I did an "Early Look Article" for the boys, now it's time for the girls to get some coverage. Here's an early look at the players and teams to watch out for next season. I know that some of you might be surprised to see this, since I usually cover boys hoops. But I saw some girls games this year. I also some of the top girls players around play over the past couple weeks. First it was my Showcase Event a couple weeks ago. And last Sunday it was the Crusader Jamboree, where virtually every top girls player in New England was on display.
Boys vs. Girls?
This is for anyone who is skeptical about me writing an article on girls hoops...for the class of 2010, there are 6 girls who are scholarship players. On the boys side there are zero. Of the 6 girls who have scholarships, 3 will be playing Division I basketball.
I'm not saying that the boys players in NH are bad. I'm just saying that the girls players in this state deserve more respect.
Now an early look at who the top teams and players will be next year...
Falling from Grace?
For the first time in a long time, there will be no clear cut favorite in this division. Last few years it's been Winnacunnet and then everyone else. The Warriors have won 4 titles in a row. But this year they are hit hard by graduation. They graduate almost their entire team, including 3 time Player of the Year Tiffany Ruffin (Boston College), Emily Siegart (St. Francis) and Lindsey Mahoney.
However, Winnacunnet does have a very good coach in Ed Beattie and a winning culture. You need players to win though, and unfortunately they graduate almost their whole roster. Samantha Corcoran is one player who does return though. She's a solid player and will be a senior next year. Also look out for Megan Hartnett, who will be a junior. The Warrios will likely be a middle of the pack team.
Winnacunnet isn't the only team getting hit hard by graduation. Pinkerton and Central are as well. This past season, those 3 schools had 7 of the top senior players in the state.
With those 3 teams losing so much, it will open the door for other squads to have a chance. Here's a look at the contenders:
The Pioneers will only the #10 seed this past season, but they return virtually their entire roster. Jasmine Theroux is a very good point guard. Other key returners include fellow senior Emilee Marro and junior Lia Nawn. I saw this team play firsthand this past season and I was impressed. Their team was all juniors and a couple of sophomores. Next season they will be very tough.
The Lancers graduate one of the top players in the state, SNHU recruit Callie King. But this team will still be very good. They'll have one of the top seniors in the state in Savannah Butterfield and one of the top juniors in Lindsey Bolduc. Butterfield is a very tough player who can play inside or out and is a very good rebounder. Bolduc is possibly the best sophomore in the NHIAA. She is an excellent ball handler and drives hard to the basket.
BG will likely be the favorites to win Class L in 2011-2012. They're a year a way from really being a dominant team. But next year they will still be a very good basketball team. The Cardinals were a top 8 team last year and have most of the roster returning. Key players will be junior guard Alex Cohen, sophomore forward Meghan Green (sister of Connor), sophomore forward Nikki Hayner and sophomore guard Madison Gibbs (daughter of head coach Kevin Gibbs).
Speaking of top sophomores, you have to mention Memorial's Allie Hartford. Hartford is lightning quick and can shoot the heck out of the ball. Memorial is another team that returns most of their talent from last year. Other top returners will be senior Ashley Gendron, sophomore Danielle Fletcher, junior Taylor Leonard and sophomore Amra Elezovic.
Here are some other teams to watch out for:
Deanna Purcell will be one of the top seniors, she can really shoot the basketball. Katie Donovan and Cassie Larocque also return to give the Broncos a very good trio of seniors.
The Green Wave lose some key players, but they return a very solid backcourt with senior Nichaela Neal and junior Allie Mahan.
There are a lot of players who are question marks on the boys side as far as whether they will go prep or not. One question mark on the girls side is Exeter's Maddy Blais. If Blais returns to Exeter she will likely be the state's top player. But there is a chance that she will transfer to New Hampton and reclassify. If she returns, Exteter should be a pretty good team. The Blue Hawks will also be bringing back senior forward Kayla Janowski, a tough, hard nosed player.
The Little Green were a consensus top 4 team in the league all year this past season. They will not be as good next year. Central graduates two of VERY good players, Christiana Bakolas and Samantha Walker (2 of last year's top 10 seniors). Central will still have a couple of solid guards to keep the team competitive in senior Olivia Lacroix and junior Ashley Giampetruzzi.
The strength of this team will be their inside play. They'll return senior Jenn Bujnowski and junior Kerry White.
Other teams who will be competitive
The Astros are another team that graduates 2 excellent players, in A.J. Guidi and Laura Pierce. They will be a very young team next season. But they will have 4 talented sophomores who will get big minutes in Elizabeth Laing, Sam Breslin, Nicole Yannalfo and Sarah Cote. They'll take their lumps next year, but this could be the team to beat in 2013 when all four of those players are seniors.
Rachael Carter and Kate Cole give the Tomahawks a solid duo. They will be compettive and could certainly finish higher than the #14 seed they were this past season.
Katie Matatall will be a senior and Emily Rose will be a junior. The Owls return the most of their top players and will be an improved team from this year.
Caitlin Ackerman will be one of the division's top players. The 6'0" forward has an excellent all around game. She'll keep this team competitive.
This team will really miss Cammie Warner. Warner has a scholarship to play at Division I Quinnipiac. Look for junior Ashley Clough to take on a larger role on the team.
Kennett = The Favorite
There will be no clear cut favorite in Division I. But not in Division I. Kennett is the favorite, and I expect them to win it again next season. Kennett will be the defending champs, and they'll return their top 2 players in Allie Wagner and Melissa Frase. After seeing these two play firsthand a couple times recently I am not at all surprised that they won the title. These girls can play.
Other teams that will be strong:
Their "Big 3" this past season was Rosa Drummond, Ali Beauregard and Susie French. Next year they will return two of the 3, with only Drummond graduating. Beauregard and French will make for a very nice 1-2 senior punch for the Clippers.
Danielle Walczak won Class I Player of the Year this past season as a junior. She'll be back next year and will be looking to lead the Bobcats past the quarterfinals. They graduate Emily Sherry, who was a very solid player for them last year. Look for Kelsey Brown to take on a bigger role next year in support for Walczak. Brown was one of the top freshmen around last season.
Jane White should be in for a big year next season as a junior. She is a very good shooter. Other returning players that will make this a good team are senior Christan Wojtas (another good shooter), and a pair of solid forwards in Ceara McNamara and Lauren Cordts.
Other players to watch: Katie Cullerot of John Stark, Laconia's Shayla Hubbard and Dina Pitsas of Milford.
Conant = The Favorite
Conant won Class M this past season for both boys and girls. The boys team will not be favored to repeat...the girls team will be. The girls return Brooke Springfield, who will be the best player in the division for a third straight year. In a division as small as this one, if you have a player that is this good and this much better than anyone else you're going to win games.
Another team that will be strong:
Kristen Hrubowchak will be one of the top seniors in the division, and Rebecca Arnone will probably be the division's top junior. The Cougars will challenge Conant, but Conant should win it.