By JAY McAREE
BELMONT — There’s a lot of newness surrounding Karri Peterson and the Newfound Bears this winter.
They said goodbye to important pieces in Amanda Johnston and Molly Schiling, returned just two starters from last year’s 20-1 team and are handing their point guard responsibilities over to a freshman learning on the fly.
Through all the changes, though, two constants remain: upperclassmen Ashlee Dukette and Savanna Bony. While the Newfound girls’ basketball team may need some time to get all their new pieces in place, the duo of Bony and Dukette provided the Bears with the reliable scoring options they needed in the season opener on Friday, combining for 56 points in a 72-38 victory over Belmont.
As the reigning Player of the Year in Division III, Dukette picked up where she left off last season. The junior center poured in a game-high 34 points with 19 rebounds, four steals and four assists. Bony, who’s shifting out of the point guard role to open up her scoring, finished with 22 points with five three-pointers and nine rebounds.
“It was kind of what we needed to see and kind of what I expected and hoped for,” said Peterson, who has the Bears off on the right foot as they eye a return to the final four.
“Savanna for the past three years has been up and down where she could get two points, she could get 12 points or six points and we could always live with it,” Peterson said. “I told her the other day that we can’t live with that this year. At least until some of the younger kids start to understand their roles and the pace of the game.”
Bony seems to understand the importance of her role this season.
“Since I know I’m the captain, I know I have a big role and have to be a leader,” Bony said. “So the biggest challenge is just making sure everybody doesn’t freak out. There’s a lot of new players so we have to keep everything under control.”
Bony got the chance to show her leadership early against the Raiders. After Dukette scored the first nine points of the game for the Bears, the team began to lose steam, eventually falling behind, 10-9, late in the first quarter.
That’s when having experienced players pays off.
From down one point to up by 23 at the half, Bony and Dukette led the Bears on a massive 32-8 run over the final 10:25 of the first half. It was a spurt fueled by a pair of three-pointers for Bony, 11 points inside from Dukette and 14 Belmont turnovers.
“Ashlee did a good job. She’s tough down low,” Belmont Coach Mark Dawalga said. “Right now it’s a work in progress for us. I’m proud of the effort. I’m proud that we battled. We have some stuff to work on, and we will.”
The Raiders returned five starters from last year’s 9-10 team, but the rest of the roster comprises newcomers or inexperienced varsity players. Down 58-28 after the third quarter, Dawalga was less worried about the end result and more focused on trying to get the new group on the same page.
“It comes to a point in the game where, if anything else, you start playing possessions,” Dawalga said. “You start trying to teach and, to the kids’ credit, they were able to that. We changed up our defense a few times, played a ton of people tonight, and so again, it’s a learning curve.”
Julianna Estremera led the way for Belmont in the loss with 15 points, while guard Chloe Sottak provided some long-range scoring with 10 points and a pair of three-pointers.
In her varsity debut, Newfound’s Jasmine Peterson finished with six points, five rebounds and two assists. The freshman point guard settled in after a frantic start and will likely be counted on more and more as the season progresses.
“Jasmine is a typical point guard,” Peterson said of her daughter. “She’s unselfish, she wants to get the ball moving and she doesn’t care about the personal points. She’s very good about seeing inside and really seeing the floor so I think she’s going to get some open shots for people.”
Both teams return to action today. Newfound plays host to Gilford in an early-season clash between two programs expected to compete for the D-III crown, while Belmont welcomes in Somersworth.
Franklin 59, Hillsboro-Deering 40
Key players: Franklin – Lauren Marsh (28 points), Ashleigh Magoon (9 points), Ryley Haskins (7 points); Hillsboro-Deering – Fayth Grimes (16 points, 5 rebounds), Morgan Racine (7 points), Halie Hurd (6 points, 4 rebounds), Alex Perez (6 points)
Highlights/key moments: Grimes hit four three-pointers in the first half and the Hillcats trailed by just seven at the break. Marsh took control in the second half, and Franklin’s defensive pressure wore down H-D, which scored only four in the fourth.
Coach’s quote: “Lauren Marsh really stepped up in the second half for us and that was a big difference. Her leadership helped turn the tide.” – Franklin’s J.J. Winters
“We fought for the entire game. We have a lot of young girls who will continue to grow and improve throughout the season. This is the best offensive game we have had in two years, so that is something for us to be proud of tonight.” – H-D’s Tiffany Lewis
Records: Franklin 1-0; H-D 0-1
White Mountains 36, Gilford 29
Key players: Gilford – Shelby Cole (12 points), Hannah Perkins (7 rebounds, 2 steals), Olivia Harris (4 assists, 2 steals), Abby O’Connor (8 points, 6 rebounds, block)
Highlights/key moments: The Golden Eagles opened the season with a long road trip to Whitefield and came home with a loss. Gilford has two more road games (at Newfound Tuesday and at Belmont Thursday), before its home opener against Laconia on Dec. 12.
Records: Gilford 0-1; White Mountains 1-0
Berlin 56, Winnisquam 16
Key players: Berlin – Emily Picard (21 points), Joslyn Lanteigne (21 points); Winnisquam – Megan Goodridge (6 points, great overall effort), Makenzie Snow and Ashley Chamberlain (worked hard, great defense)
Coach’s quote: “We will continue to work on being able to create opportunities on the offensive end of the floor. The team played hard all night, we just need to execute more on offense and defense.” – Winnisquam’s Jordan Richardson
Records: Winnisquam 0-1; Berlin 1-0