Boys Basketball Preview: With all eyes on Seacoast, Greater Nashua teams shoot to surprise

Staff photo by HECTOR LONGO Alvirne junior Joe Canelas rips down a man-size rebound in Saturday night's loss to Exeter.

All eyes in Division I boys basketball circles are pointed toward the Seacoast.

The five Greater Nashua teams would like to make the so-called experts re-focus in 2018-19.

“It’s the Seacoast vs. everyone else. At least that’s what everyone is talking about anyway,” said Merrimack High coach Tim Goodridge.

“Those kids up there are putting the time in, but you don’t know what is going to happen. It’s high school basketball.”

And indeed, strong, deep-rooted AAU programs situated in the east are harvesting quality athletes who are making programs like defending Division I champ Portsmouth, Exeter, Winnacunnet, Dover and Spaulding extremely powerful and talented. But coming into this season, you simply can’t count out the local teams.

Alvirne High, despite the loss of money man Max Bonney-Liles to graduation, is a team folks seem to respect.

“I like our group a lot,” said Broncos coach Marty Edwards. “We’re athletic and very versatile and the guys continue to work very hard.”

Up front for Alvirne, Joe Canelas is a physical presence. Ryan Weston proved a year ago that he can flat-out shoot the rock, and Davonte Mckoy-Sophos showed some truly athletic flashes.

And Alvirne has depth.

“We might start the year with one of the state’s better big guys (Paul Manzi) and one of the best defenders (Jamie Bertrand) coming off the bench,” said Edwards.

Nashua North coach Steve Lane put the ball in freshman Curtis Harris’ hands a year ago. And now the Titans can expect to reap the benefits. North is athletic and can defend and get up the floor with anyone. Can the Titans consistently score enough to compete with the big boys? Captain Chris Inzerillo should have plenty to say about answering that question for North.

Goodridge is another coach who took the shot on youth, playing four sophomores mega-minutes a year ago. They are back and hungry.

Big Jared Dyer could be the focal point of the Tomahawks’ attack.

“He’s a football player playing basketball. He can shoot it, he’s strong, a tough inside player, and he works so hard,” said Goodridge. “There are a lot of Division 1 schools looking at him for football. You can win with kids like that.

“We might not win a lot of games early, but if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll be tough to knock out later.”

Nashua South might be the youngest team in Division I, but the talent is in the program. It could just take time.

Coach Nate Mazerolle hopes a pair of unheralded seniors can help shoulder the burden and ease the growing pains.

Forward Andrew Moody played only three games last year due to injury. He’s a seasoned varsity vet compared to classmate Andrew Penkala, who hasn’t played since his freshman campaign due to injuries. If the two big men can stay healthy and deliver, the Panthers could surprise.

Bishop Guertin coach Matt Regan welcomes only one starter back in Austin Hiscoe (11.9 points a game) and lost role player Andrew Lussier to transfer (Methuen, Mass., High School), but the Cardinals are a program on the rise.

“I am excited for this group. We are completely focused on making this a true team,” said Regan. “The biggest obstacle I have faced at Bishop Guertin is chemistry within the team. With so many kids coming from different areas, you do not get that setting where kids are used to playing with each other and already having established roles coming into high school. We expect to build this bond and chemistry and let the basketball part play out. If we are able to accomplish this we think we can surprise some people. We have a deep, talented roster.”

Pembroke and Oyster River should be at or near the top of the heap in Division II, which remains a wide-open proposition.

The defending Division II state boys basketball champions from Hollis Brookline High opened the defense of their title this week with plenty of holes to fill.

Only one starter returns from the championship team, junior Grant Snyder.

Milford High could be one of those teams that forges forward.

Max Fortin, Sam Santaniello, Gavin Urda and Jake Greska all logged huge minutes a year ago, meaning Milford is not just athletic, it’s battle-tested.

Sophomore Matt McCool is healthy and ready to lead at Souhegan.

He shot 51 percent from the field and averaged 8.0 points and 5.5 rebounds a night in an injury-shortened freshman season.

There are athletes galore crossing over from the playoff football team like Trey Johnson, Vincent Bowman and Reis Grondstra. That has to help the Sabers.

First-year coach Frank Girginis takes over at Campbell, and he likes what he sees from the 1-0 Cougars in the early going.

“I’m not going to sit here and tell you we want to be .500 or just make the playoffs that’s for sure,” he said. “Our goal this year and every year is to set the bar to the highest point as a team and as a program. It’s now the job of myself, the coaching staff and the players to make sure we do everything we can to accomplish it.

“Division III is wide open with so many great teams that can win the championship. It’s up to us to make sure we are in the best position to compete with them all.”

In Division IV, Wilton-Lyndeborough is off to an 0-2 start.

Division I

Alvirne

COACH: Marty Edwards

RETURNING STARTERS: Joe Canelas, Sr., F; Ryan Weston, Sr., G; Jamie Bertrand, Sr., G

RETURNING LETTERMEN: Cole Zimmerman, Sr., G; Paul Manzi, Jr., C; Neshack Mugariri, Jr., F; Davonte Mckoy-Sophos, Jr., G; Cam Jones, Jr., G; Jack Dewitt, Jr., G; Brett McKinley, Jr., F

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Liam O’Neill, Soph., F; Garrett Lambert, Jr., G; Charlie Thomas, Soph., G; Jake Hibbard, Sr., F; Brendan Graham, Frosh, F

COACH’S COMMENTS: “We have great chemistry after a great offseason. We like to share the ball. We play with a lot of energy and a lot of interchangeable parts. We could have several interchangeable starting fives through the year,” said second-year coach Marty Edwards. “Last year Max (Bonney-Liles) was our guy, but collectively our other players were certainly developing around him. Those guys have worked hard and have really picked up the slack.”

Bishop Guertin

COACH: Matt Regan

RETURNING STARTERS: Austin Hiscoe, Jr., G

RETURNING ATHLETES: Andre LaPlante, Sr., G; Max Matarazzo, Sr., F; Davis Camacho, Sr., F; Joe Noon, Sr., G; Sam Mullett, Jr., G; Kyle Baker, Jr., F; Joey DaSilva, So., G

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Andrew Arika, Sr., G; Ian Connelly, Sr., F; Mason Carroll, Jr., F; Gabe Nassi, Jr., G; Lucas Baker, Soph., F; John Sullivan, Soph., G; Jordan Robichaud, Soph., G; Nick Tedesco, Soph., G

COACH’S COMMENTS: “We will be much different than the previous two years. We will play a much faster-Paced game and shoot a ton more threes,” said third-year coach Matt Regan. “We have guys that can shoot at multiple positions in our first group and off the bench. We have a lot of size and athleticism coming off the bench which is nice.”

Merrimack

COACH: Tim Goodridge

RETURNING STARTERS: Pat Younkin, Jr., F; Jared Dyer, Jr., F; Tim Eckert, Jr., G

Adam Ellis, Jr., G

RETURNING LETTERMEN: JJ Martinez, Sr., F; Ben Eichman, Sr., G; Josh Korsak, Sr., F

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Jack Tarleton, Fr.,G; Cody Pfeiffer, Sr., F

COACH’S COMMENTS: “We’re ugly, but we’re going to be tough by the end of the year,” said coach Tim Goodridge. “It’s Division I. Every night will be a dogfight.”

Nashua North

COACH: Steve Lane

RETURNING PLAYERS: Chris Inzerillo, Sr. F; Curtis Harris, Soph., G; Brendan Choate, Jr., G; Nathan Kane, Soph., G

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Emeka Okorie, Jr., G; Josh Lentz, Jr., G; Connor Dunning, Soph., F; Gabe Buxton, Jr., F; Sam Nicholls, Jr., G; Alvin Chukweizi, Jr., F; Stephen Norris, Soph., G

COACH’S COMMENTS: “We expect to compete hard and play team basketball every night in a very balanced league,” said coach Steve Lane, now in his seventh year. “We must learn how to play to our strengths and to play within ourselves. I like our athleticism and quickness. He have kids who can play multiple positions.”

Nashua South

COACH: Nate Mazerolle

RETURNING STARTERS: None

RETURNING LETTERMEN: Andrew Moody, Sr., F; Andrew Penkala, Sr., F; Ivan Nyantenji, Jr., G; Cody Rocheleau, Soph., G; Casey McNally, Sr., G; Chase Hart, Sr., F

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Stav Alkalay, Jr., F; Andres Hulfachor, Jr., F; Jeremiah Mitchell, Fr., G; Alex Hulfachor, Fr., G; Jaden Murphy, So., G; Jason Compoh, So., G; Miles Rios, Sr., F; Ricky Perdomo, Sr., F

COACH’S COMMENTS: “We have six seniors, but we are very inexperienced,” said coach Nate Mazerolle. “We need to learn how to play together. If we listen and execute, we could compete when it matters. We hope to improve each day and be much better when March rolls around.”

Division II

Hollis Brookline

COACH: Cole Etten

RETURNING STARTERS: Grant Snyder, Jr., G

REMAINING ROSTER: Dhruv Miglani, Sr., F; Ben Lindsay, Sr., G; Tim Sulin, Sr., G; Isaac Connelly, Jr., F; Brian Holroyd, Jr., G; Connor Russell, Jr., G; Sander Wimmer, Jr., F; Quinten Wimmer, Jr., F; Ryan Coutu, Jr., F; Max Staplefeld, Jr., G; Henry Boudreau, Jr., F

COACH’S COMMENTS: “I expect that we put the team first and we come to give 100 percent effort in practice everyday,” said second-year coach Cole Etten.

Milford

TEAM: Milford Spartans

COACH: Dan Murray

RETURNING STARTERS: Max Fortin Sr., C; Sam Santaniello Sr., G; Jake Greska, Jr., G/F; Gavin Urda, Jr., G/F

RETURNING LETTERMEN: Colin Pynn Sr., G; Kyle Nostrom, Sr., F; Jacob Brewer Sr., F

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: CJ Jones, Jr., G; Joey Shepard, Jr., F; Cam Meyer, Sr., G; James Blaise, Jr.,G; Kendrick Leroy, Sr., C

COACH’S COMMENTS: “We have 7-8 guys who can shoot and defend and who are quick,” said coach Dan Murray. “As we develop and grow, I expect us to be a very fun, exciting and competitive team.”

Souhegan

COACH: Peter Pierce

RETURNING STARTERS: Matthew McCool, Soph., F

RETURNING LETTERMEN: Jeff Boehm, Sr., G; Jeff Kiesewetter, Sr., G; Khaled Nazeer, Sr., G/F; Vincent Bowman, Sr., C; Sam Corbett, Jr., G/F; Trey Johnson, Jr., G

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Wynn Ames, Sr., C; Reis Grondstra, Sr., F; Bryce Desmarais, Jr., G; Zena Primmer, Jr., G; Curtis Redd, Jr., G

COACH’S COMMENTS: “We expect to return to playoffs and improve on the number of wins from last year,” said coach Peter Pierce. “We lack the experience of varsity minutes. Although we have several returning players, we only have one returning starter.”

Division III

Campbell

COACH: Frank Girginis

RETURNING STARTERS: Jonah Crema, Sr., G; Chad Martel, Sr., F; Joaquin Heller, Jr., G

RETURNING LETTERMEN: Justin Furlong, Sr., G; Nico Heller, Sr., F; Cam Bortles, Sr., F; Brendon Rice, Jr., G; Carter Vedrani, Jr., C

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Ethan Burns, Sr., G; Keegan Mills, Jr., G; Matt Dion, Jr., G

COACH’S COMMENTS: “I think our team’s strength will be just that. To accomplish our goal we will need to be stronger in many area’s including being physically and mentally stronger than everyone else,” said coach Frank Girginis. “Our weakness will be listening to all the noise. If we believe all the hype and listen to what people say about us (good or bad) we will lose focus of our goal.”