Boys’ basketball: D-II season recap

Coe-Brown’s Connor Bagnell takes a shot during the D-II boys’ basketball semifinal against Pelham at Oyster River High School on March 5. Bagnell and the Bears gave the top-seeded Pythons a tussle before falling in overtime.

Coe-Brown’s Connor Bagnell takes a shot during the D-II boys’ basketball semifinal against Pelham at Oyster River High School on March 5. Bagnell and the Bears gave the top-seeded Pythons a tussle before falling in overtime. Chip Griffin / Photos by Chip

Pembroke’s Evan Berkeley dribbles the ball up the floor against Hanover in last week’s D-II semifinal encounter. Berkeley is among the Spartans’ returnees next season.

Pembroke’s Evan Berkeley dribbles the ball up the floor against Hanover in last week’s D-II semifinal encounter. Berkeley is among the Spartans’ returnees next season. Chip Griffin / Photos by Chip

Peyton Larrabee drives toward the basket in Bow’s D-II quarterfinal loss to Hanover on March 1. Larrabee is among three young forwards expected to bolster the Falcons’ roster in 2024-25.

Peyton Larrabee drives toward the basket in Bow’s D-II quarterfinal loss to Hanover on March 1. Larrabee is among three young forwards expected to bolster the Falcons’ roster in 2024-25. Chip Griffin / Photos By Chip

John Stark's Donnie White rises for a shot attempt in a game against Merrimack Valley in mid January.

John Stark's Donnie White rises for a shot attempt in a game against Merrimack Valley in mid January. Chip Griffin—Photos By Chip

MV's Trevor Simonds dribbles the ball against John Stark.

MV's Trevor Simonds dribbles the ball against John Stark. Chip Griffin—Photos By Chip

Bishop Brady's Ryan Casey attempts a layup against Pembroke earlier this season.

Bishop Brady's Ryan Casey attempts a layup against Pembroke earlier this season. Chip Griffin—Photos By Chip

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 03-11-2024 1:10 PM

Modified: 03-12-2024 12:20 AM


It was a strong winter season for area Division II boys’ basketball teams. Four of the six reached the playoffs; all four won at least one game, and two advanced to the semifinals. No. 3 Pembroke saw its championship hopes dashed after losing to No. 2 Hanover, 49-43, while No. 4 Coe-Brown took No. 1 Pelham to overtime, but came up short as well, 59-56.

Here is a recap of each team’s season:

Pembroke Spartans

Record: 18-3 (16-2 regular season; third in D-II).

Seniors graduating: Joe Fitzgerald, Zach Al-Shawafi, Mason Gagne.

The Spartans entered 2023-24 off their runner-up finish in last March’s championship. Despite welcoming virtually an entire team of new faces, Pembroke didn’t skip a beat. It raced out to a 6-0 start, including a 55-54 win over Pelham in a championship game rematch. And despite hiccups against Hanover and Bow, the Spartans never lost consecutive games all season.

In the playoffs, they beat No. 14 Oyster River in the first round (62-49) and No. 11 Merrimack Valley (54-47) in the quarterfinals before losing to Hanover for a second time.

Pembroke looks to remain in strong contention next season, with rising seniors Evan Berkeley, Devin Riel and Aidyn Jeski, rising juniors Zach Bemis and Javien Sinclair and rising sophomore Andrew Fitzgerald all returning.

However, the loss of Joe Fitzgerald to graduation looms large. He averaged over 25 points per game and finished his career with over 1,000 points scored.

Coe-Brown Bears

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Record: 16-5 (14-4 regular season; fourth in D-II).

Seniors graduating: Connor Bagnell, Quinn Salter, Trevor Amergian, James Larson-Clarke.

Like Pembroke, the Bears also entered the season needing to retool after losing quite a bit of talent from last year’s playoff team. Having senior guard Connor Bagnell to build around surely helped matters, as did the emergence of senior Quinn Salter and junior Jack Matson down low.

Coe-Brown started the season 3-2 before rattling off an eight-game winning streak to catapult the team to near the top of the standings. A late-season 65-47 loss to Pembroke dropped the Bears from the third seed to the fourth, but they still took care of business in the first two rounds of the playoffs, beating No. 13 Kingswood (58-55) and No. 12 Kennett (69-41).

And while Coe-Brown’s performance against Pelham in the semifinals wasn’t quite enough to pull off an upset, it was a spirited effort from a group that, as head coach Dave Smith said, grew a ton from the start of the season.

Bow Falcons

Record: 13-7 (12-6 regular season; seventh in D-II).

Seniors graduating: Colby Smith, Sean Guerrette.

Bow came into the year as a bit of a wild card. The Falcons had a young group that flashed potential last season; it just wasn’t clear if they would play more consistent basketball after finishing last year 9-10.

They started the year alternating win-loss over the first six games but then won the next seven in a row. Although Bow finished the regular season losing three of its last five games, it performed well enough to earn a first-round playoff game at home.

The Falcons beat Souhegan in that first-round matchup (41-34) before ultimately coming up short against Hanover in the quarterfinals (51-34).

Bow will need to replace Colby Smith and Sean Guerrette at the guard positions, but with forwards Keenan Hubbard (rising senior), Jake Reardon (rising junior) and Peyton Larrabee (rising junior) all returning, the Falcons should be well-positioned for a successful future.

Merrimack Valley Pride

Record: 9-11 (8-10 regular season; 11th in D-II).

Seniors graduating: Trevor Simonds, Andrew Surprenant, Logan Gabour, Luke Dougherty, Mingso Lawati, Nate Joubert.

Head coach Tim Mucher thought his team could be talented enough to make a deep playoff run entering the season, but injuries and inconsistency hampered MV all year. With junior Aiden Gray out for roughly two months with a broken foot, the Pride scuffled down the stretch, losing seven of 11 after a 4-3 start to the season.

Still, MV showed up come playoff time. The Pride upset No. 6 Laconia in overtime (60-57) on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Trevor Simonds, and then pushed No. 3 Pembroke down to the wire in a 54-47 loss. It wasn’t the end result Mucher or his team had hoped for, but the spirited playoff run — however brief — left room for a more optimistic retrospective on the season.

With six seniors graduating, that’ll put more on the shoulders of rising seniors Gray, Nick Oglesby and Boston Bradicich next season.

John Stark Generals

Record: 6-12 (missed playoffs; T-15th in D-II).

Seniors graduating: Elliot Belliveau, Logan Montgomery, D’angelo Sheppard, Reagan Webb, Donnie White.

After a rough 2022-23 season, the Generals put forth an inspiring 2023-24 campaign. Although they came a game short of missing the playoffs, Mike Smith’s team demonstrated notable improvement in what’s been a challenging few years for the program.

John Stark beat MV twice during the regular season, including on a buzzer-beater in overtime on Jan. 18, and pushed Coe-Brown to overtime in a 61-53 loss on Feb. 6. There’s still much more work to do to elevate the Generals into a playoff team capable of making a run, but this season was a big step in the right direction.

Bishop Brady Giants

Record: 0-18 (missed playoffs; 20th in D-II).

Seniors graduating: Todd Sheppard.

It was a rebuilding year for the Giants, who finished the season winless, losing by an average of 28.5 points per game in head coach John Billings’ first season. Still, Bishop Brady hopes its younger and more inexperienced roster can learn from the experience and make progress heading into next year.