting big things, she’s pushing herself,” said Girginis.

 The young sophomore class will be a key component of Alvrine’s success. Paige McKinley is one of the best in the bunch. “She is a top tier player,” said Girginis. Lila Davis also joins as an important piece of Alvirne’s future. “They are both going to take on big roles for us this year.” 

 Sophomore Jamie O’Connor will be a tenacious defender for the Broncos and junior Maddie Nicolosi is primed for a big year. “I’m expecting big things from her,” said Girginis. “She has worked so hard and she wants to do good things out on the floor.”  

 Although Alvirne is a fairly young group, Girginis doesn’t want to hear any excuses. “I’m not giving them that out as a young team,” said Girginis. “They’re basketball players, and I expect them to play, I know they can play.” 

 Girginis has already started the culture change for Alvirne and hopes to have them back in the conversation soon. “We know we have to put the work in, they have to if they want to compete with the best,” said Girginis. “Pinkerton is the perfect first game for us. We have a shot right out of the gate to prove we belong.”

 Ernie Clark's Dover Green Wave will be young once again this season. “We’re excited with the group,” said Clark. “We are working our way back to being a basketball school.” 

 Clark came back to coach the Green Wave last season after not coaching in Dover since 2004. He has embraced the rebuilding challenge and wants to put Dover back on the map in Division I.  

 Miller McCoy was a part-time starter for Dover as a sophomore. “She will certainly play a lot more this season,” said Clark. “With not much size we are going to need her to play a lot bigger than she is, and we believe she can do that. She put in a lot of work over the summer to prepare for this season.” 

 Sophomore Lanie Mourgenos has impressed early on in practice and has emerged as the team’s starting point guard. 

 Abbie Kaslowski is a great athlete that Clark is hoping to turn into a good basketball player. “She is a tenacious kid,” said Clark. “She is still working on her skills but she has no fear out there, she loves to play.” 

 All three of these players played significant roles last season and played the most out of anyone returning to this year’s team. “We will need those three to lead us,” said Clark. 

 This rebuild will take time, but Clark sees this year being a great year of experience for his underclassmen. “The seacoast cohort we are playing in will be competitive,” said Clark. “We are hoping this group can help turn the program around and that starts with this season.”

 Natalie Wilson returns to her alma mater to take over an up-and-coming Trinity program. “This is a great program,” said Wilson. “It is going to be a great builder year for us.” 

 The varsity roster will field nine and all nine are coachable and willing to get better every day. “Our goal is to get the kids excited about basketball again,” said Wilson. 

 Colby Guinta will be the go-to option for the Pioneers. “She is a tough kid,” said Wilson. “She is everything you want in a player. I’m excited to see her blossom in her senior year.” 

 Alongside Gunita will be sophomore point guard Devin Booth. “Devin is a floor general for us,” said Wilson. “Her and Colby are going to produce a lot for us.”

 6’0” center Achol Tour is a work in progress but is a very exciting prospect for the Pioneers. “She is a big presence down low blocking shots and getting rebounds,” said Wilson. “We can dump it down to her on the post and she can step out and shoot it for us if we need her too. She is very versatile.” 

 Seeing improvement game-to-game will be the key for Trinity. “We are back to square one this season,” said Wilson. “The overall goal is getting back to a winning mentality.”

 

Pre-Season Player of the Year

Isabella King of Bedford 

 

Pre-Season First Team All-State

Isabella King of Bedford 

Ava Woodman of Concord 

Meghan Stack of Bishop Guertin

Avah Ingalls of Pinkerton 

Jess Carrier of Manchester Memorial 

 

Pre-Season Second Team All-State

Sydney Taylor of Exeter 

Elizabeth Blinn of Concord 

Lana McCarthy of Bedford 

Olivia Murray of Bishop Guertin 

Mary Paradis of Spaulding

 

Players to watch: Sarah Dempsey of Windham, Kailee McDonald of Bishop Guertin, Sophia Legoullon of Bedford, Elizabeth Barrientos and Madison Pepra-Omani of Manchester Memorial, Erin Flurey of Manchester Central,  Christina Snicer of Exeter, Abby Ward​​​​​​​ and Hannah Drew of Spaulding, Maya Rioux​​​​​​​ and Aryanna Murray of Nashua South, Grace Cardin and Victoria Conrad of Nashua North, Ava Winterburn of Goffstown, Mia Smith and Bella Slover of Portsmouth,  Keira Bike and Gillian Waller​​​​​​​ of Merrimack, Colby Guinta and Achol Tour​​​​​​​ of Trinity 

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