BG’s biggest challenge may be the Drive for Five
t was a nice, spring late afternoon in May of 2015. Baseball was the sport of the season, not basketball. Nashua North and South were getting ready to match up at Holman Stadium.
Thus, the hiring of a new girls basketball coach at Bishop Guertin High School, while it wasn’t a side note, certainly wasn’t the big story of the day.
It is now, wouldn’t you say? The Cardinals tabbed assistant Brad Kreick to take the reins from former head coach Jeremy Faulkner, who had to leave due to work reasons. And since then, the Cardinals have known nothing but championships.
Suppose someone had said that to Kreick that day back in May of 2015? What would his reaction have been?
“I’d have said you were crazy,” Kreick said early Saturday evening with a complete straight face about a half hour after his Cardinals had vanquished a tough, game Portsmouth team, 46-33. “It’s hard to put it even into words. We’re just so lucky. We always say as a staff, it’s 90 percent about the kids, 10 percent about the scheme – maybe not even 10 percent.”
Something like this with girls basketball has been in the works at Guertin for awhile. This is what former athletic director Tony Johnson had envisioned for girls basketball at the school nearly a decade ago. Guertin had lost two straight Class L finals in 2006 and ’07, and a couple of years later Scott Hazelton, well known in AAU circles, was hired and after the Cards waited out Winnacunnet’s fivepeat dynasty, it looked like it would be their turn as they won it all in 2012 but then were nipped 39-38 by Bedford in 2013. Hazelton moved on, Faulkner, who had guided Souhegan back then to two straight Class I/Division II titles, came in. But after Londonderry won back-to-backs, enter Kreick.
“The program was solid under some of the former coaches,” BG athletic director Pete Paladino said. “But when Brad came in, he just said ‘You guys are winners. He instilled confidence in them and said, ‘Go out there and play like winners.’ And they’ve done that every day. …. He may have a little of that Bill Belichick mentality when somebody’s having a bad day, ‘OK, who’s going to step up?’ And they always do.”
That’s why, when asked what it takes to do this, Kreick will simply tell you, “It takes great kids.”
He had just finished his first year on the job, with one championship in the books, and was preparing for another season. Enter the likes of current juniors Erin Carney, Hannah Muchemore, Ava Owens, Aaliyah Forman, Brianna Wilcox, Addison Smith, etc.
“This junior class, all came in my second year,” Kreick said. “I didn’t really know any of them. I had seen them play a little bit here and there. Didn’t meet any of them really until June. But when we started having summer workouts and so on, you could tell this was a pretty special group. But we’ve been fortunate to have great kids every year.
“What we try to do is just communicate as best we can what we think is really important and then try to hold the kids accountable to that,” Kreick said, “and then let ’em play. And they play so hard.”
Now the question is after Four on The Floor, will there be a Drive For Five?
You wonder. There were whispers during the tournament that prep schools were eyeing some of BG’s nucleus, hoping to pry them away for a year or so. But here’s the thing: a few of them are already said to be entertaining college offers. So what’s the point? Many already look at Guertin as a prep school already.
And then there’s the closeness of the team. No one cares who does what as long as it leads to winning. It seems to be an extremely tight group.
“These kids, they love each other,” Kreick said. “I think these kids want to stay together. They’ve been together since they’ve been fifth or sixth graders, a lot of them.”
But Kreick, who is really the common denominator to the four crowns, is certainly no dummy. He knows that beating most New Hampshire Division I teams by 25 or 30 gets old fast, so he tries to give the Cards those out of state games that not only provide a challenge, but also attract the college coaches to come watch.
“We try to build the program in a way where they get a lot of exposure,” he said. “We play those out of state games because we want them challenged. We feel like we’ve got a great program for kids who aspire to play at the next level to come and play at.
“You never say never. These kids, they’ve won three in a row now (as a group), I think they want to come back and see if they can compete to try to win a fourth. I think they just like being around each other. You can kind of tell, you watch them play, and they just like each other.”
OK, let’s play devil’s advocate. The program has four titles, this group together has been around for three, and they’ve done it with just one senior the last two years. If they all come back, what will be the challenge? Maybe to tie Nashua and Winnacunnet’s Division I record of five straight? Is that enough?
“That’s a heckuva challenge,” Kreick said. “Assuming the rules stay the same, we’ll play a bunch of out of state games next year, keep pushing them as hard as we can, and we think that’s the right thing to do for them.”
Only the Cardinal players can answer that big question. Right now, they say bring on that challenge.
“You always want to push for more,” Owens said. “A fifth year (for the program) of winning a championship would be amazing.”
“It’s different, it’s outstanding, it’s crazy,”Wilcox said. “We never even thought of it, honestly. It didn’t come to mind. Now that it’s here, it’s like wow. We are amazed. I can’t wait til next year. And we might be back here (at SNHU) next year.”
“It’s unbelievable,” Muchemore said. “I could imagine my high school career being anything else.”
Try for five?
“Of course,” Muchemore said. “It never stops with us.”
Until maybe graduation.
Tom King may be reached at 594-1251, or@Telegraph_TomK.firstname.lastname@example.org