Division IV boys’ basketball preview: Concord Christian looks to keep momentum
Published: 11-30-2023 2:48 PM
Modified: 11-30-2023 9:06 PM
“Whenever there’s opportunity, there’s excitement.”
Those are the words of Greg Farland, the new head coach of the Concord Christian Academy boys’ basketball team. And there are certainly a lot of opportunities for the Kingsmen players who rode the bench last season.
Seven seniors who were key in leading CCA to back-to-back final four appearances and a spot in the 2021-22 championship game graduated. Last year’s Division IV Player of the Season, Brode Frink, transferred to Proctor Academy.
Farland is taking over for former coach Eric Heizer, who led the Kingsmen to unprecedented heights in the program’s history in his three years at the helm. The bench players were there to witness it all. Now, it’s their turn.
“There’s been a lot of excitement,” Farland said. “Kids see there are a lot of openings there. They’re a real tight-knight group of guys. They’ve very coachable, eager to learn.”
Without star players like 6-foot-4 forward/guard Frink, who dropped 48 points in last year’s thrilling 86-84 double overtime loss to Holy Family in the semifinals, or Isaac Jarvis, the 6-7 center and 2021-22 D-IV Player of the Year now playing at Gordon College, the emphasis for the Kingsmen will be on speed and ball movement.
“We don’t have a lot of size,” Farland said. “We have a lot of guys who are quick, fast, tenacious, and they can shoot the three. They can drive. We’re going to have to be playing an up-tempo style and run-and-gun.”
The Kingsmen graduated all five starters from last season but return senior Isaac Bowers, the only true big on the CCA roster (he was listed at 6-5 in last year’s tournament).
“He’s dramatically improved over last year,” Farland said. “That’s been a bright spot.”
Bowers and guard Noah Lockhart are the two only seniors on the roster, while junior guards Jaden Young and Logan Duffy, and junior wing TJ Charbono are all returning players who will play key roles in the back court.
Junior newcomer Isaac Kirby provides some needed length and will be key in rebounding, and junior transfer Mike Wang will also see some minutes.
Four freshmen round out the roster.
“It’s a young team because they didn’t have a lot of minutes behind the seven seniors who graduated,” Farland said. “But they can play. They’re high energy and anxious to compete.”
Concord Christian tips off on Friday night at Portsmouth Christian, the first day of competitions on the NHIAA winter calendar.
The Pittsfield girls host Portsmouth Christian on Friday night, while the other area D-IV basketball programs – Pittsfield boys, Franklin boys and Franklin girls – start their campaigns on Tuesday.
A preview of Franklin and Pittsfield’s basketball teams is below:
Coach: David Bedard (fifth year).
Last year: 8-11, reached play-in game.
Returning starters: Zeke McCoy, sr., G; Jack Van Polen, sr., F; Harrison Kaplan, jr., G/F.
Top newcomers: Nathan Holmes, so., G; Cole Johnson, jr., F; Grayson McLaughlin, sr., G/F; Matt Nason, jr., C.
Outlook: The Golden Tornadoes made their first tournament appearance in six years with the No. 17 seed and a spot in the play-in game, and Franklin has aspirations of a deeper playoff run this year.
“We come into the new season with a lot of optimism,” Bedard said. “After building the program up the past couple years and finally making it back to the playoffs last season, we are hoping to keep that momentum going. We’ve set a goal for ourselves to try to get a top-eight seed so we can host a playoff game in February. We believe every game on our schedule could be competitive, and our record will depend on how much we continue to grow and gel as a team.”
Franklin has the pieces to make that run happen. McCoy is a three-year starting point guard who could reach 1,000 points this season if he stays healthy. An All-State Honorable Mention selection last year, McCoy is one of the best athletes in the division. Kaplan will play a larger role in scoring points this season, while Van Polen provides some size. Holmes, Johnson, McLaughlin and Nason all saw time on the varsity floor last year and are stepping into more prominent roles this season.
Teams to beat: Woodsville, Littleton, Profile.
Coach: Jay Darrah (22nd year).
Last year: 11-8, reached prelims.
Top returners: Justin Rivera, sr., G; Brayden Pelletier, jr., G.
Top newcomers: Elias Gates, jr.; Jared Landry, jr.; Dylan Mills, sr.; Cameron Witham, so.
Outlook: The Panthers returned to the playoffs after going 1-17 two years ago. But five seniors from last year’s team graduated, leaving Pittsfield with very little varsity experience. Pelletier missed the first half of last season with an injury but is back to lead the Panther backcourt, along with Rivera. Besides those two in the guard positions, “we are still working on filling the rest of the spots and working on who fits best where,” Darrah said. “What we lack in experience we make up with hustle. We just need to figure out how to turn that hustle into some baskets. … We are going to struggle early, but it’s about getting better as the season goes along. That’s the focus.”
Teams to beat: Profile, Littleton, Derryfield, Portsmouth Christian, Holy Family.
Coach: Mark Dionne (third year).
Last year: 8-11, reached prelims.
Returning starters: Kourtney Kaplan, fr.; Lily Cornell, fr.; Savaughna Slocum, jr.
Outlook: The Golden Tornadoes made massive improvements last season, reaching the playoffs for the first team in eight years and quadrupling their win total from a 2-16 season in 2021-22. Kaplan, one of three returning starters, earned All-State Honorable Mention as an eighth grader and led Franklin with 14.5 points per game. The Tornadoes have no seniors on their eight-player roster, but seven of the eight were on the varsity team last year.
“The three returning starters will have to step up, and we look to build on last year’s success of making playoffs with the hopes of going deeper into the playoffs this year.” Dionne said.
“The girls are working hard together, and the returners are ready to step up after having played together through the summer. Our biggest weakness will be the lack of players and the young squad, but they make up for it with toughness and determination.”
Coach: Logan LaRoche (third year).
Last year: 2-16, did not make tournament.
Top returners: Addison Clark, jr.; Sydney Provencal, sr.; Sam Carney, sr.; Ashley Clark, so.; Chelsee Chagnon, eighth grade.
Outlook: The Panthers only won two games last season, but this was a JV-only program two years ago. Now, with a young squad that already has some varsity experience, “The playoffs are realistic to aim for this year,” according to LaRoche.
Addison Clark saw a lot of minutes last season and will be moving into the point guard role, as well as serving as one of the team captains. Provencal and Carney will both be more vocal on the floor this season and help Clark control the tempo of the game, something that will be key for the Panthers this season. Both players were also key in developing chemistry on the floor as Pittsfield learned to play at the varsity level. One of the most improved players on the team is Ashley Clark.
“She has a good-looking jump shot,” said LaRoche. “I am excited to see her on the perimeter and post. She will defend multiple positions, she rebounds well. I am excited to see her growth.”
Eighth grader Chelsee Chagnon saw time on the varsity court last year as a seventh grader and is “someone who will catch people’s attention with how polished she is,” according to LaRoche.
“With the way these girls are engaged and working and dedicated to getting better, there is no doubt in my mind we can make a run at a playoff spot.”