For some local basketball teams, the first two weeks of the school season went exactly as planned.
Either way, there’s still plenty of time for things to change – for better or for worse – but here are five early-season observations as we dive into the holidays:
Conant, Fall Mtn. the girls haven’t missed a beat
Maybe some people will take this as a surprise considering how much talent each of these teams has lost in the offseason. Conant lost Elizabeth Gonyea, two-time Division III Player of the Year, while Fall Mountain lost Sophie Bardis, Morgan Beauregard, Erin Brady and Shea Pickering – all huge elements of the Wildcats’ recent success.
But when you look at the talent that each of these teams brought back from last year, this one isn’t exactly shocking.
Conant brings back juniors Brynn Rautiola and Emma Tenters – both of whom were in tears to start the season – as well as seniors Mylie Aho and Teagan Kirby.
Fall Mountain brings back seniors Avery Stewart and Makenna Grillone, while classmates Nora Dunnigan and Emilee Peck are back on the pitch after being absent last season. Not to mention a new generation of freshmen who have seen some hard-hitting minutes before and will likely continue to do so as the season progresses.
Both teams started the year 4-0, with Conant winning each game with an average margin of 44 points and Fall Mountain winning by an average margin of 36 points.
The teams meet in Jaffrey on January 18 in a rematch of last year’s Division III title match. Circle this one on your calendar.
Monadnock boys find their identity
After starting the year with a tough loss to Gilford, the men’s Monadnock (2-2) team showed courage, securing their first win of the season against Conant before seeing their next game against Hillsboro-Deering postponed. .
Even in the team’s loss to Kearsarge – one of the toughest teams in Division III – the Huskies fought hard and kept him in a one-possession game until the last minute when they were forced to foul and Kearsarge put the game aside.
Defense has been the name of the game for the Huskies so far this year. They showed it against Kearsarge and they showed it again against Conant and again against Mascenic, with guys like Anthony Poanessa and Connor Branon making their presence known.
We’re also seeing other guys step up, with Kevin Putnam and Gabe Hill finding their rhythm on the pitch.
Putnam, by the way, just scored a career-high 30 points in the Huskies’ win over Mascenic on Wednesday.
Monadnock coach Jim Hill has insisted on this team’s chemistry since pre-season, which the team have relied on since Game 1.
The Huskies are certainly on an upward trajectory since that season opener, now we’ll wait and see how high the ceiling for this team really is.
Conant boys still working on his attack
The Conant Boys came into the year as No. 5 in nhsportspage.com’s Preseason Top 10 Rankings, but don’t watch him for the first two weeks of the season.
With losses to Mascenic, Monadnock, Mascoma Valley and Hopkinton, the Orioles (1-4) are averaging just 35 points per game in the first five games.
Conant is yet to score 40 points since scoring 56 points in an impressive season opener over Somersworth, stumbling in his last four games before the holiday weekend.
On the flip side, the Orioles have kept their opponents under 45 points in all but one game this year. Having said that, Conant’s defense is ok. Which means the infraction is the problem.
Conant has three solid seniors at Garrett Somero, Malique Motuzas and Jacson Cross, but will live or die by sophomores Manny Hodgson, Jordan Nagle and Lane LeClair.
Not to mention freshmen Jared Nagle and Ben Sawyer who have already seen some important minutes.
Confidence is key for this young Orioles team to start the offense, said Conant coach Eric Saucier.
“We have to work on our confidence first,” Saucier said after Conant’s loss to Monadnock on December 17. “Like I said in the locker room, when [Monadnock senior] Connor Branon catches the basketball, he’s ready to shoot it every time. He knows he’s a good shot. For us right now, it’s about having the trust with every guy that’s on the pitch.
And that will surely come with time, which the Orioles have. Just two weeks into the season, there is a lot of basketball to play and a lot of room to grow.
Despite the change of coach, the boys of ConVal still relevant in D-II
Yes, ConVal made a change of coach last year. No, that hasn’t slowed anything down for the Cougars.
First-year head coach Jason Starr has spent the last three years as the program’s assistant coach, so he knows the system and the players, a luxury few first-year head coaches have.
“It was a really smooth transition,” Starr said.
And it shows on the pitch from the start.
Owen Michaels, Christian Buffum, Austin Knight, Joe Gutwein and Owen McGuire have all battled as ConVal is 3-0, averaging just over 65 points per game.
Starr said he feels he has four or five different players who have All-State potential this year.
“We can score,” he said.
Defense was also a key factor early on for the Cougars, thanks to Buffum and Knight.
“[Buffum] took it to the next level on both sides, ”Starr said. “He’s playing very well for us.
“[Austin] has been awesome, ”added Starr. “He’s playing a very tough defense. “
So what’s the cap for this team? Only time will tell, but it seems the sky is the limit for this group from the start.
Monadnock girls back in the mix
Although Conant and Fall Mountain took much of the attention in Division III women’s basketball early on, the Monadnock girls quietly put together a strong start to the season, sitting at 3-2, with their two losses to the top four preseason teams. (Kearsarge, Conant).
The Huskies are on their defense, something that first-year head coach Bobby Fortes has been working on since day one, and when their offense kicks in they have shooters.
Seniors Grace Furze and Grace LeClair have enjoyed success on both sides of the court throughout the year, but with the emergence of young stars like junior Mea Carroll-Clough and freshmen Bailee Soucia and Cainen Avery. in the last two games the Huskies have certainly shown they can compete.
After facing off against Newport and Campbell at the start of the New Year, Monadnock heads to Fall Mountain on January 10 for a test against Avery Stewart and the undefeated Wildcats. There, the Huskies will have a chance to officially get back to the heart of the matter in the D-III standings.