H.S. boys basketball preview 2020-21: Potential, waiting for a chance

  • Alex Emerson, right, hugs Thetford Academy teammate Eli Dunnet after winning the Division III championship against Enosburg at the Barre Auditorium in Barre, Vt., Satruday, March 7, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • William Cahoon joins his Hanover teammates as the Star Spangled Banner plays before the start of their game with Mascoma in West Canaan, N.H., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. Hanover won 60-40. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • After pulling down a defensive rebound, Lebanon's Nyeoti Punni looks for an outlook pass away from Mascoma's Connor Thompson during the first half of their game in Lebanon, N.H., on Jan. 22, 2021. Lebanon won, 56-50. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Geoff Hansen

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/30/2021 9:55:15 PM
Modified: 1/30/2021 9:55:12 PM

Thetford Academy boys basketball coach Jason Gray would’ve laughed at the beginning of last season if you told him he would win his second consecutive state championship.

Now, he has a chance to go for three consecutive trophies. That’s the least of his concerns, however, because the coronavirus pandemic has taken everyone’s attention from Xs and Os to keeping athletes safe.

Lebanon and Hanover both saw their NHIAA Division II postseason runs halted last season because of the early days of the pandemic; they’ll try to finish those stories this year.

Mid Vermont Christian will not be fielding a team because of low numbers, while Oxbow, Stevens and Woodstock all welcome new coaches. Mascoma’s Silas Ayres and Hartford’s Jeff Thomas each enter their second seasons on the job and will look to build off of promising opening years.

Rivendell and White River Valley will both be hard beats in the VPA Division IV tournament.


Coach: Tim Winslow (21).

Last year: 18-3, share of second place with five other teams due to pandemic.

League: NHIAA Division II.

Returnees: Seniors — Brett Simmons (G/F), Indigo Coylewright (G), Will Cahoon (C), Linus Mayo (F).

Newcomers: Juniors — Kevin Pillsbury (F/C), Evan Yang (G/F), Mason Gantrish (G), Trevor Pierce (F/C), Jacob Kubik-Pauw (G), Colin Pierce (G). Freshman — Jordan McConnell (F/C).

Analysis: Tim Winslow has been forced to retool his starting five this winter. Along with losing Charlie Adams, Nolan Gantrish and Joe Brennan to graduation, he also lost Hank Pikus and Jai White to prep school.

Still, Winslow is hopeful that the five returnees from last year’s squad will bring some stability for a program that has gone 39-25 over the last three seasons.

“This team has height and length and is complemented by a high basketball IQ,” he said. “They are ready to create their own identity and build from last year’s success. … Expectations are realistic, but also high.”


Coach: Jeff Thomas (2).

Last year: 9-12, lost in first round.

Leagues: VPA Division II, Southern Vermont League.

Returnees: Seniors — Shea Bean (G), Aiden Brooks (G), Danny Bushway (G), Nick Clay (F), Cole Jasmin (C), Dylan Morse (F), Cam Tucker (F). Juniors — Tarin Prior (G), Jacob Seaver (F). 

Newcomers: Juniors — Colin Vielleux (G), Brandon Potter (G). Sophomore — Nolan Morse (F). Freshman — Brody Tyburski (F). 

Analysis: In his first season on the job last winter, Jeff Thoms had the Hurricanes enjoying playoff basketball. The next step is winning a postseason game, something that hasn’t happened at Hartford since 2013.

The Hurricanes return a strong cast of players from last year, including junior Tarin Prior who averaged 11 points per game.


Coach: Kieth Matte (23).

Last year: 18-4, share of second place with five other teams due to pandemic.

League: NHIAA Division II.

Returnees: Seniors — Calvin Bates (F), Karsten Hansen (G), Logan Sanchez (G). Juniors — C.J. Childs (G), Nyeoti Punni (F), Jack Stone (F/C), Cole Fabry (G), Braeden Falzarano (G).

Newcomers: Juniors — Cam Davio (F), Blake Boardman (G), Zach Whitcomb (G). Sophomore — Gerad Thornton (F).

Analysis: Despite graduating eight seniors, Lebanon will reload with a frontcourt led by senior forward Calvin Bates and junior center Jack Stone. Each averaged more than seven points a contest last winter.

Coach Kieth Matte’s excited to see Karsten Hansen and Braeden Falzarano return this season after both missed the majority of the 2019-20 season with injuries. The Raiders are 49-18 over the last three seasons.

“I think we should be pretty good by the end,” Matte said. “We are rusty without having AAU or summer basketball, but everyone is in the same boat. I look forward to seeing how we progress.”


Coach: Silas Ayres (2).

Last year: 14-8, lost in quarterfinals.

League: NHIAA Division III.

Returnees: Seniors — Connor Thompson (F), Gabe Rock (F), Isaac Rayno (G), Cooper Peavey (F). Juniors — Ben Seiler (G), Cole Moulton (F), Ian Moulton (F), Michael Loynds (G). Sophomore — Zach Thompson (G).

Newcomers: Senior — Noah Lecuyer (G). Junior — Allan Hammond (F). Freshmen — James Thomas (G), Aidan Smith (G), Tyler-Jay Mardin (G), Tyler Stark (F).

Analysis: The Royals return nine players from last year’s roster, including Ben Seiler, who led Division III in scoring at times in 2019-20. Only a junior, he started the 2020-21 season only 250 points away from the 1,000-point mark.

“It should be a fun, athletic team with the ability to score the basketball,” said Mascoma coach Silas Ayres, who guided the program to its first postseason victory since 2014 last year. “If we can commit to defending and create turnovers, we should be pretty good. Our lack of size is a concern; we need to work extra hard at rebounding the basketball.”


Coach: William Page (3).

Last year: 2-19, did not make playoffs.

League: NHIAA Division III.

Returnees: Senior — Chase Hamilton (G). Junior — Devyn Heino (F).

Newcomers: Juniors — Dylon Carpenter (F), Jay Conroy (G), Reece Johnson (F), Sam Hebert (F), Riley DaSavage (G). Sophomores — Garion LaCasse (G), Karter Pollari (G), Owen Beaulieu (G). Freshmen — Kyle Ashley (G), Mal Regan (G).

Analysis: Bill Page returns just two players from a team that failed to make the playoffs last season: Chase Hamilton (6.7 points per game) and Devyn Heino (4.7). In Page’s two seasons at Newport, the Tigers have gone 5-36. He’s hopeful that newcomers such as Sam Hebert, Kyle Ashley, Mal Regan and Riley DaSavage will help the Tigers reach the playoffs for the first time since 2015.


Coach: Justin Smith (1).

Last year: 3-18, lost in first round.

Leagues: VPA Division III, Capital League.

Returnees: Seniors — Bryce Ilsley (G), Aaron Thurston (G), Drew Shaw (F). Junior — Andrew Emerson (F).

Newcomers: Junior — Kagan Keyes. Sophomores — Chase Lund, Owen Bailey. Freshman — Brady Nickles.

Analysis: Justin Smith takes over an Oxbow program that’s compiled a 21-41 record the last three seasons and is already looking to Bryce Ilsley to be the team’s leading scorer. The senior guard averaged 19.4 points in 21 games a season ago.

“We are extremely young with very little experience,” said Smith, who previously coached at Thetford. “I expect the team to be very coachable. Our schedule is tough, so we will struggle to find wins. But if I was a betting man, I’d bet no one at the top wants to play us in the first round of the playoffs.”


Coach:Ross Convertino (3).

Last year: 20-3, lost in semifinals.

Leagues: VPA Division IV, Southern Vermont League.

Returnees: Juniors — Kyle Carter (G), Garrett Stever (G), Chris Pierce (G), Jameson Gilbert (F). Sophomores — Harrison Molesworth (G), Josiah Welch (G/F), Ashton Pierson (G/F).

Analysis: Using a 2-2-1 full-court trap that creates turnovers and opportunities on the other end of the court, Rivendell coach Ross Convertino has compiled a 28-17 record in two seasons with the Raptors. Last year he had them on the cusp of a championship game appearance, and this season he returns second-leading scorer Kyle Carter (15 ppg).


Coach: Blake Fabrikant (12).

Last year: 12-10, lost in quarterfinals.

Leagues: VPA Division IV, Southern Vermont League.

Returnees: Seniors — Ben Rodis (F), Ian Robertson (C). Juniors — Riley Eastman (G), Ever Tofel (G), Blair Locke (G/F).

Newcomers: Juniors — Daniel Henderson (G). Sophomores — Parker Bogardus (G/F), Caleb Benjamin (F), Jack Doris (F), Jack Lloyd (G).

Analysis: Sharon lost the dynamic duo of Olly Skeet-Browning (graduation) and Tyler Chapin (transfer), but the Phoenix are only two years removed from their 2018 state title. Sharon is 50-18 over the span of the last three seasons and returns five players from last year’s team, which won seven of its last eight regular-season games.


Coach: Ray Curren (1).

Last year: 3-15, did not make playoffs D-II playoffs.

League: NHIAA Division III.

Returnees: Seniors — Brady Moote (F), Owen Taylor (C), Clayton Wadsworth (G). Junior — Cooper Moote (G). Sophomores — Kayden LaClair (G), Hunter LaRocque (G), Jai-Lique Ribeiro (F).

Newcomers: Senior — Caden Ferland (F), J.J. Tursky (F). Junior — Reeve Wilkinson (G). Sophomores — Devin Genes (G), Trystan Lane (G), Ty Theriault (F).

Analysis: After being overmatched in D-II the past two winters, Stevens returns to D-III in Ray Curren’s inaugural season. Curren will be the Cardinals’ fourth coach since 2018, and he takes over a program that is 15-42 in its last three campaigns.


Coach: Jason Gray (5).

Last year: 14-10, state champs.

Leagues: VPA Division III, Capital Division.

Returnees: Seniors — Eli Dunnet (F), Jackson Ransom (G), Ryen Wolf (G), Ty Clay (G/F), Kobe Pierson (G). Sophomore — Jacob Gilman (G).

Newcomers: TBA.

Analysis: Jason Gray never won a state championship during his playing days at Thetford, but he’s won two consecutive D-III state titles and compiled a 46-23 the last three seasons.

Thetford went 17-5 in 2018-19, picking up its first state title since 2004. Last season, the Panthers didn’t really find their rhythm until the playoffs. But it was at the right time, as they won back-to-back titles for the first time in school history. They’ll go for the three-peat this season.

White River Valley

Coach: Mike Gaudette (3).

Last year: 13-9, lost in quarterfinals.

Leagues: VPA Division IV, Southern Vermont League.

Returnees: Seniors — Curtis Barry (G), Alex Lober (G), Jacob Barry (G), Carder Stratton (F). Juniors — Dominic Craven (G), Weston Trombly (C), Austin Tracy (F), Arliss Spaulding (G).

Newcomers: Juniors — Donovan Forcier (G), Cody Scott (G).

Analysis: Returning one of the Upper Valley’s top 3-point threats in junior Dominic Craven, the Wildcats will look to build off of last season’s quarterfinal appearance. “With COVID disrupting everything, which included summer basketball and our season start date, having a group that returns with a lot of varsity experience and good team chemistry will be invaluable when the season starts,” said coach Mike Gaudette, who is 27-17 in two years.


Coach:Harry Ladue (38).

Last year: 7-14, lost in first round.

Leagues: VPA Division III, Southern Vermont League.

Returnees: Seniors — Jackson Davis (G), Jordan Place (G), Blake Archambault (F), John Cook (F), Nick Langhans (F), Cooper Bevis (C), Owen Abrahamsen (F), Caden Lockwood (F). Junior — Ben Gilbert (F). Sophomore — Maison Fortin (G).

Newcomers: Senior — Ethan Lawyer (F). Juniors — Austin Gauld (F), Kaleb Swett (G).

Analysis: Windsor is 41-26 in the last three seasons and returns four starters in John Cook, Owen Abrahamsen, Maison Fortin and Jordan Place. The Yellowjackets went through a tough midseason stretch, losing five consecutive games, but they rallied to win four of their last six regular-season games.


Coach: Jason Tarleton (1).

Last year: 2-18, did not make playoffs.

Leagues: VPA Division II, Southern Vermont League.

Returnees: Seniors — Manny Pacheco (G), Tyler Bean (G). Juniors — Corey White (F), Emmet Mahoney (G), Cooper Dorsogna (F), Robby Macri (F), Cooper Jones (F), Alex Rice (F). Sophomore — Declan McCullough (G).

Newcomers: TBA.

Analysis: Tom Avellino stepped in last season as Woodstock’s coach, but this fall he was removed as the school’s soccer and boys basketball coach. Enter Jason Tarleton, who will coach th3 boys this season while full-time replacement Steve Landon oversees the girls in an interim role. The key this winter for Tarleton will be finding some stability for a program that is 22-41 in the last three seasons. 

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