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Broncos, Cougars looking to recover from slow starts

Telegraph photo by TOM KING Alvirne junior Liam O'Neill, shown pulling down a rebound against Nashua North's Nate Kane, is one of the keys for the Broncos as they try to turn their 1-5 season around.

Sometimes teams and programs go through different seasons, even though consistency from year to year is the goal.

Let’s take you on a quick journey across the bridge into the Hudson-Litchfield area to check in with two boys basketball teams in transition:

First stop, Alvirne. The Broncos under head coach Marty Edwards have been a tough team to face night in night out the last two seasons, making the Division I tournament both times.

But this year the Broncos are off to a tough 1-5 start. Yet don’t give up on them yet. Edwards is revolving things around two veteran starters, senior forwards Paul Manzi and Meshak Mugariri, and another senior Jack DeWitt, whose scoring they sorely missed in a loss to Nashua North this past Friday.

“We’re close,” Edwards said. “(North) took us out of the game early, but most of the games we’ve been in. We’re close.”

What Edwards is trying to do is mesh the young with the old.

“We have some kids who were playing last year,” Edwards said. “We’ve got Mishak and Paul, they were starters last year. But most of the kids are younger, they were either on the bench last year or JV kids.

“We’re still pretty young. We’ve got some good kids coming up.”

Edwards, a veteran coach, knows it will take time. When he looked at this year’s roster, he knew he would have to tweek things a bit from what he’s run the last two seasons.

“Try to match the system to what we had because it was different than what we had in past years,” Edwards said. “Different offensively and defensively. Try to put them in a position to succeed. It’s a little different than what we had in the past. But I’m optimistic if keep working it, I think we can keep sharpening the blade on it through the season and get some better results.

“But really great kids, though. Great kids, great parents.”

Before the North game, the Broncos had lost three in a row by a grand total of 14 points. They have a 2-3 Londonderry team at home tonight, then visit a Windham team Friday that has won five straight and has tonight off.

“We still haven’t jelled, although we’re close,” Edwards said. “We haven’t jelled yet. The next part of the season I think we can put something together and beat some teams.

“We want to get to the playoffs. We want to be able to compete. I think on a given night, if we’re playing a good game, playing our game, and we’re full strength, I think we can compete.”

OK, now let’s pull out of the Alvirne lot, go left on Route 102 then hang a left onto some back roads en route to Campbell High School.

The Cougars, who were in the Division III finals two years ago and semis last year, started out the season 0-3 before evening their record after Friday night’s win over Fall Mountain.

And now they will host a 6-1 Mascenic team at 6 p.m. tonight.

“It’s a huge game for us,” Cougars coach Frank Girginis said. “We look at the first six games as our preseason. Now the real season starts.”

Girginis was missing a few players earlier at the start of the season, but now everyone is ready to go and he’s looking for the younger players to build chemistry with key returning veterans Joaquin Heller, Carter Vedrani, Keegan Mills, Brendan Rice and Matt Dion.

“You know what, we lost a lot last year,” Girginis said. “So it’s just a matter of the boys building that chemistry. New year, new team, and the kids just needed to play.”

Check in with these two teams in about a month, and we’ll have a better idea – and so will their coaches.

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The local high school basketball team that has the biggest week is none other than the Bishop Guertin girls.

Sure, the Cardinals can roll over two-thirds of their opponents, but check out the week they have: Tonight at fellow unbeaten Manchester Memorial (6-0), then Thursday night at home vs. Pinkerton (currently 5-1), and Saturday afternoon vs. Mercy of Middletown, Conn., 4-6 at last look but playing a brutal schedule.

“We didn’t plan it, but (the schedule) just kind of fell that way,” Cards coach Brad Kreick said. “Three very different teams with their styles. This is a week we’ve been pointing to for the last six weeks or so.”

And it’s why Kreick insisted on keeping a lot of young players on the roster, to give his team depth.

“We’ve got our core group, but you’re not going to play six or seven kids 28 minutes a night when you’ve got three games in five days,” he said. “We told the freshmen that freshman year is over. They have a role now.”

There are three key younger players Kreick is looking to to help provide depth in the rotation are guards Mazie Barker and Brooke Paquette, plus 6-0 Meghan Stack.

“We’re going to keep up our rotations and rely on our depth,” Kreick said. “I’m not worried about us offensively, that’s going to be what it’s going to be. We’ll be relying on what we do on the defensive side of the ball, and really commit to our depth.”

That because, as Kreick will tell you, playing defense can wear a team out much more than offense. The Crusaders will want to push the ball, the Astros with some size will be a little more methodical, and Mercy will be a scrappy full court team. It looks to be an interesting and challenging week for a BG team that other than its trip to the Naples, Fla. holiday tournament hasn’t faced many challenges thus far.

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Many of the key events of the Winter Battle of the Bridge between Nashua North and South are a week or two away, but things were slated to get underway Monday with North and South squaring off in boys and girls skiing at Pat’s Peak.

In case you’r wondering, let’s go through the rest of the schedule:

Tuesday, Jan. 28 – Boys and girls swimming at 5 p.m. at the Nashua Boys and Girls Club.

Monday, Feb. 3 – Varsity hockey at 6:30 p.m. at Conway Arena; JV hockey as well, time tba.

Wednesday, Feb. 5 – Gymnastics at Absolute Gymnastics at 5 p.m.; wrestling at Nashua North at 6 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 6 – This is the busiest day, all at Nashua North: Unified basketball at 3 p.m.; freshman boys basketball at 4 p.m. in the medium gym; boys JV basketball at 5 p.m., girls JV basketball at 6:30.

Friday, Feb. 7 – The final events, girls varsity basketball at 5:p.m.,and boys varsity at 6:30 p.m., both at Nashua North.

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There is one huge game on the ice this week when the Concord boys, 8-0 going into this week, squares off against Bishop Guertin Wednesday night (7:50) at Skate 3. The only other unbeaten in Division I at last look was Salem (5-0) and the Cards don’t face them until Feb. 26…

Also on Wednesday, Division II Merrimack boys hockey hosts Divisin I Nashua North-Souhegan at 4:10 p.m. at Manchester’s West Side Arena, a rare regular season meeting between the two…

The Milford boys hoop team’s scheduled game this past Friday at Kearsarge was rescheduled for Jan. 31…

Satuday’s girls hockey games between Bishop Guertin and Lebanon-Stevens Kearsarge and Souhegan vs. ConVal-Conant were postponed due to the bad weather. No word yet on makeup dates…

Merrimack wrestler Anson Dewar picked up his 100th career win this past Saturday during the school’s Hall of Fame tourney.