Unfinished Business: After Final Four Appearance, Newport Hungry for More
Newport's Spencer Cronis, center, passes off the ball as Hanover's Jack Cavallaro, center right,defends during a jamboree game in Sunapee, N.H. on November 30, 2013. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Newport basketball team head coach Steve Lavolpicelo talks to the team during a time out at a jamboree game in Sunapee, N.H. on November 30, 2013. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Newport's Andrew Houde, right, dribbles down the court against Hanover at a jamboree game in Sunapee, N.H. on November 30, 2013. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Newport — The Newport High boys basketball team enjoyed unparalleled success last season, winning a program-record 21 games on the way to its first New Hampshire Division III semifinal appearance in 13 years.
Now comes the hard part for the Tigers — trying to duplicate or, they hope, exceed it.
Newport fell hard against perennial power Conant last March at Southern New Hampshire University, shooting just 31.9 percent (15-of-47) while scoring 42 points — 22 fewer than its season average — in a 23-point loss to the eventual champion Orioles.
While Conant advanced to its sixth final in nine years, Newport failed to reach what would have been its first-ever championship game appearance. Still, fourth-year Tigers coach Steve Lavolpicelo hopes the team will be able to build off of the experience.
“There was an adjustment to be made last season,” said Lavolpicelo, whose team’s win total in 2012-13 surpassed that of the previous five years combined. “It’s a large crowd and a big stage at SNHU, and Conant was an excellent opponent. Hopefully, we’ll have the opportunity to be in that position again and be better prepared. We have the potential to do so, but it’s a matter of who’s going to step up. We have to jell.”
The fixture of Newport’s offense is junior Andrew Houde, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard who amassed 511 points — 22.2 per game —during his sophomore campaign after transferring from Pembroke Academy. He’ll combine with speedy point guard Spencer Coronis (9.0 ppg) for what figures to be one of the most potent backcourts in D-III.
The Tigers have another returning starter in 6-1 junior Zach Whalen, who joined Houde and Coronis on a Concord-based AAU team last spring and summer and is noticeably bulked up compared with last season.
The other two starting positions are still up in the air for Newport, which returns junior Derrick Pare (7.2 ppg), but will be without graduated contributors Devin Wade (7.9 ppg) and Peter Wacholtz (7.0 ppg). They Tigers will also be without a pair of would-be returners, one because of ineligibility and another, sophomore guard CJ Lawrence, because of a shoulder injury sustained during football season.
Aside from sophomore center Eric Bailey — who will have to fight for minutes, Lavolpicelo said — the Tigers are a bit undersized.
“We’re not a big team, but we have a lot of experience, thanks to last year’s success,” the coach said. “We have a solid backcourt, and now we just have to get some other guys to embrace new roles with the team.”
Lavolpicelo hopes to achieve a bit more offensive balance this season after only Houde averaged double figures a year ago.
“More balance would be better, because we have other weapons (besides Houde),” he said. “But guys have to accept their roles first. We’re going to be quick, so we’re going to have to play intense defense and move well to put points on the board.”
Coronis — the fastest player on the team, if running drills at Friday night’s practice were any indication — said he’d embrace more of a scorer’s role, but knows Houde should and will remain the focal point of the offense.
“I mean, it depends on what the situation is, who the opponent is and how much guys are keying in (on Houde),” the point guard said . “We’re going to have a lot of guys who feed off each other, some good leadership on this team, so we’re not too worried about where the points come from.”
Houde feels he’s only a piece of the puzzle at Newport. Just four years removed from a winless campaign, the program is enjoying an influx of athleticism and commitment under Lavolpicelo, a 1999 graduate of D-III rival Kearsarge who is the Cougars’ all-time leading scorer with more than 2,000 career points. Lavolpicelo went on to play four years at SNHU.
“These guys were going to be a lot better last year, even if I didn’t transfer here,” Houde said. “I’m just happy to be part of what we’re doing. We played in some big games last year and we’re still hungry. We feel like some people are still doubting us, because we were in a lot of close games last year and we lost a couple starters. So we’re still inspired to go out there and prove ourselves.
“ Overall, I think we’re going to have more depth this year and we’ve got a great attitude and work ethic.”
The Tigers played in a jamboree at Sunapee High on Saturday, the first of their two preseason tournaments T hey also scrimmage Lebanon on the road Tuesday before opening with three straight home games, beginning Dec. 13 against Hillsboro-Deering.
Jared Pendak can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3306.