Tag: Farmington

Championship Snapshots: Past hoop memories galore

By Mike Whaley

This week’s Jam Session hears from fans, coaches and former players and coaches as they recall special moments from past championship games.

There are quite a few varied takes. You have a celebratory bus ride past adoring townspeople; injuries overcome and deficits, too; a player standing on a rim after the game; a basket scored for the other team; a lucky nickel; trampoline dunking in practice the day before the final; and how about one win at a time all the way to 25-0 and a few other perfect thoughts. Let the memories begin!

Bill Douglas • 1971 Austin-Cate Academy

Bill Douglas, player, Austin-Cate Academy, 1971 Class S boys champs – With the Class S title in hand against Epping in the waning minutes at the University of New Hampshire, old Austin-Cate Academy of Center Strafford cleared the bench, recalled Douglas, the team’s star guard. Freshman Eddie Maccarelli made a steal and blazed down the floor in the final seconds, laying the ball in just before the buzzer – but in the other team’s basket. Final score: ACA 66, Epping 55. Douglas said he later found out that if Macarelli, who he dubbed “Wrong Way,” had scored for Austin-Cate the Wildcats would have tied the Class S record for most points by a winning team in a championship game with 68. Maccarelli is the only Austin-Cate player to have played on the school’s two state championship hoop teams. He was also on the 1974 title team as a senior. ACA made four trips to the Class S championship during a five-year span in the early 1970s. The school closed in 1980.

Frank Weeks, coach, Alton, 1975 Class A girls champs – Weeks recalls in the ‘75 final vs. Hillsboro-Deering, Alton led by just 20-14 at the half. However, they had a huge 18-0 surge in the third quarter that propelled them to a convincing 49-24 championship win – the first of three championships in four years. Alton, which became part of Prospect Mountain HS with Barnstead in 2004, won again in 1976, lost in the 1977 final and won in 1978, along the way building a 64-game winning streak. Two of its players – Amy Birdsey and Diane DeJager – scored over 1,000 points, and a third, Pam Smith, had over 970. A fourth, Arlene Dejager, a force on the boards, recorded over 1,000 career rebounds. Weeks also recalls at practice the day before the championship, he felt they were well prepared and there was nothing else to be done to get ready for the game. So he let the girls pull out the trampoline and the team spent the rest of the practice working on their dunks. “It was a very good group of young ladies,” Weeks said. “They were physically talented and committed. They enjoyed playing basketball.”

1976-77 Oyster River senior captains Jody Mooradian and Laurie Herbst admiring the championship plaque with coach Cathy Coakley.

Jody Mooradian, player, Oyster River, 1977 Class A girls champs – Mooradian had this memory from game day in 1977, which she recounted in 2019 to Seacoastonline after coach Cathy Coakley’s death: On the day of the state championship game, the bus was 30 minutes late. Coakley, always cool and calm, handled it perfectly. “Instead of getting nervous, she said, ‘OK, everybody let’s start dressing now in the bus.’ We all started putting on our shorts and our sneakers, then when we got off the bus we were ready to go.” Mooradian added, “Some people, even in college, when things start happening, coaches will let the situation take over. I just remember that — ‘just start getting dressed.’ That’s a thing that kind of sticks with you. How do you react? She was very professional. She made it happen. That helped us win, that little adventure.” Indeed, the Bobcats beat perennial power Alton, the two-time defending champs, in the final, 49-46, at Saint Anselm’s College for the school’s first girls’ hoop title. It snapped the Apaches’ 64-game winning streak to cap a perfect 20-0 season for Oyster River.

Mike Whaley, fan, 1976 Class L boys championship game – One of Whaley’s favorite championship memories (when he was a high school teen growing up in the Durham area) took place in the waning seconds of the 1976 Class L final, played at UNH between Trinity and Portsmouth. With the score tied at 58-all and time running out, a Portsmouth player called a timeout the Clippers didn’t have. A technical foul resulted. “Back then, the technical was a one-shot award,” recalled Whaley, not the two shots it is today. “With only a second or two remaining,Trinity sent gritty guard Dan Duval to the line at the end of Lundholm Gymnasium where the crowd enters. Above the basket was an open area where, at the time, fans were allowed to gather to watch the game. Since it was a technical foul shot,  Duval was all by himself at the foul line. As he prepared to take the shot, a small group of hecklers taunted him from above. It didn’t bother Duval, who calmly drilled the shot for the championship win.” That allowed Trinity, coached by Don Beleski, to defend its title, while, for Portsmouth, it was one of four painful Class L championship losses over a six-year span under legendary coach Dan Parr – the state’s winningest coach with 704 coaching victories.

Marge Fisk, coach, Dover, 1977 Class AA girls champs – Fisk guided the Green Wave during the infancy of NHIAA girls basketball from 1970 to 1982. The 1977 championship was unexpected as the previous year’s team, laden with seniors, went undefeated, but was upset in the quarterfinals. However, the ‘77 Dover girls, led by gritty guard Patty Foster, plus the addition of talented sophomores Karen Vitko and Lynne Richard Chavez, went undefeated to win the program’s first title over Manchester Central. “That was one of the finest groups I ever coached,” said Fisk in 2021. “They were just a family. There were a lot of superstars, but we always played as a team, and it made a big difference.” There was no big celebration after the championship win.  On the bus ride back, the players did ask coach Fisk if they could do “something wild.” Mary Brady Legere said the coach let the girls get out of the bus at the Lee Traffic Circle to do a Chinese fire drill around the bus and then get back in. 

Paul Boulay, player, Somersworth, 1984 Class I boys champs – It was the third quarter of the 1984 final at UNH and Somersworth trailed Pembroke by 10 points (45-45) with under two minutes to play. The Hilltoppers were 20-0 and playing in their third straight final, having lost the previous two. “They’re shooting a free throw and I’m lined up looking into the stands trying not to start crying,” said Boulay, who recalls he and teammate, Kyle Hodsdon, talked about winning the championship as pre-teens back in the day at a family Christmas party. “I went coast to coast for an old-school three and then assisted on a layup to end the third quarter (to cut the lead to 45-40). We outscored them 15-6 in the fourth to win 55-51. Up 53-51 with five seconds left, I got fouled and went to the line for a 1-and-1 (before the 3-point shot). I remember hitting the first one (to make it a two-possession game) and erupting with a jumping fist pump and a quick run in front of our fans. Don’t remember thinking about doing it, but the release of emotions and relief was just overwhelming because I’m not sure what I’d have done if we’d lost three straight.”

Tim Mucher, Farmington • 1984 Class M State Champions

Mike Lee, coach, Farmington, Class M boys champs (1984, 1988) – Lee, who coached the Tigers, from 1977 to 1998, recalls at the end of the 1984 championship game, a 76-54 win over Conant, being approached by a furious Peter Cofran, the tournament administrator. Cofran was yelling at Lee, “Get him down!” Lee had no idea what Cofran was referring to, until he saw Farmington guard Tim Mucher standing atop one of the rims. “I don’t know how he got up there,” said Lee, although he had his suspicions. “I’m sure it was something he had seen on television.” Not long after, Lee recalls going to the NHIAA offices in Concord and seeing a picture of Mucher on the rim. He laughs. “That resonates now.” He also recalls in the final 90 seconds of  the 1988 championship game, a 78-70 win over Mascoma, seeing a nickel, heads up, in front of the Farmington bench. As he bent down to pick it up, a voice yelled, “Don’t pick it up. It’s been there the whole game.” That voice belonged to Tony Carone, a member of the ‘84 championship team. Lee left the nickel there because, you know, a heads-up nickel signifies good luck – and it did that day for the Tigers.

Nute Rams • 1990 Class S State Champions

David Burrows, player, Nute, 1990 Class S boys champs – Burrows led the Rams to their last hoop title in 1990, scoring a tournament record 149 points in four games (still the most in the state regardless of division or gender). Nute beat Wilton-Lyndeborough in the final, 56-45, behind 34 points from Burrows. He had this recollection: “Something that stands out in my memory was after our championship game (in 1990). The team bus and several spectator buses were parked at the exit outside the locker rooms at Plymouth State College.  I think the entire community of Milton was waiting for us to come out to celebrate. What I saw next was hair tingling. Wilton’s team came out of that exit and our fans gave Wilton a standing ovation. I was very proud to be part of a community that shows that level of respect and sportsmanship.  Something you rarely see these days.”

Kelly Hall Barsky, center, is now the interim athletic director at UC Santa Barbara where she is a former basketball coach. In 1992-93 she helped lead Coe-Brown to an undefeated season and the Class M girls hoop championship. [Courtesy photo]

Kelly Hall Barsky, player, Coe-Brown, 1993 Class M girls champs – The Bears capped a perfect season with a 54-52 win over Franklin in the final to win the school’s first girls’ basketball championship. Barsky, now the interim athletic director at UC Santa Barbara, fondly remembers the championship and the celebration afterwards. “We rode back in the bus,” she said. “As we pulled into Epsom (Traffic) Circle and then all the way to Northwood, there were families that came out of their houses, along the route, and turned their lights on. We had a fire truck that led the bus. They came out and waved and we were waving and cheering.” It culminated with the team going back to the Coe-Brown gym where the Bears practiced every day. “Families and community members showed up,” said Barsky, who played for her dad, Tom Hall. “It brings me to tears now because it was just a moment of unity.”

 

The 1992-93 Stratford Lions went 21-0 to win the Class S state boys hoop championship, beating Orford in the final, 40-39. [Courtesy photo]

Eric Hurlbert, player, Stratford, 1993 Class S boys champs – Hurlbert was a junior on that undefeated team and one of three players – seniors Troy Burns and Josh Stone were the other two – to break 1,000 points that season (two did it in the same game). The Lions beat Orford for the title, 40-39, scoring the winning basket at the buzzer on a Billy Burns feed to his brother Troy. It was Stratford’s first championship since 1942. The school closed in 2012.

Keith Friel, player, Oyster River, 1995 Class I boys champs – It was a special moment for Friel when the Bobcats won the first of back-to-back Class I titles in the mid 1990s – a 55-52 win over Lebanon. “Our first championship, winning it at Lundholm (Gymnasium) with that core of kids we grew up playing together from (grades) 3, 4, 5, all the way up,” Friel said. “That was special. Hugging my brother (Greg). It was a culmination of all those hours of camp, all those hours in the gym growing up in Lundholm (where the Friel boys dad was the UNH men’s coach from 1969 to 1989). It was kind of surreal. I have all those memories of seeing (my dad) coaching there. When he ran out on the floor and hugged me, it was really special.”

Dave Smith coached Coe-Brown Northwood Academy to the 1997 Class M boys basketball championship. He is pictured here in 2021 being honored for his 600th coaching win. [Courtesy photo]

Dave Smith, coach, Coe-Brown, 1997 Class M boys champs – The dean of active N.H. coaches, Smith has coached basketball in the state for 55 years (45 in high school). The beginning of his one championship win in ‘97 still resonates. “We started out 6-0 – behind,” recalls Smith. “I was very close to (calling) a timeout. They had the ball. I was saying, ‘Oh crap, this isn’t a good way to start.’ We were pressing at Plymouth State. … Dakota Smith was playing up front on the press and he came all the way back on the rotation, which was a good rotation. He made a steal. We went down and scored. From then on it was back and forth. That kind of set the tone for us defensively. We had a great defensive game.” Coe-Brown won the championship, 57-43.

Dave Nichols, coach, Oyster River, 2003 Class I girls champs – This is one of Nichols’ favorite stories about the 2003 champs. He coached the Bobcats to four titles, and was the first in N.H. to coach both a boys and a girls team to a championship (OR boys in 1988, and three girls teams – 2003, 2006, 2009). “After our first game I commented that it was clear that this team was going to be very good and that all could see that they loved playing together,” Nichols recalled. “I told them that they would have 25 opportunities to do that, 18 regular-season games, three in the holiday tournament (Manchester, playing three Class L schools) and then four in the Class I tournament if we could get all the way to the finals; 25 games, maybe. Then I said, ‘one down’ and they shouted ‘24 to go.’ That countdown continued after every game. That was quite prophetic, too, and later people asked if I had been brazen enough to tell the team that we could go 25-0. No, the 25 games were how many they ‘could’ play, not a challenge to win them all. But we did.”

Dan O’Rourke, coach, Hanover, 2005 Class I girls champs – O’Rourke, the Marauders’ coach since 2001, recalls a key moment early on in the 2005 Class I championship against Oyster River, coached by Dave Nichols. Hanover had three girls with fevers and Oyster River got out to an eight-point lead. Hanover had a player named Emily Huff, who O’Rourke described as a terrier. She was on the bench going, ‘Let me in. Let me in.’ O’Rourke said let’s see what happens, knowing that when he put her in she would get after it. “Finally the game was starting to get away,” he said. “We put her in. Within a 3- or 4-minute span she completely changed the complexion of the game. Came in. Stole the ball two or three times. Hit a shot, and suddenly it was back to a tie game.” Hanover went on to win, 49-38, to defend their 2004 title. The Marauders have won five titles under O’Rourke.

Stephanie Larpenter, player, Sunapee, 2006 sand 2007 Class S girls champs – “One memory that stands out from our championships from 2006 to 2007 is that in the championship game in 2006 there was four minutes left in the game and I tore my ACL,” said Larpenter, who is now Sunapee’s coach. “Fast forward to 2007 after surgery and physical therapy for eight months. We beat Groveton, and just the feeling of accomplishment personally and with the team coming back from a major injury like that is something I’ll never forget. The satisfaction of all the hard work paid off. I think that is one core memory that really stands out to me.”

John Mulvey, player, Portsmouth, 2009 Class I boys champs – “I grew up playing basketball with the same group that won the 2009 championship,” wrote Mulvey who played for his dad, Jim Mulvey and is now the Clipper coach. “Growing up, we would play all day every day. Playing high school basketball with this same group was a dream. We had a lot of success, but going into our senior year we were missing something. That was a state championship. Late in the game, we got two full-court layups from long passes after Pelham scored. After those layups, we realized the game was out of reach and we were going to win the championship. I will never forget the feeling and moment of jumping around with my best friends celebrating a state championship.” Final score: Portsmouth 61, Pelham 48. On a personal note, Mulvey scored a game-high 26 points and buried five 3-pointers, a tournament record he still shares with two other players. The game, however, did not start well for the lefty sharpshooter. He missed his first seven shots. “The first couple almost broke the backboard,” he said in 2020. “I had to settle down.” Which he obviously did.

Aliza Simpson McKenna, player, Londonderry, 2014 Division I girls champs – “We had one loss on the season to Bedford and we were squaring up again for the state title. This was legendary Coach John Fagula’s last high school game after an incredible career and we were hoping to send him off as a champion. I’ll never forget, we were down by two and we probably had 10 seconds left to play. Bedford was a powerhouse and had great defenders. The time was running down and Brittany Roche was left wide open in the corner. A pass came flying at her from a baseline drive and without any fear she threw up a 3-pointer. Nothing but net. We had clinched the title, 57-56, ended Bedford’s undefeated season and allowed John Fagula to sail off into the sunset as a champion.”

Rick Forge, coach, Gilford, 2016 Division III girls champs – “The perfect season,” said Forge, who also coached Gilford to the 2009 title and Somersworth to a crown in 1986 in Class I. “Back then Lakes Region basketball fostered some great rivalries amongst the area’s seven Division 3 schools.  It was only fitting that Gilford and Laconia would be the two teams left standing for the finals. The schools, separated by a couple of miles – or a few long 3-pointers – would be meeting for the fourth time that season (holiday tournament included).  Each previous matchup was an instant classic, including a triple OT game that is still talked about. The community atmosphere in the local coffee shops and businesses was electric.  On championship Saturday it was a full SNHU gym of red and blue and the fans, well let’s just  say they were into it.The actual game was wire to wire filled with huge moments: long 3s from Brooke Beaudet, a clutch Maddie Harris steal in the final minute, Cassidy Bartlett assisting on a Jordan Dean game-winning backdoor cut, and Stevie Orton’s game-sealing free throws in the final seconds. When the final horn sounded we had managed to squeeze out a (42-38) win and complete the undefeated journey. It was a perfect ending to a perfect season for a perfect group of young ladies.”  

Cassidy Bartlett, player, Gilford, 2016 Division III girls champs – “I can still feel the overwhelming sense of emotion that came with the final buzzer,” said via email.  “Years of memories, practice, competition and passion culminating into a picture-perfect ending. There is nothing like celebrating a championship.  It’s not just for the team or Gilford High School – it’s for an entire community.  It hangs as a banner; a piece of history that serves as a symbol of legacy for those who come next.  At the core of our accomplishment was the culture of the team.  We grew up learning the game together, and we inspired each other to be the best versions of ourselves.  Most importantly, we were devoted to the same mission: ‘Take care of the little things and the big thing will take care of itself.’’’

Trevor Howard, player/coach, Littleton, Class M/Division IV boys champs 1990, 2016, 2020 – Howard is part of a small N.H. fraternity to have played for and coached for a high school state champion. Here are a couple quick thoughts from the current Crusaders’ coach: “The last four boys’ state championships 1971, 1990, 2016, 2020 were all undefeated. Littleton hasn’t won a state championship in 50 years with a loss on their record. So I guess it’s either undefeated or nothing.  I’ve been lucky and blessed to be involved in nine state championship games, one as a player, one as an assistant coach, and seven as a head coach.” A huge moment for Howard was Ethan Ellingwood’s game-winning shot with 10 seconds to play in the 2016 championship game against Portsmouth Christian that broke a 36-all tie and won it for the Crusaders. “Best memory and biggest shot in LHS basketball history,” said Howard, who captured his first title as a coach.

Jay Darrah, coach, Pittsfield, 2018 Division IV boys champs – Two indelible memories for coach Darrah as Pittsfield won its first hoop state title, beating Newmarket, 43-40. The first: “As a coach, having some of the members of the 1981 and 1990 (runner-up) teams handing over their runner-up medals post game and thanking us for finishing the job that they wanted so badly. Thanking us for bringing a state championship to Pittsfield for the first time.” Secondly: “As a father who had the pleasure of coaching my son and his closest friends through this memorable season, I will never forget the post-game medal ceremony. Placing medals around the boys’ necks in front of our community will be one of my favorite moments.  The 2018 season was my 17th season coaching the Panthers.  We had a handful of semifinal appearances, but never managed to make it to the finals.  But that didn’t stop my son Cam and I from attending every championship game as he grew older.  He always promised me that someday he would get me that championship medal. Well the last player to be presented a medal that day was my son Cameron.  After I placed the medal around his neck, Cam immediately took the medal from his neck and placed it around mine and gave me a hug and said, ‘Here is the medal I have been promising you.’”

Jeff Holmes, coach, Exeter, 2019 D-I boys champs – A few things jump out for Holmes who won his first coaching championship with a 53-30 win over Salem, completing an undefeated season. “We jumped out 7-0, hitting our first three shots,” he said. “That was huge.” To begin the fourth quarter, Salem got a technical with the game still close in the 7-8-9 range. That started a run to allow the Blue Hawks to pull away. As Exeter pulled away, Holmes got to soak in the championship moment in the final minutes. “It was going our way, so I’ve got to take it in, winning the title, which was pretty cool,” he said.

Epping • 2019 Division IV State Champions

Nick Fiset, coach, Epping, 2019 D-IV boys champs – “I remember thinking all week during practice the championship game would fly by, but (remember) during the game feeling like the clock never moved and it was taking forever,” Fiset recalled. “ I called a timeout after Hunter Bullock scored an incredible basket and said to him while he was walking over ‘Keep it going, only a little bit left.’  He replied like he always did, ‘Coach, I can do this all night.’  All I could think to myself was, ‘He sure can.’”

John Fisher, coach, Bishop Guertin, 2021 Division I boys champs – “While I have many fond memories of our championship game – 42-35 win over Winnacunnet – one that stands out was the elation on the faces of the senior players on that team after the final buzzer when they ran onto the floor,” Fisher wrote via email. “A close second was listening to the speeches each senior player gave at the basketball banquet that occurred the next week. Each player’s speech was filled with fond memories of times spent with members of the team. It was an inspiring moment and reminded everyone in the room that having fun with your friends is ultimately what the game is about.”

Rick Acquilano, coach, Gilford, 2021 Division III boys champs – Gilford trailed in the final by as many as 13 points in the second half, but rallied to tie it at 39-all with 22 seconds to play. Hopkinton had the ball. “We needed a defensive stop,” the coach recalled. Gilford’s Riley Marsh stole the ball at mid-court and took it in for a layup to take the lead.  “The game ended with Jalen Reese blocking a shot attempt under the basket as time expired to hold on for a 41-40 victory,” Acquilano said. “Two great defensive plays to preserve the victory.”

Dave Nichols, now an assistant with the Hanover girls, has been coaching since the early 1970s when he was a volunteer assistant at his alma mater of Milford HS. He weaves a good story, and it is this one that we will leave you with, about Oyster River’s 1988 boys’ hoop championship, complete with a superb background story.

During the summer of 1987 he  coached an AAU team along with the late Jack Ford of Winnacunnet and Mike Lee of Farmington. “We had two of my Oyster River players on the team, John Freiermuth and Pat Casey,” Nichols recalled. “Mike Joslin of Lebanon was also on the team. Those three kids, the only ones from Class I, along with Mike Mucher of Farmington, who was the only Class M player, would hang out together a lot. AAU was different back then and we were allowed to pick kind of an all-star team from N.H. so the rest of the team was Class L kids. On one trip I had those four kids in the car with me and the subject of the coming high school season came up. Mike Joslin claimed that they, Lebanon, were loaded and going ‘all the way’. Slowly I responded to the delight of the other three in the car.  ‘Actually, this is what’s going to happen, Mike. You guys will have a great season, probably go undefeated because you have an easy schedule. The three other top teams will be Goffstown, Merrimack Valley (Scott Drapeau was an incredible freshman) and Oyster River. Those three teams will play each other twice and will probably split the wins.” The other three players were now chiming in and giving Joslin, who we all liked a lot, a hard time about their ‘soft’ schedule. I went on. ‘The four of us will get to the semifinals and you’ll have to beat two of us to win it all. That won’t happen. You might beat one of us in the semis but whoever is left will shock you in the finals because you will have faced zone teams all year and you’re not quick enough to play man against any of us. Hopefully it will be us in the finals, right guys?” nodding to Pat and John. “And if it is, you won’t be able to bring the ball up alone against our man press all night.

If it’s us, playing on our ‘second home court’ where we practice all the time (admittedly a huge exaggeration) you’ll have had your third long drive down in a week while we have a five-minute bus ride, we’ll wear down your tired butts and send you back for a long, lonely ride home.’ The other three all joined in with a chorus of agreement while I smiled.

Pretty much the best prediction I have ever made. It was a long hard season for us but somehow we were ranked No. 2 with MV third and Goffstown fourth. Lebanon did get by Goffstown while we pulled out a close, hard-fought win over Merrimack Valley. 

In the locker room at UNH someone came by to wish us luck and said there were a bunch of limousines in front of UNH to drive the players and coaches back to Lebanon. We never knew if that was true or not, but certainly used it as motivation. Lang Metcalf was a great coach and a lot of insiders thought this was going to be his crowning achievement to a storied career. Lang admitted to me later that he knew they were in for a battle. Joslin played well, but we did wear him down and Freiermuth was deservedly the player of the year. We led the whole way and the game was not really as close as expected, 65-51. Oyster River’s first-ever Class I championship.

If you have championship memories of your own that you’d like to share, please email those to kj@ball603.com by March 15 and we’ll post those as well.

Amid shortage, women coaches thrive in Division IV

By Mike Whaley

Wednesday was a big evening for high school girls’ basketball coaches in New Hampshire. Three of the four coaches in the NHIAA Division IV semifinals were women, which is something to celebrate in a state where women are vastly under-represented in that profession.

No. 3 Derryfield held off No. 2 Pittsburg-Canaan in overtime in the first semifinal at Newfound High School, 47-40, while unbeaten No. 1 seed Concord Christian dispatched No. 4 Woodsville, 64-44, in the second game.

Concord Christian Head Coach Rebecca Carlile.

Rebecca Carlile’s CCA squad will meet Courtney Cheetham’s Derryfield five in the championship Sunday at Keene State College at 1 p.m. – a rarity in N.H. for two women coaches to face off in a basketball championship game.

The third female coach in Wednesday’s mix was Woodsville’s Tori Clough, who, at 24, is one of the youngest coaches in the state.

Farmington coach Dawn Weeks was excited about the semis with three women patrolling the sidelines. “Being one of few, it drives us to work that much harder,” she said.

Of New Hampshire’s 85 varsity high school girls’ basketball head coaching positions, only 17 – or 20 percent – are held by women. In Maine, the percentage is 28.

Newmarket Head Coach Meghan Averill.

Cheetham was ecstatic about the opportunity to coach against other women, especially in the tournament. “I just coached against (Newmarket’s) Meghan Averill,” she said of her team’s quarterfinal win over the Mules. “She’s my coach of the year in Division IV. She’s another female who is right there. She’s great.”

She added,” I think it’s really good for girls’ sports. … It’s good to see a decent amount of female coaches in the south.” Of the 17 women’s varsity hoop coaches in the state, seven are in D-IV, five in D-III, three in D-II and two in D-I.

“I think it’s good for kids to see some role-modeling,” Cheetham said. 

Woodsville Head Coach Tori Clough.

Clough, in her first year as a head coach, knew it would be a challenge against Concord Christian. “Rebecca Carlile has done such a great job with her team,” she said. “If we can just hang with them, that would be a successful first year in my book.

“Rebecca, Courtney, Meghan Averill from Newmarket, I look up to all of them,” said Clough, a 2016 Woodsville grad. “They have such great teams and they do such a nice job with them.”

“I think it’s amazing,” Carlile said. “I think it’s great. Anytime you see women being empowered to use their gifts and talents, what she’s passionate about. … I love to see women doing what they’re doing and not feeling like they can’t do it because it’s a men’s job.

“I also think it’s a great opportunity for the girls to see women doing something that they are passionate about, that they’re knowledgeable about, and they’re willing to instill what they know on a younger generation.”

SMALL FRATERNITY, BIG CHALLENGES

But the fact remains that women make up a small part of New Hampshire’s basketball coaching landscape.

Why is that? Are women not applying? Are they not being considered or even encouraged? Does the climate turn them off? Is it more difficult for women to coach in an environment stocked with so many men? There is a lot of speculation. 

Although armed with no specific answers, Dover High School Athletic Director Peter Wotton did note that the New Hampshire Athletic Directors Association (NHADA) will be dealing with similar subjects at its spring conference in May. “We’ll be looking at gender equity, Title IX and how to increase participation in females in sports,” he said. “We didn’t specifically mention basketball, but it is something we are going to be talking about as a group at our conference. It is something we do recognize in general.”

That being said, the position of athletic director in the state is another that is held mostly by men. Of the 88 high schools in the state, 12 have women ADs.

Speaking for Dover, Wotton said a woman has not been a head hoop coach at the school since he’s been there, which dates back to the mid 1990s. “I’m trying to think back,” he said. “We’ve had maybe a couple applicants. But only one good one, one that was close (to getting hired).”

Wotton said there is a common misconception from the general public that schools are receiving dozens of applicants for coaching positions. “If we get five, six, seven, eight, it’s oh my god, I can’t believe we have this many,” he said. “This is great.”

The opposite, however, is usually the case. “We’ve had head positions of significant sports that we got one or two,” Wotton said. “We’ve had one before.”

Dover is currently advertising for a new head girls’ basketball coach. 

New Hampshire Basketball Coaches Organization President Dave Chase agreed with that assessment. “The first thing I would say: it’s hard to get male coaches,” he said. “Times have changed. It’s a bigger commitment. I don’t think anyone is saying they don’t want to hire a female to coach basketball. There are so few women that are getting into it. I really don’t know why.”

It is a topic, however, that Chase intends to put on the agenda for the next NHBCO meeting on March 12.

He also pointed out that the NHBCO right now just has Averill (treasurer) as one of its four officers. The organization is currently looking for a vice president and secretary. “We’re begging,” he said. “It’s tough to get women to do it if there’s not a lot of women coaching.”

Derryfield Head Coach Courtney Cheetham (center).

Cheetham did note that before Derryfield, where she is in her second year as the head coach, she was the head coach at D-I Merrimack for six years. She had some pretty good success there, and was named coach of the year in her final season (2017-18).

She took a year off from coaching, but then put her name back out there in 2019. “I applied for other jobs the next year and I didn’t get them, which is funny to me,” she said.

Now she’s happy she didn’t get any of those jobs because she enjoys coaching at Derryfield so much, where she is also the Director of Wellness.

Certainly another reason that is universal is that some women want to have families. Carlile falls under that category. A 1994 graduate of Alvirne High School, she played basketball at Southern Nazarene University in the mid to late 1990s (two-time NAIA national champs). Coaching basketball wasn’t even on her radar until she was approaching 40.

Even then it came more out of necessity than anything else.

She was watching her son and then daughter play youth basketball, and not enjoying the experience. She finally decided she could bring more to the table with her past expertise to help out the well-meaning, but less knowledgeable volunteer coaches when her daughter was in third grade.  “It got to the point where I’ve just got to help here,” Carlile said.

Eventually that evolved into coaching CCA’s middle school team for two years, and then she was approached to coach the high school team three years ago. “It’s not like people are banging down doors to get coaching positions,” she said.

That coincided with a rejuvenation of sports at CCA. The school had built a new athletic facility. “There was extra energy,” she said. “There was some extra effort focused on winning, honestly. We can win and be Christian. We can be loving and kind and still win. That’s been fun to watch the last couple of years.”

As much as her first year as a head coach has been a great experience for Clough, it does provide insight into some of the challenges a young female coach faces.

“It was a lot,” said Clough, who played for and worked under male coaches at Woodsville. “I won’t lie. I’m coaching against the coaches I played against six, seven years ago.” 

She was able to use some of those coaches as resources like Littleton’s Dale Prior and Groveton’s Tim Haskins. “It was fun to have them as mentors this year,” Clough said. “They’ve kind of helped me along; given me some tips. It’s nice when you can look up to those coaches.”

Clough felt it was a good change for Woodsville having a young woman coach. “I know the kids appreciate having a female role model now,” she said. “It feels different as a young female coach. You look around and it’s all the typical middle-aged males.”

Clough is a patched basketball official in Vermont, and there are very few women officials in that state. The case is the same in N.H.

“It’s daunting to be a young female trying to do anything right now,” she said. “It’s nice to have the men to support me and it’s nice that they do. But I wish that I would see more females.”

Clough recalls it was a battle when she first started as the head coach. “I don’t think people trust you as much as they would a middle-aged male,” she said. “We definitely have to earn people’s respect much more than a middle-aged male would. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true.

“I see that in officiating and I see it in coaching, too,” Clough said. “I step onto the floor to officiate and (she gets the look) – ‘it seems like she looks really young.’ I do just as good a job as a 50-year-old man.”

Along the same lines, Cheetham found it funny when she began coaching at the Division IV level. She was learning who some of the referees were. “Ninety-five percent of the time everybody would walk over to my assistant (a man) and introduce themselves,” she said. “They thought he was the head coach. And every time he’d point to me – ‘She’s the coach.’ There’s this assumption that he was the coach. Why him?”

She added, “This is no knock on referees because I’m a patched referee myself,” she said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for referees.”

“It’s tough that we have to earn that respect, to earn people’s trust to have faith in us, when we do just as good a job,” Clough said. “I think that keeps a lot of females from hanging around. We have to work extra hard for something that a man doesn’t have to” because of who they are.”

Even now, Clough isn’t sure what future coaching path she will take. She’s also involved with high school soccer, and feels she could pursue that with or instead of basketball.

Farmington Head Coach Dawn Weeks.

Weeks sees challenges in regards to a few of the male coaches she deals with, although most of her relationships are very good. However, there are a few men who won’t shake her hand or share scouting information. She recalls, as well, trying fervently to get a timeout in a game and could not get a male official’s attention. She was only awarded the timeout when her male counterpart finally was able to catch the official’s eye.

Another important advantage for Clough is her flexibility as a teacher. She teaches third grade at nearby Monroe Consolidated School. That allows her to get to practice and games without impacting her job, something that cannot be said for those who do not work in education.

Ditto for Cheetham and Pinkerton Academy’s Lani Buskey, who work in the school systems where they coach. Carlile has maintained her coaching flexibility working part-time for her family’s business.

“My players have more of a comfortable friendship personally with me,” Clough said. “They’ll share things with me that I say ‘Would you have shared that with a male coach?’ They tell stories. They’re so comfortable and relaxed. I haven’t seen that in the past when there was a male coach. They take advice from me, whether it’s coaching or life advice. It’s kind of nice to think I could be a role model for them.”

WOMEN COACHES EMPOWERING GIRLS

Buskey is one of two D-I coaches, recently leading her team to the D-I semifinals. She was named D-I Coach of the year for the third time.

A 1998 graduate of Pinkerton, Buskey played basketball for the Astros. She has taught English and coached basketball at the Derry school for the past 19 years. This was her ninth season as the varsity coach.

She has no answers as to why there are so few women’s hoop coaches in the state. “Knowing that there are not a lot of us, I take the role very seriously because I know I’m one of few,” Buskey said. “For me, understanding that representation matters in all forms, I really try to be the kind of leader that girls can look at and see themselves doing that. They can see a strong female in a leadership role doing it correctly, holding the whole program accountable and being successful at it. I think that’s important for girls.”

It’s an important point that the other coaches agree with.

“My theme in life, whether coaching or not, is to help people get to their potential or help them maximize their potential,” Cheetham said. “That’s my life coaching mentality. I always like to find that everybody is awesome.”

While Cheetham feels it’s important to expose kids to different voices whether they’re male or female, she is convinced that having strong, passionate female coaches are necessary role models to help impact the future of young women. “I do believe there is a role-modeling component,” she said. “And me being a female I might have the opportunity to do what someone who is male couldn’t.”

Weeks expanded on her take on accountability. A 1991 graduate of Farmington High School, where she was a player, she has been a girls’ head hoop for 10 years, the last nine at Farmington. “We have these ‘Come-to-Jesus’ moments when we sit at center court if I’m aggravated about something,” she said. “I don’t sugar coat anything. That’s not real life. Is it the teacher’s fault that you failed the exam? That’s not the teacher’s fault. It’s about accountability and ownership. It’s about realizing in real life that you’re going to have to work harder than everybody else. You can’t make excuses. And start now. Put on your big girl pants and own it.”

Weeks goes on to say, “I do want to be a good role model. I kind of lead by example and send the right message empowering them: don’t set limits on yourself. You can do anything you want to do.”

Shared experience is at the top of the list. As ex-players and as women, some women coaches feel they can offer insight because they went through some of the same stuff.

“I can say, ‘I’ve been here and here is how I handled it,’” Buskey said. “‘This is how you could approach it if you wanted to.’ I do think that’s the advantage of a female coaching another female. It makes communication or our delivery of things a small advantage over our male counterparts because I’ve been there before. I’ve walked in their shoes.”

“So much about teaching and coaching is about your own personal experience,” said Cheetham, 37, who played at Trinity High School. “Good or bad, I can relate to what it’s like to be a female athlete more than a man can. … I know what it’s like to be in their shoes. That’s a valuable perspective to have people who have similar experiences they can share.”

Carlile has a different take on a similar theme. “For me, I didn’t handle them well,” she said of some of her decisions made when she was younger. “I was facing it and here’s how I wished I handled it. Kids are kids. They don’t know. You do the best to help them and work them through the issues. I’m sure that perspective definitely affects my coaching.”

As for being a good coach for female athletes, Cheetham feels it is key to “understand how each of them ticks as individuals. It’s very different from coaching male athletes. Coaching female athletes you have to really understand each kid as an individual and how they want to be coached and how you can get the most out of them. I think that’s where I would have the slightest advantage as a female just trying to understand that.”

Carlile says that “Psychology 101” is her biggest coaching asset. “Getting kids to work hard for you and want to work for a common goal is as valuable as knowing Xs and Os on the basketball court,” she said. 

Carlile feels that coaches who focus on Xs and Os and drill their kids to improve their skill and win games ultimately get unhappy kids who don’t want to play for them. “That’s an aspect of coaching that I love,” she said. “Trying to figure out how to get these kids to want to work together and want to work hard for you. I don’t know that every coach is even aware that’s a big aspect of the game. I think it is.”

 Part of the job can also be forging a path for the next generation of women coaches.

One of Cheetham’s former players at Merrimack, Abby Yuan, fits in that category. A solid player and good leader in high school, she has a scholarship at St. John’s University as a basketball manager. Yuan is graduating this spring and plans to pursue a career in coaching. Cheetham said Yuan will apply for different graduate assistant jobs at the Division I college level.

“She’s a great example of a kid who came up, wasn’t the best player, but was able to understand the value of female leadership and empowerment seen around her and then take it in,” Cheetham said.

Buskey talks about a former player, Ashley Hugh, who is one of her assistants. “She’s a sponge,” the coach said. “She’s constantly trying to take in our culture and how we approach things. I work really hard to build relationships with my girls. She’s also working to find a way to do that.”

Another woman who played at Pinkerton when Buskey was an assistant, Laura Pierce, is now the head women’s coach at Fitchburg State University. “I was around for her,” Buskey said. “She coaches at the college level and she used to work at my camps. She’s a fantastic coach. Coming back to some of those camps along the way helped her hone in on some of the advantages you can have to be a strong female coaching a female program.”

“For me, the mission is let’s play good basketball and let’s make you really great basketball players,” Buskey said. “So let’s make you even stronger, confident women to go out in the world and change it.”

In New Hampshire, the fraternity of women coaching girls’ basketball remains small but, for the most part, committed to their craft and the empowerment of their girls.

For feedback or story ideas, email jamsession@ball603.com.

Top-seeded Woodsville survives scare from #9 Farmington

Top-seeded and undefeated Woodsville survived #9 Farmington on Thursday night, 60-47, to advance to the semifinals of the NHIAA Division IV Boys Basketball State Tournament. The Tigers trailed by just five with less than two minutes to play before the Engineers pu lled away for the victory.

Cam Tenney-Burt poured in a game-high 35 points for the Engineers, while Farmington was paced by Jeffrey DiPrizio’s 15 points.

Farmington upsets Groveton in D-IV prelims

Ninth seeded Farmington went on the road and defeated #8 Groveton, 51-31, to advance to the quarterfinal round of the NHIAA Division IV Boys Basketball State Tournament on Monday night.

Jordan Berko led FHS with 14 points, while Brian Weeks and Shawn Murphy added 12 and 11, respectively. The Eagles were paced by 13 points from Ben Wheelock.

FHS will take on top-seeded and undefeated Woodsville in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Check out the full photo gallery…

Farmington closes regular-season with key win over Newmarket

Farmington held Newmarket to just three points in the first quarter and 13 in the first half as the Tigers won a pivotal Division IV match-up on Tuesday night, 46-39. Farmington, which was led by Jordan Berko’s 11 points, finishes the regular-season at 11-7. Behind a game-high 13 points apiece from Colby Bost and Baris Fortier, the Mules wrap up the regular-season at 9-9.

Check out the full photo gallery…

Smooth Moves of the Week: Feb. 13, 2022

It’s time again for the Tropical Smoothie Cafe “Smooth Moves of the Week.” Tropical Smoothie Cafe was born on a beach where people know how to live. We like things fun and playful, sunny and bright. Shake your shoes off and turn the music up. It’s time to unwind… with the Tropical Smoothie Cafe “Smooth Moves of the Week”.

With locations in Rochester, Portsmouth, Portland and Biddeford, you’re on Tropic Time now.

This week’s Smooth Moves features plays from Dover, Farmington, Pinkerton and Souhegan.

TROPICAL SMOOTHIE CAFE LOCATIONS

Tropical Smoothie Cafe
127 Marketplace Blvd
Rochester, NH 03867

Tropical Smoothie Cafe
1600 Woodbury Avenue
Portsmouth, NH 03801

Tropical Smoothie Cafe
45 Western Ave
South Portland, ME 04106

Tropical Smoothie Cafe
426 Alfred Street
Biddeford, ME 04005

Derryfield pulls away late from Farmington

Derryfield, the second-highest scoring team in Division IV, poured in 21 points in the 4th quarter to pull away at Farmington on Friday night and come away with a 61-51 victory. The win for the Cougars snapped the Tigers three-game win streak.

D-IV’s leading scorer, Thomas Ferdinando, paced Derryfield with a team-high 18 points, but was held to just five in the second half. Teammate John McDevitt picked up the slack after the break as he tallied 12 of his 16 to help seal the deal for Derryfield.

Farmington was led by 14 points from Shawn Murphy, while Brian Weeks added 10.

Defense meets offense as Farmington hosts Derryfield

Farmington puts its three-game win streak on the line tonight as the Tigers host Derryfield at 7:00 pm. It’s a battle between offense and defense as the Cougars are the second-highest scoring team in Division IV (60.8 points per game), while Farmington is just one of six teams in the division holding its opponent to under 50 PPG (49.92).

The Tigers got off to a slow 0-3 start to the season, but since FHS is one of the hottest teams in the state with a 7-2 record and is holding teams to a measly 41.3 PPG during that time. The only two teams in the division hotter over their last nine games are the top two teams in the state, Woodsville (14-0) and Concord Christian Academy (12-1).

The Cougars are led by freshman Thomas Ferdinando, D-IV’s leading scorer (23.0 PPG), and are 6-5 on the season, having dropped three of their last four outings. Farmington and Derryfield squared off at The Bash back on December 27th in a game that saw the Tigers take a seven-point lead heading into the fourth, before falling to Derryfield, 49-48.

The game can be seen live right here on Ball 603 as JV gets underway at 5:30 pm, followed by varsity at 7:00 pm. For the best viewing experience, you can download the free Pack Network app for iPhone/iPad, Android, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire & Roku devices. Simply search for “Pack Network” in the App Store to download and watch on your TV through those devices.

WATCH LIVE…