Girls’ basketball preview: Team chemistry, offense are a focus for Falcons under new coach Emerson

The Concord Christian girls’ basketball team poses with the championship plaque after winning the Division III title on Feb. 25 at Keene State College’s Spaulding Gymnasium. After winning the D-IV title in 2022 and the championship in their inaugural D-III season last year, the Lady Kingsmen look to continue their streak in D-II.

The Concord Christian girls’ basketball team poses with the championship plaque after winning the Division III title on Feb. 25 at Keene State College’s Spaulding Gymnasium. After winning the D-IV title in 2022 and the championship in their inaugural D-III season last year, the Lady Kingsmen look to continue their streak in D-II. Courtesy photo

Pembroke forward Annelise Dexter shoots over Merrimack Valley defenders during a preliminary round tournament game on March 1. Dexter – an All-State First Team pick last season – is back to lead the Spartans.

Pembroke forward Annelise Dexter shoots over Merrimack Valley defenders during a preliminary round tournament game on March 1. Dexter – an All-State First Team pick last season – is back to lead the Spartans. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

Pembroke junior Annelise Dexter fights for positioning against Bow senior Alex Larrabee in last year’s Division II quarterfinal on March 4. Dexter – an All-State First Team selection – is back to lead the Spartans again this season.

Pembroke junior Annelise Dexter fights for positioning against Bow senior Alex Larrabee in last year’s Division II quarterfinal on March 4. Dexter – an All-State First Team selection – is back to lead the Spartans again this season. CHIP GRIFFIN / Photos By Chip

Sidney Roberge tries to keep the ball in bounds for Bow with Laconia’s Madeline Mousseau trying to swipe it away during last year’s Division II semifinal game on March 8. Roberge is one of two returning starters for the Falcons this season.

Sidney Roberge tries to keep the ball in bounds for Bow with Laconia’s Madeline Mousseau trying to swipe it away during last year’s Division II semifinal game on March 8. Roberge is one of two returning starters for the Falcons this season. Chip Griffin / Photos By Chip

Concord Christian players Taylor Rioux (left) and Lilli Carlile surround Stevens guard Bella Bovell during the second half of last year’s Division III semifinal at Bow High School Feb. 24. After winning D-IV and D-III titles in back-to-back seasons, Concord Christian will look to continue that trend in D-II.

Concord Christian players Taylor Rioux (left) and Lilli Carlile surround Stevens guard Bella Bovell during the second half of last year’s Division III semifinal at Bow High School Feb. 24. After winning D-IV and D-III titles in back-to-back seasons, Concord Christian will look to continue that trend in D-II. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

Four Hopkinton players collapse to defend against Conant forward Emma Tenters during the first half of last season’s Division III semifinal at Bow High School on Feb. 24. The Hawks will be led by new head coach Mike Mahoney in the 2023-24 season.

Four Hopkinton players collapse to defend against Conant forward Emma Tenters during the first half of last season’s Division III semifinal at Bow High School on Feb. 24. The Hawks will be led by new head coach Mike Mahoney in the 2023-24 season. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

The Bow High School girls’ basketball celebrates a 34-31 victory over Conant at Manchester Central High School on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022 in the Doug Chandler Holiday Tournament championship game. The Falcons went on to finish runner-up in the Division II championship.

The Bow High School girls’ basketball celebrates a 34-31 victory over Conant at Manchester Central High School on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022 in the Doug Chandler Holiday Tournament championship game. The Falcons went on to finish runner-up in the Division II championship. Courtesy

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL and DAN ATTORRI

Monitor staff

Published: 12-06-2023 4:22 PM

Modified: 12-06-2023 8:21 PM


About nine months removed from its devastating 38-37 loss to Kennett in the Division II championship game, Bow girls’ basketball looks to move forward from its 20-1 season with new coach Cassidy Emerson.

Emerson, who graduated Concord High School in 2015 and played basketball at Plymouth State, hopes to build on the recent successes of a program that’s reached the championship game each of the last two years.

To make a third straight appearance – and come out on top – she’ll be relying on a core group of seniors to lead the way: Juliette Tarsa, Sidney Roberge, Kendall Murray and Kate Labrecque. But up and down the roster, Emerson added, the group has lots of experience playing together.

“We don’t struggle with the team chemistry,” she said. “I think right now, we’re learning to work as a group, we’re working off each other’s strengths, we’re getting to know each other on the court. They work hard every single day in practice. They’re such a coachable group. We’re at the beginning stages of what we’re going to be, but we’ve already seen progress from tryouts, so we’re very impressed with where we are right now, and we’re very excited to see how strong this group can be.”

Last season, the Falcons hung their hat on defense, holding teams to an average of just under 26 points per game. While Emerson said that should still be a strength of the team, she’s aiming to focus more on the team’s offense as the regular season approaches.

“Defensively, the girls are intense,” she said. “We work well together, we communicate. Offensively, we’re trying to involve our post players a lot. We don’t have a ton of height, but we have the ability to get the ball down low, and we have girls that are strong down there, so we really want to work the ball in as much as we can. We do have the shooters on the outside, so we want to be a threat both internally and along the 3-point line, so that’s really what our primary focus is on right now.”

Bow opens the season hosting John Stark next Tuesday night.

CONCORD

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Division: I

Coach: Rob Darrell (2nd year)

Last year: 11-9, reached quarterfinals.

Returning starters: Delaney Duford, sr.; Whitney Valliant, sr.; Sofia Payne, sr.; Maddie Kelly, sr.

Outlook: The Crimson Tide won five games in a row towards the end of last season to secure a playoff spot and Concord challenged top-seeded and eventual champions Bishop Guertin in the quarterfinals.

“Goals for the season (are to) get better as a team all around as the season progresses and get into the final four for playoffs. We have a lot of work to do, but I believe this group will work hard and give a great chance.”

The Tide has the pieces to do it with four returning starters, including Duford, an All-State Honorable Mention.

Teams to beat: Bishop Guertin, Pinkerton, Bedford, Portsmouth.

BISHOP BRADY

Division: II

Coach: Sal Alosa (4th year)

Last year: 7-12, reached prelims.

Top returners: Payton Bryson, jr.; Mia Wagner, sr.; Claire Jackson, jr.; Morgan Casey, sr.; Abigail Tyrell, so.

Top newcomers: Stella Prieto, fr.; Maia Dow, fr.; Emma Burnett, so.

Outlook: “We are an older team this year that has learned a lot over the past few (seasons) and are now ready to make the jump,” Alosa said. “We are excited to see what this group can do together and how they grow throughout the year. This group has showed us a lot this preseason and we are looking forward to Dec. 12 when we open up our season.”

Teams to beat: Hanover, Milford, John Stark.

COE-BROWN

Division: II

Coach: Joe Vachon (10th year)

Last year: 4-14, did not make tournament.

Returning Starters: Kalina Kasprzak, sr.; Jennifer Noni, jr.; Hannah Meehan, jr.

Top newcomers: Madison Taylor, so.; Emma Lapierre, fr.

Outlook: The Bears had a tough 2022-23 campaign, but have strong senior leadership to help overcome a lack of experience.

“Last year this group went through some growing pains and key injuries,” Vachon said. “The strengths of this group is it’s strong senior leadership and desire to get better everyday. Their weakness is varsity floor experience and time playing with one another.”

Teams to beat: Pembroke, Oyster River, Laconia, Hanover.

CONCORD CHRISTIAN

Division: II

Coach: Rebecca Carlile (5th year)

Last year: 21-1, D-III champions.

Returning starters: Taylor Rioux, sr.; Kayden Rioux, so.; Emma Smith, so.; Kate Smith, so.; Lilli Carlile, jr.

Top newcomers: Ireland Baines, jr.

Outlook: After winning the Division IV championship in 2022 and the D-III title in 2023 with just seven players on the roster, Concord Christian Academy is moving on up to D-II. CCA knows the competition will be tough, but the Kingsmen return all five starters, including leading scorers Emma Smith and Lilli Carlile, leading rebounder Kate Smith and starting point guard Kayden Rioux.

“We are looking forward to facing some new opponents in Division II this year,” coach Carlile said. “Division II is a conference with a great reputation of quality coaches and we are looking forward to the challenge. Over the past two years we have had some competitive games against Division IV’s Woodsville, and Division III’s Conant and Monadnock, who always produce some well-coached teams. Our girls are excited for the opportunity to find some new competition in II. We have nine players who love the game.”

JOHN STARK

Division: II

Coach: Tiffany Lewis (2nd year)

Last year: 9-10, reached prelims.

Returning starters: Eleanor Girardet, sr.; Abby Duclos, sr.; Avery Geaumont, sr.; Izabel Korbet, sr.; Hayleigh Dennis, sr.

Top newcomers: Kylie Dinan, fr.; Lexi Korbet, fr.

Outlook: The Generals return five senior starters, including Second Team selection Girardet and Honorable Mention Duclos, and are hoping to improve on last year’s .500 regular season and early tournament exit.

“This team has been working extremely hard in the preseason and I cannot wait to see them play when the season starts,” Lewis said. “We are looking to improve on our 9-9 season from this past year.”

Teams to beat: Laconia, Hanover, Milford.

MERRIMACK VALLEY

Division: II

Coach: Bob McNutt (7th year)

Last year: 11-8, reached prelims.

Top returners: Kayla Smith, jr.; Annika Horne, sr.; Izzy Navoy, so.; Sarah Navoy, sr.; Syd Bailey, jr.; Taiylor Stinson, jr.

Top newcomers: Jada Lucas, so.; Abby Thompson, so.

Outlook: “We have a lot of athleticism and more size than we have had in the past,” McNutt said. “We have some guick guards that can play and some inside presence with Kayla (Smith) and Sarah (Navoy). I feel we can pressure teams with our quickness and utilize the athletes we have in transition. Strong group, and if they come together as a team, we will be tough.”

Smith and Horne are the only two returning starters on the roster, and the Pride’s depth will be tested against tough opposition.

“We are asking girls this season to play a lot of minutes, so we will see how that goes,” McNutt said. “We play a tough schedule which is great for us. It will test our toughness. I think we can compete with anyone in Division II and I think the league is wide open.”

Teams to beat: Pembroke, Laconia, Hanover, John Stark

PEMBROKE

Division: II

Coach: Steve Langevin (4th year).

Last year: 14-6, reached quarterfinals.

Returning starters: Annelise Dexter, sr., F; Taylor Renna, sr., G; Kaitlin Arenella, jr., F; Kate Stephens, so., G.

Top newcomers: Anne Phillips, fr., G.

Outlook: The Spartans made great strides last year as a young team and have four starters back, another year experienced, including Dexter, an First Team All-State forward who is just 100 points shy of 1,000.

“This year we are still a pretty young team, but have gained much experience from last season,” Langevin said. “Obviously we have Annelise, who is one of the top players in our division, but we also have a lot of depth. We feel we may be able to go eight or nine deep with each of the girls having something different they bring to the team.”

Teams to beat: Hanover, Kennett, Laconia, Concord Christian, Milford

BELMONT

Division: III

Coach: Mike Andriski (4th year)

Last year: 5-13, reached prelims.

Returning starters: Darci Stone, sr., G; Madelyn Besegai, jr., G.

Top newcomers: Maddy Carrier, jr., F; Quinn Jewell, sr., F; Bailey Perkins, fr., G; Megan Divers, jr., F; Molly Repos, jr., F; Madison Smith, jr., G; Lyla McSheffrey, fr., F.

Outlook: “We need to be more consistent on the offensive side for all 32 minutes and take off the ball,” Andriski said. “The team has worked hard so far to get better and are trending in the right direction. With seven new players it may take awhile to get where we need to be, but I am confident we will. Goal is to get better every day and see where that takes us.”

Teams to beat: Kearsarge, Winnisquam, Stevens, St. Thomas, Hopkinton, Conant.

HOPKINTON

Division: III

Coach: Mike Mahoney (1st year)

Last year: 14-5, reached semifinals.

Top returners: Lizz Holmes, sr.; Shaylee Murdough, jr.; Sydney Westover, jr.

Top newcomers: Katie Brown, sr.; Keegan St. Cyr, sr.

Outlook: Mahoney takes over a Hawk program that graduated eight seniors from last year’s semifinal team. Murdough was a Second Team guard as a sophomore and is back to lead Hopkinton, while Brown and St. Cyr step on the floor after two years away from the basketball court. Sophomores Zoe Bishop, Paige Boudette and Helen Yeaton lead a group of six underclassmen providing depth to the Hawk bench.

Teams to beat: Kearsarge, Monadnock, Stevens, Winnisquam

KEARSARGE

Division: III

Coach: Ed Tenney (2nd year, previously coached 1990-2008).

Last year: 12-8, reached quarterfinals.

Returning starters: Tessa Marinello, sr., F; Adara Boucher, sr., F; Ava Shapiro, sr., G; Jada Kendrigan, jr., G.

Top newcomers: Ociee Ilg, so., G/F

Outlook: The Cougars bring back an experienced starting lineup led by co-captains Marinello, a 6-1 Honorable Mention forward, and Boucher, with Shapiro, Kendrigan and Ilg rounding out the starting five.

“The team will feature a strong defense complimented by a transition offense,” according to Tenney.

Teams to beat: Winnisquam, Hopkinton, St. Thomas.

WINNISQUAM

Division: III

Coach: Mark Dawalga (4th year).

Last year: 12-6, reached quarterfinals.

Top returners: Caidyn Carter, so.; Bella Sargent, sr.; Triniti Carter, sr.; Victoria Kelly, sr.; Vanessa Power, sr.; Sophia Braun, sr.; Lauren MacDonald, sr.

Top newcomers: Aeva Dessalines, jr.; Jaelynn Treamer, so.

Outlook: With almost everyone from last year’s squad back in action and just one starter graduated, the Bears have high goals for this season. Winnisquam has a strong group of seniors who have played together for four years under Dawalga. All-State First Teamer MacDonald, Kelly and Caidyn Carter will lead the offense, while Triniti Carter, Sargent and Power will lead the defense. Braun returns after missing a season due to injury. Dessalines and Treamer add depth to the lineup.

“We do have experience which will really help,” Dawalga said. “After making it to the quarterfinals last year, this group knows what it takes everyday to try and get back. I really believe in this group. The key for us will be to peak at the right time. Every night will be a challenge, but we are very excited to start the year.”