2023 HS boys basketball guide

By BENJAMIN ROSENBERG

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 02-02-2023 12:02 PM

No Upper Valley boys basketball teams brought home state championships last winter, but several came close — none more so than White River Valley, which dropped the VPA Division IV title game to Blue Mountain on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Rivendell, Lebanon and Mascoma lost frustrating semifinals and all enter this year without much returning production.

New coaches take over at Hanover, Hartford, Rivendell, Sharon, WRV and Windsor, with the Bears and Yellowjackets replacing longtime bench bosses. Stevens, Woodstock and Mid Vermont Christian bring back most of their rosters and are poised for big steps forward.

HANOVER

Coach: Ben Davis (first season).

Last year: 5-13, missed playoffs.

League: NHIAA Division II.

Returner: Senior — August Krawitt (G).

Newcomers: Seniors — Maxx O'Connel Robles (G), Finn Duncan (G), Gil Gordon (F). Juniors — Alex McGrath (G), Christian Blix (G/F), Teddy Sumner (F). Sophomores — Beckett Sobel (G), Dave Frechette (G). Freshmen — Roy Lucas (G), Allie Muirhead (G/F), Jaysen Oriol (F).

Analysis: Davis, previously the head coach at St. Johnsbury Academy and a director of operations at Dartmouth College before that, takes over the Bears from Tim Winslow, who stepped down after 22 seasons. His first team will be almost entirely new and may be something of a rebuilding effort, coming off a down year in 2021-22.

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"The upcoming season presents a good challenge for a young team to develop quickly," Davis said. "They have the opportunity to play and grow together over the course of the year."

HARTFORD

Coach: Mike Gaudette (first season of second stint; previously at Hartford from 2006-11).

Last year: 15-6, lost in quarterfinals to Spaulding.

League: VPA Division II.

Returners: Seniors — Joey Beggs (G), Ian Murphy (C). Juniors — Brody Tyburski (G/F), Brayden Trombly (G/F), Brady Olmstead (G), Sean Dunton (G), Christian Hathorn (G). Sophomore — Ayodele Lowe (G).

Newcomers: Juniors — Zack Johnson (F), Evan Lynds (G). Freshman — Kole Fotion (G/F).

Analysis: Gaudette returns for a second stint with the Hurricanes after four strong years at White River Valley. Hartford loses leading scorers Jacob Seaver and Tarin Prior, but a strong crop of juniors should help the Canes build on last year's success.

"They are still relatively inexperienced where many didn't play a lot of varsity minutes," Gaudette said. "Once they get acclimated to a new system, get healthy, and everyone understands the expectations, we hope to make a deep playoff run."

LEBANON

Coach: Kieth Matte (24th season).

Last year: 17-4, lost in semifinals to Souhegan.

League: NHIAA Division II.

Returners: Seniors — Sam Bates (G), Dawson Bates (G), Chris Perillo (G). Juniors — Nick Brill (G), Chase Adams (C), Talan Patkul (G).

Newcomers: Seniors — Gavin Emerson (G), Morgan Melendy (G), Alex Chen (G). Junior — Will Katz (G). Sophomores — Declan Brandis (G/F), Miles Nolan (G), Domineaq Taylor (G).

Analysis: The Raiders graduated a highly influential senior class that included Braeden Falzarano, Jack Stone and Cole Fabry, and may be in rebuild mode a bit this winter. The Bates twins and Brill are the only players with significant varsity experience.

"We will be tested by a very tough schedule early," Matte said. "We need to stay positive and focus on getting better all season."

MASCOMA

Coach: Silas Ayres (fourth season).

Last year: 15-5, lost in semifinals to Kearsarge.

League: NHIAA Division III.

Returners: Senior — Zach Thompson (G). Juniors — James Thomas (F), Aiden Smith (G), Tyler-Jay Mardin (F), Thomas Clifford (F), Cayden Marquay (G), Tyler Stark (F). Sophomore — Tanner Moulton (G).

Newcomers: Seniors — Aiden Bassett (G), Alan Laquerre (C). Junior — Travis Stewart (F). Sophomores — Brody Goulett (G), Marshall Yorke (G). Freshmen — Brayden Pierce (G), Bryce Ballou (G), Colin Meyers (C).

Analysis: The Royals, who made their first final four in 11 years last winter, lose superstar Ben Seiler but bring back Thompson (15.1 ppg last year), who becomes the focal point. Thomas, Smith, Moulton and Mardin are expected to be first-time starters.

"We are small again so we will need to commit to rebounding by committee," Ayres said. "If this team can find an identity similar to last year's team, who fought and clawed and never gave up, we will be tough to beat."

MID VERMONT CHRISTIAN

Coach: Erva Barnes (third season).

Last year: 15-7, lost in quarterfinals to White River Valley.

League: VPA Division IV.

Returners: Senior — Joel Roberts (G). Junior — Abel Goodwin (G). Sophomores — Carson Meloon (C), Noah Patel (F), Jadon Goeppner (G).

Newcomers: Junior — Noah Schutzius. Freshmen — Ethan Burge, Trystan Partington. Eighth graders — Nathaniel Crane, Jackson Bascomb, Porter Meloon.

Analysis: The Eagles recorded their second playoff win in school history last year with a team devoid of seniors. Four starters return, led by Goodwin (14.7 ppg in 2021-22), to a team that has its sights set on a first-ever trip to Barre Auditorium. Carson Meloon had a major growth spurt over the offseason and will be the starting center.

"Still a pretty young team but with a lot of experience for our age," Barnes said. "We are looking to pick up where we left off last year with a competitive season and deep playoff run."

NEWPORT

Coach: Rob Clark (second season).

Last year: 0-17, missed playoffs.

League: NHIAA Division III.

Returners: Seniors — Owen Beaulieu (G), Karter Pollari (F). Sophomores — Kamden Pollari (F), Christian Forsythe (F), Gabe Howe (G), Aaron Fellows (F/C).

Newcomers: Senior — Kayden LaClair (G). Sophomore — Dylan Stanley (F). Freshmen — Adrian Sanchez (F), Kobie Curtis (G), Aiden Couitt (G).

Analysis: The Tigers have been in a rough patch of late, with back-to-back winless seasons and just two victories the year before that. A deep sophomore class could help Newport begin treading the path toward contender status.

OXBOW

Coach: Justin Smith (third season).

Last year: 1-17, missed playoffs.

League: VPA Division III.

Returners: Senior — Chase Lund (G). Juniors — Matthew Corti (G), Reece Ilsley (G), Isaiah Beauregard (G). Sophomores — Zadian Walton (F), Garrett Danforth (F).

Newcomers: Junior — Brady Nickles. Sophomores — Ethan Emerson, Ethan Davis, Will Gravlin. Freshmen — Jaxon Griffin, Braxton Adams.

Analysis: The Olympians limped to their second straight one-win season, but 29 players are in the program now, compared to 13 two years ago when Smith first took over the varsity team. Lund, Corti and Ilsley are returning starters.

"We're lacking size but we have some speed," Smith said. "No standout players, but 12 who can get on the floor and contribute. The future is bright."

RIVENDELL

Coach: Andy Perkins (first season).

Last year: 19-1, lost in semifinals to Blue Mountain.

League: VPA Division IV.

Returners: Seniors — Ashton Pierson (G/F), Josiah Welch (G/F), Harry Molesworth (G/F), Derek Vogelien (G). Juniors — Finnegan O'Donnell (G), Jacoby Patterson (G).

Newcomers: Senior — Josh Gould. Juniors — Carter Bacon, Luke Avery, Robert McNelly, Parker Piper.

Analysis: The Raptors enjoyed a perfect regular season and collapsed down the stretch in the semifinals last March at Barre Auditorium. Perkins, the junior varsity coach last year, now takes over the varsity for Ross Convertino. Rivendell no longer enjoys the services of Kyle Carter and Chris Pierce, but still return plenty of experience to an all-upperclassmen roster.

"We have the chance to be a very good team," Perkins said. "The goal is to be an exciting team and to be playing our best ball at the end of the season. We lost four starters from last year's team, but the returning guys we have are ready to step up into larger roles this season."

SHARON

Coach: Ben Montenegro (first season).

Last year: 4-17, lost in first round to Blue Mountain.

League: VPA Division IV.

Returners: Seniors — Jack Lloyd (G), Caleb Benjamin (F), Parker Bogardus (F), Jack Doris (C). Junior — Maple Moore (G).

Newcomers: Juniors — Joey Thibodeau (F), Zabrien Magee (F). Sophomore — Connor Jarret (F). Freshman — Daniel Piasecki (G).

Analysis: Montenegro, an assistant coach last season and a Vermont Law School student, takes over the Phoenix after just one season under Dave Brown.

"Strength is senior leadership and experience," Montenegro said. "Depth is always a weakness given our student body size."

STEVENS

Coach: Ray Curren (third season).

Last year: 9-8, lost in first round to Mascoma.

League: NHIAA Division III.

Returners: Seniors — Devin Genes (G), Trystan Lane (G/F), Hunter LaRocque (G), Evan Lee (G), Dominic Puksta (F), Ty Theriault (F). Juniors — Lucas Belisle (F), Mason Ferland (F).

Newcomers: Seniors — Jai-Lique Ribeiro (F), A.J. Rozzell (F). Junior — Devante Thompson (C). Sophomores — Jacob Davis (G), Steve Rheaume (C).

Analysis: The Cardinals are a veteran team with eight seniors, but not much varsity experience. Kayden LaClair (11.5 ppg last year) transferred to rival Newport, though leading scorer LaRocque (11.9 ppg) is back.

"The schedule is fairly difficult, but we have a chance in most of our games in an open Division III," Curren said.

THETFORD

Coach: Jason Gray (seventh season).

Last year: 4-16, lost in first round to Vergennes.

League: VPA Division III.

Returners: Senior — Jacob Gilman (G). Junior — Mitchell Parkman (F). Sophomores — Hunter Clay (G), Dempsey McGovern (G), Dillon Vance (G/F), Matt Vivian (G), Boone Fahey (F).

Newcomers: Junior — Justin Robinson (F). Sophomores — Brady Sloop (F), Spencer Durkee (G), Liam Murphy (G). Freshmen — Owen Goodrich (G), Sam Parkman (G).

Analysis: Gilman and Parkman, who each averaged double figures in scoring last year, will likely carry the load again for the Panthers. Thetford is a defensive-minded group with plenty of speed, but undersized compared to most Capital League foes.

WHITE RIVER VALLEY

Coach: DJ Craven (first season).

Last year: 17-5, lost in Division IV finals to Blue Mountain.

League: VPA Division III.

Returners: Senior — Reid Penta (F). Juniors — Tattin Griffin (F), Dylan Slack (F). Sophomores — Donovan Craven (F), Brayden Russ (G).

Newcomers: Seniors — Zack Frary, Teddy Janczak, Dieter Seiling. Juniors — Braydon White, Finn Bailey. Sophomores — Wyatt Cadwell, Zander Clark.

Analysis: After dropping the D-IV title game on a buzzer-beater last March, the Wildcats have moved up to D-III. DJ Craven takes over as head coach for Mike Gaudette, who left for Hartford. An important senior class is gone, but Russ figures to be White River Valley's go-to player as the Wildcats reload.

"We will make some noise," DJ Craven said. "We will steal a few games here and there and hope to make a good playoff run."

WINDSOR

Coach: Larry Dougher (first season).

Last year: 9-12, lost in quarterfinals to Hazen.

League: VPA Division III.

Returners: Seniors — Maison Fortin (G), Travis McAllister (F), Rodger Petermann (F), Bradley Bowers (F).

Newcomers: Juniors — Corey Lockwood (G), Tanner Moody (G/F), Anthony Cook (G), Lee Bevis (F), Brody Osgood (G/F), Brooks Ruderman (G), Nate Griffin (F), Trevor Lagrow (G), Bradley Adams (G), Jonah Meadows (G).

Analysis: Dougher takes over the Yellowjackets after 39-year head coach Harry Ladue retired following last season. Windsor returns four senior starters and has a strong crop of juniors, many of whom helped the school win its second straight football state championship this fall.

"Our preseason work has been very competitive," Dougher said. "We play a tough schedule, which should help us prepare for the tournament."

WOODSTOCK

Coach: Steve Landon (second season).

Last year: 8-12, lost in Division II first round to Hartford.

League: VPA Division III.

Returners: Seniors — Declan McCullough (G), Alec Smail (G), Rowan Smail (F), Chris Bradley (G). Junior — Zach Martsolf-Tan (G).

Newcomers: Senior — Reece Sheehan (G). Juniors — Ezra Lockhart (F), Gavyn Sammel (F), Keller Pauly (F), Kuba Marzec (F), Lucas Morgan (F), Django Ferines (F). Sophomore — Caeden Perreault (G).

Analysis: The Wasps drop down to Division III this year, and they'll again be led by McCullough (13.6 ppg last year). Even with the drop, Woodstock will play a lot of D-I and D-II teams.

"Strong senior leadership on our team should prove to be valuable as we navigate through the season," Landon said. "Overall we hope to improve each week and make a strong run into the tournament."

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.

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