Part of the fun of over a decade of writing pre-season previews is you rarely go into your phone calls (17 with Division IV coaches alone) with a division-wide narrative in mind. You flesh that out in those 20 or so conversations. Sometimes you have to search it out and sometimes it suddenly seems to appear.
Just like former Spaulding all-state guard, Isaiah Rose seemed to suddenly appear at Newmarket high school two weeks ago. A 6’5 forward/guard who averaged 17 ppg. in half a season for Division I Spaulding a year ago.
“The moment he became eligible to play for Jamie (Hayes) at Newmarket the entire race flipped,” said one tournament coach of the fortuitous transfer. “We went from four or five favorites to one. A very big one.”
There is your narrative for the 2018-19 season.
A team that already boasted a veteran head coach, a 6’4 all-state forward and a point guard every team in the division would love to have now has added the best player to play in the division since Jordan Litts graduated from Wilton-Lyndeborough in 2015.
“We all are chasing Newmarket and as a coach, our job is not necessarily to figure out a way to beat them today but how to beat them in March,” said one head coach with title aspirations of his own.
Today in our first of four pre-season basketball previews we take a look at Division IV, where 22 teams will fight to stand with us in the winner's circle at Plymouth State University on March 8th the way Pittsfield did nearly a year ago.
Today’s preview is sponsored by our friends & partners at White Mountains Community College!
White Mountains Community College, with locations in Berlin, North Conway & Littleton, is the proud sponsor of our North Country basketball coverage all season long as well as the coverage of Plymouth & Kennett football & basketball.
Division IV Predicted Order
Lurking outside the Top 10: Farmington, Moultonborough Academy, Wilton-Lyndeborough, Lisbon (aka America’s Team) and Hinsdale.
After falling one possession short in the Division IV championship game a year ago Newmarket head coach Jamie Hayes knows he has a team that understands what it takes to get back, and like the rest of the division, he’s eager to find out what his new weapon brings to the table as well. “We lost a lot of leadership to graduation and that’s not just replaced automatically,” said Hayes. “We have a point guard in Simon Cote who leads more by example and a player like Jared Woodman who needs to step into a leadership role. That’s all a part of coming together to become a very good basketball team.”
Hayes feels very comfortable about his point guard stepping into the leadership void. Simon Cote has good size (6’2) for a guard and understands the offense Hayes wants to run. “He’s more confident, even than a year ago, and he rebounds very well for a guard. If we are going to be particularly strong in one area I think it could be rebounding and he’s a big part of that.”
6’4 Jared Woodman a transfer a year ago from Concord (whose father owns Panzanellas Pizza…that’s you’re go-to place for dinner if you’re the area..great pizza) battled injuries a year ago and comes into this season with a lingering ankle issue.
Woodman though showed enough flashes a year ago to consider him a first team all-state caliber performer when he’s healthy. “ It’s his second year in the program so you can see he’s picking things up right away where a year ago there was a bit of an adjustment,” noted his head coach. “His ankle has given him problems. He has been participating every day in the pre-season and it might just require rest from time to time during the season.”
If you plugged all the analytics you had into a computer to create the perfect fifth starter in Division IV the computer is going to spit something that that plays a lot like Will Chase. The junior guard might be Hayes’ smartest player on the floor and what he brings to the table is…..well whatever his coach asks of him. “ Will does all the little things. He sets good screens, he rotates on defense, and he rebounds. He’s a player I have a lot of confidence in.”
Hayes also has confidence in his bench which will include 6’3 Logan Willey, Allen Phoubaykham (a defensive specialist), Kyle James and his son Owen, a sophomore point guard who will swing JV & varsity.
And then there is the pre-season player of the year who arrived last week. “ We are getting to know Isaiah just like he is getting to know us. He can finish at the rim, shoot it and he has good handle. What he needs to do is adjust to the way a Division IV game is called versus how a Division I game is called. You could have the same officiating crew call a Division IV game on a Tuesday night and then call a Division I game completely differently on Wednesday. They let more go in the higher divisions so he is going to have to get used to that,” Hayes said after Rose was called for 8 fouls in a scrimmage against Hopkinton.
What will not need adjusting is Rose’s ability to score. There isn’t a player in the division who will be able to match up with him one on one and from covering him extensively at Spaulding I’ve seen him take over games against teams like Portsmouth last year (where he scored 27 points against the eventual champs) and Nashua North, in the Division I quarterfinals two years ago.
Make no mistake, Newmarket became the big favorite once the 6’5 junior arrived.
That was big news north of Franconia Notch where Trevor Howard’s Littleton Crusaders return four starters from his Final Four team of a year ago and has a date with Newmarket on Friday night.
“ We have a lot of key players back and what I like about this group is that everyone fits into their role,” said Howard. “ We will play eight players against the best teams we face and in Division IV that is pretty good.”
It begins with all-state power forward Danny Kubkowski who will be a four-year starter by the time he is done at Littleton. “ He’s someone I know I can count on. He’s been in a lot of big games for someone entering his junior season,” said Howard. “ What I am on him about is doing more. He’s such a good athlete that he has the ability to take over games and we are going to need that more often with White Mountains, Derryfield and Newmarket on the schedule.”
6’1 shooting guard Parker Briggs gives the Crusaders one of the better outside shooters in the division. Briggs, like Kubkowski, is only a junior, and being asked to do more by his head coach. “ I’d like him to be more consistent defensively, and early on he is working towards that. We need him to not only knock down shots but take it to the rim and finish because defenses know they have to come out past the three-point line and guard him.”
Todd Krol-Corliss did a nice job a year ago at the point but will be able to play off the ball in his junior season with the emergence of sophomore Parker Paradise, whose brother Cooper was the point guard on the 2016 state championship team. “ I love the way Parker has been playing at point guard for us,” says his head coach. “ He’s very unselfish, plays excellent defense and him starting allows us to have another good ball handler (Krol-Corliss) play off the ball.”
Jason Brammer is the only senior in the starting lineup and comes from a long line of brothers who have won an awful lot of games for Howard. “ Jason is dependable and fits in very well with what we are trying to do.”
Howard is very excited about the potential of sophomore Landon Bromley (“ He was the best player out on the floor for us at times this summer.”) and expects production off the bench from Josh Finkle & Christian Silveria.
“ A year ago you could see we were outclassed by Pittsfield when we got to Plymouth. That was sophomores against seniors and you know who wins that match-up 90% of the time. This season it’s about becoming that kind of experienced team that can win once you get to the end of the season.”
After back to back quarterfinal appearances in his first two seasons on the job Nick Fiset understands it’s time for his Epping Blue Devils to take the next step and get back to Plymouth. “This is the most balanced group I’ve had in my three years here and as the saying goes, ‘ You win in Division IV with great point guards’ and I feel like I have one.”
Senior Hunter Bullock, a three-year starter, gives Fiset a guard who can pressure the basketball and get it up the floor in a hurry. Which is exactly what the head coach wants to do in 2019. “He has looked really good in practice early on and to his credit, it’s because he put the work in over the summer.”
“ Hunter can really see the floor better now than he has in the past and his shooting has improved to the point where I don’t think teams can lay off of him. If you get up on him too close…he’s going by you.”
The key player for the Blue Devils will be 6’3 junior power forward Peyton Rivers. “I’ve seen more confidence from him than I did a year ago at this time,” said Fiset. “ He had a very good season as the goalie on the soccer team and that tends to carry over into basketball.”
Rivers has the size and athletic ability to be a dominate rebounder like his older brother Jackson, a two-time all-state performer for Epping. He now just has to go out and do it. “I don’t need Peyton to go out there and be his older brother. He has a different game and brings other assets to the table. What I need him to do is be a very good rebounder because that is where we lost games a year ago. On the boards.”
Shawn Hill & Noah Bilodeau, who came out for the team after a very good football season, should give Epping plenty of size to not only hold their own on the boards but be dominant at times. “ Two very good athletes that bring a lot to the table,” said Fiset. “Shawn is more of a slasher who can get to the rim while Noah is a very good athlete with the size to help us a ton defensively and on the boards.”
Fiset is confident Adam LePage will step into the shooting guard role vacated by Doug Nadeau and expects production off the bench from freshman Mike Picard & Nathaniel Marshall.
“ This is the best team I’ve had as far as everyone being on the same page,” said Fiset. “Everyone has a role to play and if we play together there is no reason we don’t take that next step and get to the Final Four.”
For most programs around the state losing all five starters from an undefeated Final Four team would signal a rebuilding season. In the case of the Derryfield School…there are no rebuilding seasons. No matter how hard longtime head coach Rob Bradley tries to convince you otherwise.
“ We lost so many valuable and experienced guys that I have a hard time wrapping my head around how you replace that. We have some good players coming back and some players who have been in our program long enough to understand what we are trying to do but…there is a lot of production to replace.”
It begins with last year’s leading scorer Max Byron, who just happened to come off the Cougars bench. Bryon was lights out in a close semifinal loss to Newmarket and comes into the 2018-19 season as the unquestioned go-to guy. “ We have a lot of different sets where we make sure we get the ball into his hands,” said Bradley. “ He’s gotten better. His ball-handling in particular. I think he’s set up to have a very good season.”
6’6 center Max Karpawich has worked very hard to improve and now steps into a pivotal starting role after being a key reserve a year ago. “ He works very hard at the game and he’s a very intelligent kid. He went to a lot of basketball camps this summer and I see that he has picked up some good habits from doing that.”
Derryfield always seems to have a smart/heady point guard from the Rizos’ brothers to Andrew Dubreuil a year ago. Bradley sees the same characteristics in junior point guard Colin Mccaigue. “ He’s a tough kid and he makes very good decisions with the ball.”
It only feels like Derryfield grows 6’3 athletic soccer players who help the basketball team on trees. 2019 will be no different as Mathias Allman will give Bradley another athletic forward who will contribute on both ends of the floor. “ He’s getting better by the week and he’s going to help us this season,” said Bradley.
Bradley expects Isaac Plotsker (“He’s already a very good defender.”), Will Perkins and Jake Plage to be in the rotation for a team that still needs time to develop. “We are a man to man program but we might have to play a little bit of zone early on,” Bradley. “It will take us some time to come together.”
Bet every dollar you have that they will.
Mount Royal was a bit of a curiosity a year ago. A 12-6 team that many expected would not get out of the first round against Epping (they didn’t). But with several key returnees and led by an all-state guard The Knights will battle for a Top 8 seed again in 2019.
Junior Andrew Normandin averaged 17 points a game and will be joined in the rotation by sophomore Louis Larosiliere for a team that only graduated four players off last years twelve man roster.
Sunapee has the core back from a team that finished as the 9 seed a year ago. With roles clearly defined heading into the season head coach Tim Putchtler feels like he has his best team since taking over for Ed Tenney three years ago. “We were very young a year ago so although that can lead to some struggles at times, you benefit from the experience. We are older and more mature than we were a year ago.”
It begins with point guard Brady Grzanna who not only will run the point but should be the Lakers primary scorer. “ He’s very athletic and can play multiple positions,” said his head coach. “ There will be times where we play him off the ball.”
The team’s most improved player is Jordan Chappell, the younger brother of 1,000 point scorer Isaiah, who lost 20 lbs. over the off-season. “ He’s really changed his game and worked hard to get in shape. He’s been a real positive for us in the pre-season.”
Joining Chappell in the rotation will be Kevin Nolan, a lefty guard capable of running the Lakers offense, and Sean Shisko. “ Sean has come in with a good attitude and he’s someone who can help us a lot this season. He’s capable of having a really good season.”
Zach Belisle gives Putchtler a streak shooter off the bench who can heat up in a hurry. “I’d really like to see him develop his mid-range jumper because he will have nights where teams are going to overplay him on the perimeter. When he gets it going he can really knock down shots.”
All of which gives Sunapee a team capable of making a run in March. “ I like what I see early on, “ said Putchtler. “ We have a lot of key players back so there is no reason we can’t put together a pretty long season.”
The Groveton Eagles have to replace their two leading scorers and point guard from a quarterfinal team a year ago. Soon to be Hall of Fame Head Coach Mark Collins moves forward with a group that seems to have the chemistry & work ethic to not skip a beat in 2019. “ I watched this group during the soccer season and what stood out to me was that they weren’t expected to win a lot of games but they battled some very good teams. They’re a group that’s not afraid to work.”
Give Mark Collins a team like that and come March they’re going to be in the conversation again.
Groveton should get scoring upfront from returning starter Josh Wheelock, a 6’2 junior, and Gavin Simpson. “ I worried about our ability to score but so far I like what I’ve seen in the pre-season,” said Collins. “ They can both put it in the basket. We’re going to need them both on the floor at the same time for us to be successful.” (by the way, if you don’t think NHsportspage has arrived yet, I kept Mark on the phone for 11 minutes in our preview call. Shattering the previous high of 6 minutes but 61 minutes short of Sean Young’s 2105 record-setting call).
Groveton has a good group of sophomore guards and all three are expected to contribute right away. Matt St. Cyr will handle the point guard duties while both Julian Kenison and Brandon Laundry will step right in. Look for Jimmy McCoy to play the point as well.
What is clear is that Collins likes the group he has, even if they may not be ready to compete for a Final Four from Day 1. “ It’s a great group,” said Collins. “ They share the ball and no one is worried about who is taking the most shots, only in getting a good one.”
Colebrook Academy is the only team in the division that did not graduate a senior off of last year’s roster.
They also are the first group that missed the playoffs for a Buddy Trask coached team since the 1994 season. So there is both reason for optimism and a strong presence of reality around the 2019 edition of the Mohawks.
“ We’re ahead of where we were last year, as we should be,” said Trask. “ I’ve been able to put in some stuff on offense that I couldn’t a year ago. So we have the opportunity to be better this season but there wasn’t a lot of basketball being played this summer and there is still a lot of improvement that needs to be made.”
Carson Rancourt showed flashes a year ago and will again be the Mohawks primary scorer this season. “ He needs a lot of work on his ball handling but Carson can score. My concern with him is in his ability to handle ball pressure, not his ability to score.”
Ramsey Rancourt will get some time at the point guard spot while Daegan Riff & Malik McKinnon have the ability to be big factors in Colebrook’s pressure defense. “ We will defend better than we did a year ago and Malik & Daegan will be a part of that. Malik is someone we are going to need to rebound for us because that’s an area we need to get a lot better in. Daegan has gotten bigger & stronger and when he plays under control he can be a factor for us.”
Les Lord will start in the frontcourt and his head coach has seen improvement. “ We need someone around the basket and Les has begun to show us something. We need that to continue.”
Dylan Carpino, Cam Frizzell and Dalton Rancourt (Ramsey’s brother..but not Carson’s if you’re scoring at home) will all contribute off the bench for Trask. “ This is a group that has a chance to be pretty decent defensively. We’ll need to create turnovers and we have a rotation where we can go deep enough to do that for an entire game.”
Jamie Walker’s Woodsville Engineers have been one of the best programs in Division IV the past five years using a balance on the floor that allowed them to run their offense through the low post.
In 2019, well that balance doesn’t exist anymore. Woodsville will still score points, they’re just going to do it from a lot farther away.
“ We’re a small team and we’re a young team,” said Walker. “ We have players who can shoot the ball pretty well and as a coach, you have to play to the strengths of the players you have out on the floor. That means that we are going to be a very perimeter-oriented team this season.”
First-team all-state guard Garrett Olsen graduated a year ago and when he did much of the Engineers offense went with him. “ Garrett controlled the ball 95% of the time last year,” said Walker. “ He got us into our offense, made passes to open shooters and was one of the best one on one scorers in the division. That’s a big void to fill.”
The last names are familiar and the first ones will be soon enough as Conner Maccini & sophomore Corey Bemis will be key players on a crowded Woodsville perimeter.
Billy Green is the team’s leading returning scorer and will take on a bigger role this season. “ We need him to rebound,” says Walker. “ I know he can score and I’m not concerned with our ability to score. We need to replace the rebounds that Garrett and (graduated center Cooper Davidson) got for us last year.”
Jamie’s son Brendan Walker has shown the ability to knock down shots and will play outside in what could be a 5-out offense. “Brendan is going to have to get better at creating his own shot because he is not going to be on the receiving end of passes from Garrett that found him wide open because of all the attention being paid to other players on the floor.”
Patrick Estes, Carson Baril, and freshman Elijah Floach will all contribute right away for the new look Engineers.“ This is the first time in 6 or 7 years that we haven’t had a real post-presence so it’s a new style for us,” said Walker.
Pittsfield head coach Jay Darrah doesn’t like the term ‘re-boot’ when you talk about his defending champions, who graduated four starters and six of their top seven players from a year ago. “ I look at it as we have a group that practiced against the champions all last season and now they get their chance. We have a group that really wants to prove themselves to the rest of the division.”
The lone returning starter is Dylan Bocash, who fit in perfectly with last years senior-laden group and was at times the teams best defender. “ Dylan is taking on a bigger leadership role and he has been great in the pre-season. He leads by example and you’re going to see his game expand this season.”
Sophomore Jah Gordon will take over the point guard duties vacated by Garrett Guerrero-Hadley (never forget how big Garrett’s late floater in the lane was in the championship game). “ Jah played behind the starters last season and grew a lot as a player as the season went on,” said Darrah. “ We have a lot of confidence in him.”
Cory Gilleney and Spencer Strouth are a pair of forwards eager for their turn in the spotlight while Devin Bedell was unable to play a year ago but is a welcome return for a team that lacks experience. “ Devin was going to be our 6th man a year ago so getting him back is big.”
Tyler Prentice will also play a big role for a veteran coaching staff that includes Gary Colby, Dominic Brooks, JT Colby and Pittsfield Hall of Famer Tony Martinez. “ I’m excited to see what this group can become,” said Darrah of his title defense. “ I’m a big chemistry guy, we spent a lot of time together this summer, and it’s a really fun group to coach.”
Throughout last season Farmington Head coach Adam Thurston searched for some consistency from his team who seemed to rise & fall week to week. The same Tigers team that lost to a four-win Portsmouth Christian team nearly knocked off undefeated Derryfield on the road, losing 41-39.
With a new season comes a new team and Thurston likes what he sees early on from his Tigers. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised early on,” said Thurston. “It began with our alumni game. You can only take so much out of a game like that but we really competed, especially on the glass against older and more physical players.”
Thurston’s best rebounder has the potential to be one of the best in the division. Forward Logan Ebare might only be 6’1 but he regularly outworks bigger players. Sophomore Isaac Farfan will run the point for the Tigers while Gage Noel, Isaiah Williams & Marcus Berko will be part of a rotation that wants to play fast.
“We’re going to pressure more than last year because I think we have the personnel to do it,” said Thurston. “We want to force the other team to play at our pace and I think playing up-tempo really suits this group.”
America’s Team the Lisbon Panthers captured the imagination of the nation last year with their run to the Division IV tournament. Whether it was appearances on ‘Kelly & Ryan’ or waving to fans on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade route it was a magical ride.
With first team all-state guard Josh Woods graduating the Panthers are expected to take a step back in 2019 but still compete for a spot in the tournament.
How good was Woods last year? He’s the only player on the entire roster not returning for head coach Sam Natti, and they’re not expected to be as good without one player.
In this case, he was a pretty special player.
“When we lost Josh (to graduation…they know where he is) we lost 50% of our scoring and 50% of our rebounding. I’m not worried about our ability to rebound, I think we have a chance to be a pretty good team on the glass, but where we get our points from is yet to be seen. We’re going to have to be very good defensively to win games, at least early on.”
The Panthers will be led by 6’2 Jared Jesseman and freshman guard Camden Burt. “Jared does a nice job in the paint. If we can get him the ball in good position to score he can really be effective.”
Burt is a freshman guard who could end up having the type of career Woods just wrapped up. “He’s pretty good at this point but he needs to develop his game. He’s going to make typical freshman mistakes but that’s part of getting experience and improving.”
Jacob Deem will man the center position for Natti as a third-year starter while Ethan Riggie (he’s a lefty), 6’3 Zach Fisher, Will Lopus and point guard Austin Fisher will contribute right away.
“If we can score we have a chance to be competitive on most nights because we are one of the bigger teams in the North Country,” said Natti. “The offense will improve as players get comfortable, it’s just a matter of how long it takes.”
Hinsdale caught the attention of the rest of the division a year ago when they blew out Colebrook on the road on opening night. An up & down regular season ended in Newmarket in the first round.
Head coach Carl Anderson will go from a team dominated by big men to a guard-oriented attack in 2019. “We have a lot of team speed so I’d like to play to that strength,” said Anderson. “Both of our starting guards can get the ball to the basket so we want to push the tempo and allow them to do that.”
Danny Roberts returns to the Pacers backcourt along with point guard Ryan LeClair. “They both rebound well for guards, Ryan, in particular, is not afraid to mix it up in the paint.”
Dylan Harden, Arth Patel, and Dan Tatro are all expected to contribute right away to Anderson’s team. “I like the energy of that group.”
Garrett Carrier has shown the ability to knock down the mid-range jumper for a team that might have better chemistry on the floor than they did a year ago. “I love this group,” said their head coach. “Chemistry-wise, we’ll play better as a group and we will share the basketball.”
The numbers may be down for a year at Profile where second-year head coach Justin Stroup only has 12 players in the program this season, but the pieces seem to fit and Stroup hopes the Patriots can surprise some teams along the way to March. “I love this group, I’ve coached a lot of them since they were in middle school so there is a good connection. “
Jordan Brusseau is the lone returning starter from a quarterfinal team of a year ago. Brusseau did whatever Stroup needed last season, this season his head coach needs him to lead. “He’s one of the leaders of this team and someone who I think can play very well if he has confidence. He deferred a lot with the group of seniors (seven of them) last year but this season it’s about him stepping up.”
Stroup expects to get rebounding from Connor Ash, who was the 3rd leading rebounder on the team a year ago, while Garrett Ledoux will run the point for the Patriots. “He needs to adjust to the speed of the varsity game but it won’t all be on him,” said Stroup. “We feel like we have a couple of players that can play the one (point guard) for us.”
Quinton Paradise might be the team’s best shooter while Noah Boyer had a very good off-season and will contribute right away. “A player like Noah brings a lot of energy to the game and that’s what we’ll need,” said Stroup. “We’re really going to emphasize pace & pressuring the basketball.”
They are pushing the re-set button at Lin-Wood where former Belmont & Nute head coach Scott Currier takes over the program. “Ten out of the twelve players on our roster are either freshman or sophomores so we’re really treating this season as a clean slate. There are going to be a lot of challenges for us as a team, especially one as inexperienced as we are.”
Zach Raymond is one of the few upperclassmen on the team and will be a key contributor from Day 1 while sophomore Jordan Stevens is a player to watch. “Jordan is a really good athlete and has good size as well. He’s taken up the game late but has really improved already.”
Sophomore Max LeBlanc will also start right away (“He worked very hard over the summer,” said Currier) and John Perry, a freshman, will get a chance to play right away at point guard. “We are young but we have some strong kids who have shown some toughness early on so that’s really encouraging. For us, it’s about getting better week to week.”
At Portsmouth Christian, it’s a mix of upperclassman (5 seniors) and inexperience. Head coach Derek Summers knows what he is getting from the seniors, what he gets from the rest of the roster will help determine how far his team goes. “We’re going to lean heavily on the seniors and hope the younger players improved week to week,” said Summers.
AJ Chase is a returning starter who along with Will Holman & 6’5 Bryson Lutz will lead the way for the Eagles. “We want to get Bryson the ball on the low block but he has also shown he’s capable of stepping out and hitting shots from the mid-range.”
PCA was dealt a tough blow when starting point guard Thomas Mlynarski was injured during the team’s run in the Division IV soccer tournament. The hope is they will have their point guard back by mid-January but until then it’s about the seniors leading the way early on. “The kids are working hard and we certainly have the ability to get back to the tournament.”
Pre-Season Player of the Year
Isaiah Rose of Newmarket
Pre-Season First Team All-State
Isaiah Rose of Newmarket
Danny Kubkowski of Littleton
Hunter Bullock of Epping
Max Byron of Derryfield
Jared Woodman of Newmarket
Second Team All-State
Andrew Normandin of Mount Royal
Simon Cote of Newmarket
Parker Briggs of Littleton
Josh Wheelock of Groveton
Peyton Rivers of Epping
Players to watch: Logan Ebare of Farmington, Dylan Bocash of Pittsfield, Danny Roberts of Hinsdale, Brady Grzanna & Sean Shisko of Sunapee, Billy Green & Conner Maccini of Woodsville, Carson Rancourt of Colebrook, Max Karpawich of Derryfield, Jordan Brusseau of Profile, AJ Chase of PCA & Todd Krol-Corliss of Littleton.
We will have full coverage of Groveton at Epping on Friday night. We’ll bring you all the highlights & the post-game interview with the entire wining team.
Coming tomorrow: Division III