By: KJ Cardinal
The 2023 NHIAA Boys Basketball Division III State Tournament gets underway tonight with a six-pack of first round games around the state. Let’s take a look at all six match-ups as we get ready for the action…
#9 Belmont at #8 Conant
The ninth-seeded Belmont Red Raiders hit the road to take on #8 Conant at 6:00 pm. The Orioles defeated the Red Raiders, 48-32, back on January 24th in the only meeting between the two this season.
Conant’s Jared Nagle leads the way for Eric Saucier’s squad with 12.8 ppg. The Red Raiders, under first-year head coach Tony Martinez, are paced by Keegan Martinez’s 15.7 ppg.
Belmont’s looking to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2021, while Conant last made a trip to the quarters in 2020.
#13 Inter-Lakes at #4 Hopkinton
Inter-Lakes and Hopkinton will meet for the first time this season tonight as the #13 Lakers hit the road to take on the #4 Hawks at 7:00 pm.
Hopkinton, the 2021 Division III runner-up, started off the season with eight straight wins, but has dropped three of their final four games and enter the tournament with a 12-4 mark. The Hawks are paced by Marek Joppa (14.8 ppg) and Will Tanuvasa (12.8).
The Lakers come into the tourney with a 6-10 mark and are led Owen Brown’s 14.1 ppg.
#12 Newport at #5 Campbell
The 12th-ranked Tigers make the trip to Litchfield to take on #5 Campbell tonight at 6:30 pm in the first meeting between the two this season.
The Cougars enter the tourney with a 12-4 mark and are riding a six-game win streak. With wins over #4 Hopkinton and at #8 Conant during that stretch, head coach Justin DiBenedetto’s squad appears to be playing their best basketball at the right time.
With seven wins on the season, Newport has equaled their win total from the previous five seasons combined. Do-it-all senior Kayden LaClair is the straw that stirs the drink for Rob Clark’s squad as he averages 19.8 ppg and can change the game on the defensive end of the floor.
#10 Monadnock at #7 Winnisquam
The seventh-ranked Winnisquam Bears welcome #10 Monadnock to Tilton tonight at 7:00 pm. The two have not met yet this season.
The Bears, led by the divisions top scorer Anthony Boomer (21.5 ppg), dropped their season finale at Stevens, but have won 10 of their last 13 games and enter the tourney with an 11-5 mark.
The Huskies are riding a season-long, four-game win streak as they enter the tourney with a 8-10 record. Evan Dumaine leads the way for Monadnock with 19.6 ppg.
#14 Berlin at #3 Mascoma
While the scheduling snafu that disqualified White Mountains from tournament play was unfortunate, it made way for #14 Berlin to sneak into the tourney’s final spot and will head to third-ranked Mascoma Valley at 7:00 pm.
The Royals are currently on a nine-game win streak with big wins during that stretch over #4 Hopkinton and #6 Stevens. Silas Ayres’ squad is led by Zach Thompson (18.6 ppg) and looks to get the quarterfinal round for the fourth-straight season. Just five days ago, the Royals cruised to a 68-35 win at Berlin.
The Mountaineers (5-12) started the season with two victories and ended the season with a win over #11 Somersworth, but in between they were just 2-12. Jeremiah Dow (15.2) and Haden Poulin (11.7) both average double digits for head coach Jesse Arsenault’s team.
#11 Somersworth at #6 Stevens
Sixth-ranked Stevens plays host to #11 Somersworth tonight at 7:00 pm.
The Cardinals enter the tourney with a 12-4 record and have won six of their last seven, including three straight. Hunter LaRocque paces Stevens with 14.3 ppg.
The Hilltoppers are currently on a four-game skid and have dropped seven of their last nine. But, head coach Leon Shaw’s squad has some weapons in the backcourt with Aiden Heffron (15.7 ppg) and Dominic Starr (13.0).