Looking for the new Team Fun? It’s in Hollis

Let’s see how good of a memory some of you longtime local high school boys basketball fans have:

Remember the Alvirne Broncos of the late 1980s, led by eventual University of New Hampshire standout Pat Manor? Those teams were coached by a guy with an upbeat – some might say crazy – personality, Rick Taft. Yours truly nicknamed them Team Fun, because nothing seemed to bother the Broncos, win or lose. They didn’t win any titles, but sure had fun along the way, especially with their up-tempo style and a college Division I talent like Manor.

Fast forward to the present 2018 season. We take you to Hollis, where we will call the Hollis Brookline Cavaliers Team Fun II.

Now, there are a lot of differences, because there’s no real dominant Division I prospect, and the Cavaliers coach, Cole Etten, seems a tad more low key. But the game atmosphere at Hollis Brookline is great, the music is live and loud, the team is really good, and the players look like they’re having a blast.

Let’s face it, Hollis Brookline has become Hoop Heaven for the area. The Cavalier girls team is in the Division II Final Four for the second straight year, and is the highest seed left, the only top four seed that avoided an upset in the first two rounds. Right now, they’d be considered the favorite.

Meanwhile, while the city of Nashua barely avoided being shut out getting a team into the boys tourney thanks to Nashua South’s clutch final two regular season wins, there’s no dominant team. There is though, ironically, a top-notch player again at Alvirne in Max Bonney-Liles. These Broncos go in as likely a seed somewhere six through eight.

And of course there’s the Bishop Guertin girls, on their annual collision course with Bedford in the Divison I semis on Thursday.

But nobody seems to be having more fun than these Cavaliers, who own the top seed in Division II and will host a quarterfinal game on Friday night.

“We’ve been playing with each other since third and fourth grade,” HB senior Jonathan Brackett said. “We’ve already got all the chemistry that we need for us to enjoy every practice and every game.”

This team is so much fun Brackett decided to come out this year. He had gotten away from hoop and had been focusing on soccer the last couple of years. That was with good reason, as he was arguably one of the area’s top players this past fall, and will play that sport in college at St. Joseph’s of Maine next fall. Once that was all settled, he figured he had to join the fun.

“I had to focus on soccer so I could play in college,” Brackett said. “After I figured that out I was like, ‘I’ve got to get back to my boys and play some ball.'”

“I think it was me yelling at him that made him come out,” another key senior Cav, Matt Simco, said. “I mean, every play, I know it’s a battle out there. We’re smiling all the time, anytime someone makes a big play, we support each other. It’s a team attitude.”

This team is so likeable – and so fun to watch – that former coach Mike Soucy comes back for a lot of games. Remember, Soucy guided the Cavs to the semis last year but had to make the tough career choice to take the Merrimack athletic director’s job when it suddenly opened up at the beginning of the school year.

“It’s the characters, the personalities of the kids,” Soucy said. “They’re unbelievable. This senior class is very, very special. And they’re all friends off the court. It’s unbelievable.”

Enter Cole Etten. He jumped at the chance when the job opened up. The team he inherited, plus the addition of Brackett and others, play tough, hard nosed defense. They blanked rival Milford for almost the entire final five minutes of their regular season finale the other night.

“It’s a great group of guys, lot of leadership and the seniors, it’s been a fun year,” Etten said. “It’s a great school, community, Rhon Rupp (athletic director) does a great job, the administration does a great job, it’s a fun place to be.”

“It’s the high energy players we have,” another senior, Matt Dowling, said. “Every guy knows how to get this team going, get the crowd going.”

If you get a chance, check ’em out later this week at the Hollis Brookline gym.

These days, like Etten said, it’s a fun place to be.

Tom King can be reached at 594-1251, tking@nashuatelegraph.com, or @Telegraph_TomK.