Tuesday, September 13, 2011

End of Summer Girls Basketball Updated Power Rankings

Summer basketball is over. And with that, we update our team Power Rankings. The rankings were updated for boys basketball a couple weeks ago, and even though it's football season now we are releasing our updated girls rankings now. They will then be updated again at the end of the fall. Starting next week we will also be bringing back our weekly Football Power Rankings article.

Division I

The Favorite
1. Winnacunnet...not much of a debate here. The Warriors have won 5 straight championships and 77 consecutive games. They return 3 starters, 4 of their top 6 players and 8 girls off last year's team. 6 of those 8 returning players are seniors, including my Division I preseason Player of the Year Kirsten O'Neil, potential all-state players Anna Sullivan and Carly Gould, and sharpshooter Aviana Morrison. Jacqui Lewis, Michaela Withee, Alexa Mutch and Melissa McLeod are also returning varsity players. They're a very unselfish group, they have excellent ball movement on offense and a 3/4 court and full court press that forces turnovers and wears teams down. It's hard to argue with anyone picking the 'Beattie Bunch' to win a 6th title in a row.

Other Contenders
2. Londonderry...How is it that the Lancers can graduate their entire starting lineup and STILL be ranked #2? Well, they return a pair of guards (Aliza Simpson and Lindsey Bolduc) who came off the bench last year but would have both started for pretty much any other team in the state, they had the best JV team in the state last year (including players like Kirsten Enwright, Jamie King, Maeve Holland, Elisabeth Caron, Devon Hickey and Katherine Mary) they have a legendary head coach (John Fagula) and one of the state's top incoming freshmen (Casey Evans-Driscoll). This is a deep team, they're fast, they have good size and they're fundamentally sound.

3. Manchester Memorial...Memorial made headlines over the summer when they won the SNHU Summer Slam Tournament, defeating Londonderry in the semis and Souhegan in the final. They return 3 starters, including first team all-state candidate and match-up nightmare Amra Elezovic, junior point guard Allie Hartford (who's started every game since she was a freshman) and wing player Ari Dimou. Add in junior forward Danielle Fletcher and athletically gifted freshman Peace Kabari and you have a very talented starting 5. They have plenty of offensive firepower and they're also very tough defensively. When these 5 are all on the same page Memorial can play with anybody.

4. Bishop Guertin...I actually wouldn't be surprised if BG ended up being the #2 team in the division based on talent. But before moving them up too much I would like to first see how they're able to gel with all of the new faces. You have a new coach (Scott Hazelton), a forward who is transferring to the school from Nashua North (Paige Parkinson), plus an incoming freshman standout who also hasn't played with the rest of the team very much at all yet (Megan Kerutis). Then you also have one of the returning players (Jamie Sherburne) who is only going to be a sophomore and missed most of the summer with a wrist injury. That's a lot of moving parts. How well the new pieces fit with the old ones a.k.a. returning players Meghan Green (another first team all-state candidate), Madison Gibbs, Nikki Hayner and Cassie Dauer, will go a long ways to determining how good this team will be. But there's no question that if this team is able to gel together and all of the pieces fit well they have the talent, the size and the depth to win A LOT of games.

Other Teams to Watch Out For
5. Alvirne...last season the Broncos had their best season in a long time, advancing to the D-I semis where they came THIS close to knocking off Londonderry. And while they lose 5 players off that team including DJ Purcell and Katie Donovan, there is still enough returning talent for them to once again be a tough squad. 3 starters are back, and so his head coach Steve Tracy who did a great job in his first year at the helm of leading the team and getting them to play hard and as a unit. The returning starters are point guard Sandi Purcell and forwards Taylor Carbone and Maya Desfosses. All 3 are talented players and potential all-state selections. Also look for sophomore sharpshooter Veronica Moceri to take on a larger role at the 2 guard spot. Purcell and Moceri also play their AAU ball together with the NE Shooting Stars. They'll only be sophomores but look for them to form one of the division's top back courts for each of the next 3 years. Up front Desfosses and Carbone are both seniors. Carbone is a 3 year starter and Desfosses has gotten a lot better over the summer. Jessica Underwood is another senior forward who is back to provide depth, and sophomore Brittney Lambert is an athletic wing player who will also compete for minutes. Alvirne took Memorial to overtime before falling in a tight one in the last week of the Memorial Summer League.

6. Pinkerton...another team that even though they lose some quality seniors they have a good coach and a good system in place that has worked for years. Pinkerton always seems to be a contender, and it's not just because they're the state's biggest school enrollment-wise. It's because they have a good program. It also doesn't hurt that they return 10 players off last year's varsity team. Replacing the back court trio of Katherine Harris, Danielle Kimball and Michelle Reid will be tough, but there are a number of talented young guards ready to step in. You have returning players Sam Breslin and Colleen Fortier, plus Kayla Stacy who transfers to Pinkerton from Memorial, plus Elizabeth Laing who hopes to have a full recovery from the torn ACL injury which cost her all of last season. The team's strength however, might be their two 6'0" forwards in Sarah Goodwin and Mariah Bonneau who are both seniors. Val Martin could make an impact up front as a freshman, and other returners who could make an impact are guards Brandi Bonneau, Lindsey Pellerin and Corina Moore.

7. Dover...I liked what I saw from Dover at the SNHU Summer Slam last month. They just barely lost to Londonderry at that event, and even though the Lancers were missing Aliza Simpson Dover was also missing a key player in Julia Wise. While most teams out there are searching for an identity, the Green Wave already have one. They're a blue collar, defensive minded, physical team. They will play low scoring games, they'll box out and defend with the best of them. And they'll get enough scoring by moving the ball and working as a team. Look for senior point guard Allie Mahan to be the go-to player on offense (she's also one of the state's best defenders) and for her to get help from Wise and a slew of other returning players.

8. Trinity...Trinity is another team with a strong core of returning players. Senior Lia Nawn is poised to have an all-state season, and she'll be supported by returning starter Hannah Willard, plus returning varsity players Meredith Farrell, Lizzie Meehan, Lauren Seitz and Haley Cirka. Nawn can shoot the lights out and Willard is an excellent defender. The Pioneers have some skilled guards, but their weakness will definitely be inside. Look for them to try and play an up tempo game, run and fast break to make it harder for opponent's to take advantage of their lack of size.

9. Keene...Keene only went 4-14 last year, so by me putting them here I am definitely saying that they're a team on the rise. The Blackbirds return first team all-state candidate Ashley Clough as well as Cailey White and Allison Yeaw. All three of them have good size and skill. Keene returns 7 other girls to the varsity team as well.

10. Manchester Central...Central had a strong summer, and has most of their key players back from last year's team. Ashley Giampetruzzi, Shannon O'Neil and Samantha Gauthier all shot the ball well during summer league action, while Katherine Johnson, Zoe Stamoulis and Megan Cleary give the team an inside presence.

11. Nashua North...North lost a couple of key seniors (Lauren Wingate and Tori Sousa), and also had another starter transfer to Bishop Guertin (Paige Parkinson). But they do have some solid players coming back, including seniors Katelyn Roeser and Emily Boots who are returning starters. Also back are juniors Genevieve Gosselin and Summer Choate. Also look for Choate's younger sister Taylor to compete for playing time as a freshman.

12. Timberlane...Timberlane is another team with a strong program, and always seems to be a tough squad for anyone to handle. Head coach Bruce Johnson consistently gets the most out of his girls, and they typically have hard nosed players who get after it on defense. Look for returning starters Emily Rose and Rebecca MacDougall to lead the way for the Owls this year. Rose is a good inside-outside threat and MacDougall is a very tough defender.

Division II
Winnacunnet is the clear cut best team in the state. After that however, you could make the argument that the top 5 teams in D-II are as good if not better than any other team in D-I.

The Favorites
1. Souhegan...the Sabers went undefeated en route to the D-II championship last season. They return Jane White, who is probably the best player in the NHIAA regardless of division. The senior point guard carried the team to the title last year and will be playing her college ball at Division II Bentley University. They also return a number of other key players, including a pair of senior 6'0" forwards in Ceara McNamara and Tori Forrest as well as wing players Ashley Tighe and Mickenzee Larrivee. They have the best player, 5 girls who all got A LOT of playing time on an undefeated squad and a coach in Jeremy Faulkner who did a great job keeping them all together. They also showed they could play with the best teams in Division I by giving Memorial a run for their money in the championship game of the SNHU summer Slam despite the fact that they didn't play in a summer league as a team. That makes them the favorite, although they do have 4 good teams breathing down their necks.

2. Lebanon...the Raiders are perennial contenders in D-II, and that will be no different this winter. They only lost 2 games all year last year, with both of them coming at the hands of the undefeated champs Souhegan. The year before that they were undefeated going into the title game, but lost to Kennett in the final. And although they do graduate 3 starters off last year's team the Raiders still have enough talent coming back to make another run at it. Junior forward Trina Scheie is as good a player as any in the state, as she put up 20+ points and 15+ rebounds in both the semis and championship game last year. Senior Colleen Taylor and junior Moriah Morton were also both all-state players last year as well. Taylor had a big game in the first Souhegan game when Scheie was out of the lineup with an injury. Morton is extremely quick and is an excellent defender. Other key players who are back for Lebanon are guards Taylor Friedman and Emily Kehoe, who are both scrappy players capable of making players on both ends of the floor.

3. Bedford...what separates this team is that even though they're a young group (5 of their key players are sophomores) they have more players who play the game year round and play elite level AAU ball than anyone else in the division. Sophomores McKenzie Brown, Ali Glennon and Rachel Collins all play for the Crusader Black team which is one of the top 14U squads in the entire country. Senior Katie Prothro played for the NE Shooting Stars team that for the last 2 years has competed on a national level, and sophomore Bailey Marshall plays for a younger Shooting Stars team that also competes on a national level. Junior guard Maggie McGown and senior forward Niky Marinelli played for a very talented GS Rockettes 16U team, while sophomore forward Haley Driscoll has stopped playing soccer to focus strictly on basketball. Not only do all of these girls play basketball year round, but they've also been playing together for a very long time. With the sophomore class they have you can expect Bedford to be a D-II contender for each of the next 3 years at least. Another senior player for the Bulldogs is Hayley Barnard, and the team also has a new head coach in Sue Thomas who was the assistant under former head coach Scott Sarsfield.

4. Windham...since Windham was a first year varsity program last year that means they return EVERYBODY. And they return everybody from a team that went 11-7 in the regular season, beat Portsmouth on the road in the playoffs before barely losing to the eventual undefeated champs Souhegan in the quarterfinals. They also played together all summer in the Memorial Girls League. Look for senior forward Kerry White to be a first team all-state player, and also look for strong play from the returning starting back court of sophomore Clairee Putnam and junior Kelsey Schiebel, and junior wing player Bernadette Connors. All 4 of those players played on elite level AAU squads, especially White and Putnam who are both in for BIG years. Other key players who are back include senior forward Ashley Adamson, sophomore forward Brianna Angelini and junior guard Amanda Schiebel (Kelsey's twin sister). Not only are their top 7 players all back from last year, but Windham also has one of the state's best incoming freshmen to add to the mix as well in Madalina Jeans. Jeans is a strong, athletic wing player and she played on the same NE Shooting Stars AAU team with players like Jamie Sherburne and Sandi Purcell. New head coach Joe Mason did a great job with this team last year, and now with everyone back you can expect them to be even better.

5. Hollis-Brookline...I wouldn't be surprised if Hollis ends up finishing higher than this. fact is, there is not much at all that separates the top 5 teams. All 5 will be VERY good teams. Hollis' strength is with their senior guards. No other team in the division has a group of senior guards as good as theirs. Katie Stopera, Kelsey Berry, Olivia Gillis and twin sister Jillian Gillis are all fast, they can all handle the ball, they can all shoot it, they can all defend and they've all been playing together for a long time. Ellie Flaum, Kellie Messer and Rachel King are also strong returning players. This is a fast team that can really put points up in a hurry and also gets after it on defense. They are at their best when they get out on the fast break and make plays. However the 2 things that the teams ranked ahead of Hollis have is more depth and more size. Inside Souhegan has Forrest and McNamara, Lebanon has Scheie, Bedford has Brown, Windham has White. So it might be tough at times for Hollis to match up with those teams, since their best players are all either 5'7" or 5'8". That being said, if the Cavaliers are able to sped the game up and negate their opponent's bigs they can beat anybody.

Other Teams to Watch Out For
6. Portsmouth...you can once again expect Portsmouth to be a strong team in D-II. They bring back Markey Flewelling, a senior wing who is a likely all-state player, as well as returning starter Christina Jones and 6th Man Faith Jenkins. Another key player who is back is sophomore guard Phoebe Collins, who started last year while Ali Beauregard was out with an injury. Torieana St. Pierre is a junior forward ready take on a bigger role with the team, her little sister Dominique St. Pierre looks to be an impact player coming up from JV as a sophomore, and Tighe Loch is another sophomore guard who could make an impact, as she was a varsity player last year as a freshman for St. Thomas but is transferring to Portmsouth. 6'2" junior center Alicia Brown could give the Clippers an inside presence if she can continue to develop her game as well. Portsmouth is another team with a new head coach. Eric Chasse stepped down following the season, and has been replaced by former St. Thomas boys coach Dan Parr.

7. Oyster River...the Bobcats graduate the best player in the state last season in 6'1" forward Danielle Walczak (now playing at University of Maine). That's the bad news, the good news though is that they do have 11 returning varsity players, including 4 of their 5 starters. Junior Kelsey Brown and seniors Riley Maynard and Izzy Gorham all have plenty of varsity experience and all look to have big years. Everything ran through Walczak for the last few years, so you know that thos3 3 girls especially are just chomping at the but to show that they can now carry the team. Gorham is one of the state's best defenders, Brown is a match up nightmare since she's 5'11" and can shoot it from the outside and also drive to the basket, and Maynard is a point guard with a high basketball I.Q. - and the daughter of assistant coach Don Maynard, who is also the former boys coach at Oyster River, the school's Athletic Director and a coach with the Crusaders AAU program. Walczak's younger sister Brenna continues to get better (hard to call her a little sister since she's also 6'1"). And another returning player to watch out for is junior forward Eliza MacDonald. Head coach Dave Nichols has been coaching the Bobcats for a long time, including multiple D-II (Class I) championships.

8. Coe-Brown...another team that is more than capable of making some serious noise in the division. The Bears went 8-10 last season, but they return all but 1 player off last year's team and have 7 seniors coming back. Some of the key returning players include seniors Meredith Grady and Kelly Turner. They also have Yvonne Dean-Bailey (played with the Rivals AAU team this spring/summer) transferring in from Portsmouth Christian Academy. New head coach Dave Hartnett has a history of winning. He took the Exeter Hawks AAU team to nationals three straight years, finishing in the top 15 teams in the country all 3 times. You put Hartnett with a team that returns nearly everybody including their two best players and talented incoming transfer and you have a team that could definitely surprise some people.

9. Kennett...they graduate their top 3 players in Allie Wagner, Melissa Frase and Sam Meader, so after winning a title in 2010 and making the semis in 2011 they will definitely fall back to the pack a little this year, there's no question about that. But they do return 5 girls who played key roles on last year's team, with 4 of them being forwards. So there's no question their strength will be in the paint, and new head coach Larry Meader mentioned that when he spoke to the NH Notebook after he was hired. Kaitlin Taylor, Lauren Kidder, Lauren White and Casey Blakely are all back and will all provide the Eagles with a strong inside presence. In the back court look for Jessie Wagner (Allie's little sister) to take over the ball handling duties.

10. Merrimack Valley...MV is another team with plenty of players coming back, as they have 9 returning varsity players. Their all-state player from last year Megan Hardiman has graduated, but watch out for junior guard Jordan Filion and the Mullen sisters Mary and Molly. Head coach Joe Raycraft was the D-II Coach of the Year last season by the NHBCO, leading the Pride to a 16-2 record.

11. Kearsarge...the Cougars bring back 11 girls from last year's team that went 13-5, although they did have a pretty easy schedule. 2 retuning players to watch out for are sophomore guard Morgan Church and senior Brittney Page, who are both potential all-state players this winter.

12. Hanover...Hanover is a strong program, they ALWAYS seem to have a winning team. Last year was supposed to be a down year for them and they still went 11-7. And while they graduated their best player Emma Rosen and 4 other strong senior players they do have enough coming back to once again be a good team. The top returning player is 5'11" senior forward Kate Gautier, who is poised to have an all-state caliber season. She really played well at the North vs. South Clash event back in April, and she'll be supported by other returning players like Asie Makarova.

Division III

The Favorites
1. Bow...Bow will definitely be a handful for anybody they play. They return junior guard Lindsey Nerbonne, who is possibly the division's best player - one D-III coach even voted her as Player of the Year last season, over Brooke Springfield who won the award for the 3rd consecutive year. Returning from an injury that cost her all of last season is 5'11" junior forward Sunday Swett, a player who head coach Bill Vermette says is going to really turn some heads over the next 2 years. Other key players who are also back include seniors Savanna Stanley and Jill Chergey (yes, another Chergey at Bow!), along with juniors Dina Tischofer and Suzanne Barry. That gives the Falcons 5 girls coming back who were all either starters who key players off the bench last year, plus another player in Swett who would have been if she was healthy.

2. Campbell...Campbell lost an early season game last year to Somersworth, but that would be the only game all year they would lose, as the Cougars went 21-1 en route to the championship. They were led all year by their "Big 3" of Kristen Hrubowchak, Becca Arnone and Liz Pettis. Well, only Hrubowchak graduated, which gives Campbell 2 of the best 3 players in the division (with Nerbonne being the other). Add in freshman sharpshooter Hannah Neild who joins Pettis in the back court and you ahve a team that will once again be a contender. All summer long Campbell competes in the Memorial Girls League, and in the fall they play in the Rivier Fall League. So they're constantly playing against the top D-I and D-II teams in the state, so that in the winter time they're ready to steam roll right over their D-III competition. Bow is the only team I can see beating them this year, should be some good games when those 2 square off.

Also Watch Out For
3. Fall Mountain...head coach Curt Dutille continues to do a good job with this program, every year they're right up in there in the standings, even though he never has the high profile, big name players that schools like Conant, Campbell or Bow might have. He gets his girls to play, tough, scrappy, team basketball. Last year they played Conant 3 times, and even though Conant had the 3 best players on the floor in all 3 games (Brooke Springfield, Kim Daniels and Holly Hodgman) Fall Mountain still was RIGHT THERE all three times, and came THIS close to beating the Orioles in the semi-finals. Unfortunately, the Wildcats do graduate 5 of their top 7 players off last year's team, including Monica Torney, Whitney Allen, Molly Sheppard, Erin Maclean and Haley St. Pierre. That's the bad news, the good news however is that they return possibly their 2 best players, in Jess Zabielski and Jenn Allen. Both players are seniors and look to give the team one of the division's best back courts.

4. Newfound...Newfound had a winning team last year, they bring 8 girls back from that team. And they also bring back senior guard Jordan Phinney, who is a likely first team all-state player. Phinney is very athletic, she can play inside or out and when she can really shoot it from the outside.

Division IV

The Favorites
1. Littleton...Littleton is the favorite right now, but there's not much separating them from Derryfield and Moultonborough. What Littleton has is a trio of talented seniors in point guard Julia Winn, forward Alyssa Keefe and wing Taylor Glidden. Winn turned in an impressive performance at the North vs. South Clash event. She is small but very quick, can handle the ball well and also get into the lane and make plays.

2. Derryfield...Ed Lemire has coached this program for 26 years now, and returning to the team is defending D-IV Player of the Year Bethany Kalliel. Kalliel is a 5'9" player who has the size to dominate inside and can also play on the perimeter as well.

3. Moultonbrough...the Panthers actually beat a previously unbeaten Derryfield team in the semis last year. And while they graduate point guard Ashley McDonald and Ashley Fuller, they return star sophomore Morgan Fuller, Megan Uehlein, Kaitlin Slippy and Brittany Hale.

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