LACONIA — Boys Division III basketball got underway in the Lakes Region last night with Laconia — 3-15 last year — opening its season at Winnisquam, which went 9-10 last year.
Inter-Lakes, 15-5 last year, played at Sanborn; Newfound, 1-15 last year, opened at Newport; and Belmont, 16-4 last year, played at Gilford, which went 11-8 last year.
Coaches from area teams have previewed the upcoming season.
Coach: Jim Cilley (4th year)
Last year: 16-4, lost in quarterfinals
Returning starters: Matt Pluskis, sr., G, 6-1; Dylan Gansert, sr., F, 6-2; Tom Pare, sr., C, 6-4
Top newcomers: Aidan Rupp, jr., F, 6-3; Matt Thurber, jr., C, 6-4; Caleb Burke, jr., G, 6-0; Nate Sottak, fr., G, 5-9
Outlook: The Red Raiders lost a lot from last year’s quarterfinal team, including D-III First Team pick Trevor Hunt. But Belmont won’t use roster turnover as an excuse.
“We have to find our identity on both ends of the floor, but I really like this group,” Cilley said. “I think they are dynamic and can score from a lot of spots on the floor. I think come March most teams will not want to see us on their side of the bracket.”
Teams to beat: Berlin, Somersworth, Hopkinton, Monadnock, Campbell, Conant
Coach: Mike Donnell (2nd year)
Last year: 9-10, lost in first round
Returning starters: Jayden Torres, sr., G
Top newcomers: R.J. Smith, sr., F
Outlook: The Golden Tornadoes were dealt a blow in the offseason, losing 6-foot-4 T.J. Laramie to Tommy John surgery, but have a high scorer in Torres (28 points away from his 1,000th career point) and speed from newcomer Smith. Add in senior guard Oliver Lemay, junior forwards Ben Lafrance, Harrison Clark and C.J. Gaslin, and Donnell expects Franklin to be competitive, with the goal to return to the D-III tournament.
Teams to beat: Berlin, Hopkinton, Somersworth
Coach: Chip Veazey (32nd year)
Last year: 11-8, lost in first round
Returning starters: David Hart, Greg Madore
Top newcomers: Adrian Siravo, Logan Bell, and Logan Hughes
Outlook: The Golden Eagles figure to have a balanced offensive attack with regular contributions coming from multiple spots. Veazey expects the defense to improve as his team gains more understanding and experience when it comes to things like closeouts, rotations and communication.
“Our willingness to work to get better has been good, and this will continue to be a key to our continued improvement,” Veazey said.
Teams to beat: “The Lakes Region is always competitive with strong rivalries and upsets will happen all season depending on who gets hot, avoids foul trouble, and of course, injuries,” Veazey said. “Berlin and Somersworth seem to be getting the most talk so far.”
Coach: Mike Rathgeber (8th season)
Last year: 15-5, lost in quarterfinals
Returning starters: Eli Swanson, so., capt., 6-3; Davis Jollimore, sr., capt., 5-11
Top newcomers: Quinn Taylor, jr., 5-10; Jaden Lara, sr., 6-2
Outlook: There will be a lot of new bodies in varsity uniforms for the Lakers, but Rathgeber believes the rebuilding process can be a quick one. “The upcoming players have had successful JV years, so we’re hopeful we can have a quick learning curve and maintain what we accomplished the last three seasons,” Rathgeber said.
Teams to beat: Berlin, Somersworth
Coach: Steve McDonough (7th year)
Last year: 3-15, did not make tournament
Returning starters: Christian Gaspa, sr., 5-9; Jakob Steele, jr., 6-2; Ryan Paiva, jr., 6-3; Ryan Chandler, so., 6-1
Top newcomers: Kelby Brooker, jr., 5-10; Ryan Dee, soph., 5-8; Noah Dickey, jr., 6-1; Caleb Petell, jr., 6-0; Matt Lefebvre, sr., 5-11; Joey Lennon, jr., 6-0; Ryan Hebert, soph., 5-8; Ryan Chiasson, jr., 5-8
Outlook: Last year’s three-win season meant that plenty of the young Sachems got plenty of playing time, and McDonough believes that experience will pay off this season. “Several players have stepped up in the preseason and looked really good in our scrimmages,” McDonough said. “We hope to develop as the year progresses and be a team that can compete on any given night.”
Teams to beat: “Berlin, Somersworth, Gilford, Hopkinton and whoever we play next,” McDonough said.
Coach: Tom Boudreau (2nd season)
Last year: 1-17, did not make tournament
Top returning players: Cam Anderson, sr., G, 5-10; A.J. Muse, sr., G, 6-4; James Shokal, sr., F, 6-2; Mike Doan, sr., C, 5-11; Colby Miles, jr., F, 6-2; Mason Dalphonse, jr., F, 6-1
Top newcomers: Stine Williams, jr., G, 5-10; Justin Shokal, jr., G, 5-7; Tyler Boulanger, fr., F, 6-2; Matt Plummer, fr., F, 6-1
Outlook: The Bears have won just two games in the last three seasons, but they had 33 kids show up for tryouts, so the program is healthy. The team has looked good in preseason at times, but has also made some mistakes that could cost them games once the season starts.
“With a little luck and an injury-free season, I am hoping for these kids to get to six or seven wins and get into the playoffs,” Boudreau said.
Teams to beat: Berlin, Somersworth
Coach: Kevin Dame (7th year)
Last year: 9-11, lost in second round
Returning starters: Avery Hutchinson, sr., 6-0; Kyle Mann, jr., 5-11
Top newcomers: Angelo Glover, jr., 6-0; Evan Judkins, jr., 6-0; Gunnar Horman, so., 6-1; Phil Nichols, fr., 5-7; Garret Mango, fr., 5-7
Outlook: The Bears lost three starters from last year’s team who each played close to 30 minutes a game. Winnisquam also lacks height, but the Bears will try to make up for that by playing team defense and looking for offense in transition.
“Hopefully we can play solid defense and use our team speed to get up and down the court. The players have been working hard in the early season, and we will look to improve every day.”
Teams to beat: Berlin, Somersworth, Gilford, Campbell