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)
By 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.