Bears boys knock off top teams in 8-6 run


TILTON — The Winnisquam Regional High School boys' basketball team has waded into league opponents without a single returning starter, mounting an 8-6 record as of Thursday morning.
The end of this week, however, could make a huge difference for the Bears and their playoff prospects. On Thursday night, they took on Gilford (results were not available at press time). And on Friday, the Bears travel to Meredith to face the Lakers.
"We have pretty good balance. We've had four different leading scorers in any given night," said Coach Kevin Dame. "On any night, any of the four could be a top scorer."
Three starting seniors, Thomas Marchese, Logan Morrison and Isaiah Singleton, anchor the team.
"It's been back and forth all season," Dame said, noting the squad started 4-0 but then hit a stretch of tough games.
"We've been battle-tested," he said.
Winnisquam Regional beat Mascoma, a team which went on to beat Belmont and Inter-Lakes.
"We had the ball, down two, at Stevens (in Claremont), we didn't win that one but they're 12-2," Dame said.
The team lost four seniors, so started fresh this season with little depth but ample talent, he said.
Looking at Friday's game in Meredith, Dame said Inter-Lakes senior captain Zach Swanson and his younger brother, freshman Eli, could give the Bears fits.
"The Swanson brothers, particularly the senior, he's just a tough overall player in the middle. He's the straw that stirs the drink," Dame said.
On Tuesday, Winnisquam Regional will host Franklin, and then the team goes on the road next Friday to Berlin.

Building for the future: Sachem captains pass the torch to young team

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Laconia High School Boys Basketball captains, junior Christian Gaspa (left) and senior Jake Ellis, said they focus on teaching younger players how to stay focused and compete. "As a team we have to really come together and feed off of each other," Ellis said. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)



LACONIA — It's said that in the background of every winning basketball season are the leaders of the past who put in the hard work.
For the Laconia High School Boys Basketball team, this year's captains may never see the winning record that brings acclaim but they are teaching a young squad to build a successful tradition.
As of Feb. 15, the boys are 2-13 on the season. The Sachems traveled to Meredith for a game Tuesday, Feb. 14, at Inter-Lakes High School, where the home-team Lakers won 83-41. Meredith improved to 12-2.
The season for the Sachems has brought its challenges. They beat Newfound 54-46 on Jan. 5, but then they suffered a string of losses, many of them close — 44-41 against Winnisquam Regional; 54-51 against Gilford; 45-42 against Bishop Brady; 42-39 against Prospect Mountain.
On Friday, Feb. 10, a glimpse, perhaps, of things to come in future seasons showed through, as the Sachems secured a 58-53 win against visiting Conant.
Coach Stephen McDonough said, "We played a lot of the top teams tough, and it was nice to finally put a full game together on Friday and get a win."
Conant came in with a 9-3 record. The upstart Sachems, then 1-12 on the season, handed the visiting Orioles a loss.
Senior Jake Ellis is joined by junior Christian Gaspa as captains of the squad.
"Christian and Jake were enormous leadership-wise," McDonough said.
Freshman Ryan Chandler finished with 26 points, and sophomore Ryan Paiva dished in 13 points.
"That's a testament to not only their skill but the leadership of Jake and Christian making those kids feel comfortable so they could seize the moment in a really big game," McDonough said.
Three games remain in the regular season. On Friday at 6:30 p.m., Laconia is at Mascoma Valley Regional High School; on Tuesday, Feb. 21, the Sachems are at White Mountains Regional High School; and on Friday, Feb. 24, Laconia hosts Inter-Lakes High School of Meredith for a rematch.
Ellis said, "It's difficult. It's a very new, young team. We've got to teach them hard work."
Ellis started on the varsity his sophomore year. "I had leaders on that team showing me what to do. Hopefully, I can pass it on," he said.
In his sophomore year, Gaspa remembered how he learned from that season's captains. "Andre McNeil and Brenden Mooney really showed me the way in how to work as hard as you can, for an average team to be a great team."
This year, the same rule applies. "We have to show them how to do things and how to work as hard as you can, so in the future, when they get to be juniors and seniors, they can be the ones showing the younger kids," he said.
Takeaways from this year's difficult season include a sense of passing the torch.
"What I take from it is the wins aren't really coming, but I know that we're showing the younger kids how to do it, so when they become older kids they can do it like we did and hopefully they can string more wins," Gaspa said.
McDonough noted, "We play every possession like it is 0-0 and do our best to learn each and every time down the court."
Character does count, he said.
"We've had an up and down season," McDonough said. "We've had a fairly competitive season score-wise but the wins haven't been there for us. The one thing that's been a constant for us is Jake and Christian showing up every day with a positive attitude, a good work ethic, and really showing our younger players what it means to be a Sachem basketball player."
For the first time in several years, the team faced the season with mostly young players. Ellis is the only senior. What makes McDonough proud is that throughout the year, opposing coaches, athletic directors and fans never questioned the players' effort.
Ellis said McDonough gives the team constant encouragement.
"He really tries to keep us positive," Ellis said.
After this season ends, the players will go on with their lives. Ellis said he hopes to study business management. Gaspa said he looks forward, after he graduates, to attending Plymouth State to study to be a teacher.

At 12-2, Lakers boys make playoff seeding push

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Inter-Lakes boys' basketball captain Zach Swanson drives to the hoop in an 83-41 win for the Lakers over Laconia Tuesday in Meredith. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)



MEREDITH — The Inter-Lakes High boys' basketball team is on a roll, with playoffs looming in a little over two weeks, but the final regular season games will test the veteran team.
The Lakers, at 12-2, face Saint Thomas Aquinas High at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday (this game is listed as an away game and a makeup for a Feb. 7 contest that was snowed out); and at 6 p.m. on Friday, they host Winnisquam Regional High.
Inter-Lakes Coach Mike Rathgeber said, "We feel like we're rolling into playoff season, playing well."
On Tuesday, the Lakers dominated visiting Laconia 83-41, where the Inter-Lakes interior play and fast-break offense set the tone early.
Saint Thomas Aquinas High Coach Sean Murphy, whose team will face off with the Lakers Thursday, expected turnovers and rebounding to be key.
"We have been playing well as of late," Murphy reported, noting that prior to Wednesday night's contest with Sanborn (results were not available at press time), the team was 7-5, winning five of their last six after a 2-4 start to the season.
After taking on Meredith, Saint Thomas Aquinas High will travel to Berlin Friday, "so this is a big three-game stretch to give us an idea where we will stand heading into the playoffs," Murphy reported.
"We played Inter-Lakes early in the season in the Farmington Christmas tournament. They defeated us 54-34. I think both teams have improved since then. The biggest keys for us going into this game are taking care of the ball and rebounding. In the first game, Inter-Lakes did a good job forcing turnovers that lead to easy buckets for them. I thought they crushed us on the glass, getting several second chance points. If we can limit our turnovers and limit their second-chance opportunities, I think this will be a much improved game," he reported.
Jeff Cloos, athletic director at Inter-Lakes, noted that the Lakers returned several veteran players from a team that last year finished in the eighth seed. The squad lost in the first round of the playoffs last year.
"They have a lot of kids back," he said.
"They're playing really well, and they beat some really good teams," Cloos said.
"It shows that they're definitely competitive with the top teams."
Inter-Lakes made the playoffs, but "certainly their goal would be to get into the top four," Cloos said.
"If they win out, then there's a good chance they will be in the top four," he said, but cautioned that with Saint Thomas and Winnisquam this week and Newport and Laconia next week, nothing is settled.
The playoff seeding brings in the top 17 teams, and No. 16 plays No. 17 to winnow the field to 16. The top seed will play the No. 16 seed, and so on.
By the second round on Saturday, March 4, eight teams will remain.
The goal is to finish in the top four so Inter-Lakes can host first- and second-round games.
The season concludes (barring weather delays) on Tuesday, Feb. 21, when the team travels to Newport High; and on Friday, Feb. 24, when the Lakers visit Laconia. Both games are at 6 p.m.

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Inter-Lakes boys' basketball senior Logan Taylor (No. 10) loses the ball in a collision with Laconia's Jake Ellis (No. 1) while Matt Duffield (No. 5) reacts in an 83-41 win for the Lakers over Laconia Tuesday in Meredith. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)

Laconia girls give Portsmouth a challenge

LACONIA — The Laconia Girls Basketball team fought Portsmouth to within three points in the third quarter on Tuesday night, yet weren't able to overcome the Clippers' size advantage. Portsmouth won, 55-37.

Laconia Coach Jeff Greeley said he was happy that his team, now with a record of 3-13 made Portsmouth, which has only lost once this season, fight for the game. "I was extremely proud of the girls' effort tonight for all 32 minutes. The Clippers are a great team and we did of tremendous job competing from the opening tip to the last whistle."

Beca Howe led Laconia with 9 points, Sydney Stevens and Delaney Ross each scored 5.

The Sachems will play next on the road on Friday night against Coe-Brown Northwood. Laconia's final game of the season will be played at home against Plymouth at 6 p.m. on Feb. 23.