Playing in its third division in three years, Concord Christian girls’ basketball is prepared for the challenge

ABOVE: Concord Christian players Taylor Rioux (left) and Lilli Carlile surround Stevens guard Bella Bovell during the second half of the 2023 Division semifinal at Bow High School on Feb. 24.BELOW: Concord Christian’s two-player bench looks on during the semifinal matchup with Stevens.

ABOVE: Concord Christian players Taylor Rioux (left) and Lilli Carlile surround Stevens guard Bella Bovell during the second half of the 2023 Division semifinal at Bow High School on Feb. 24.BELOW: Concord Christian’s two-player bench looks on during the semifinal matchup with Stevens. GEOFF FORESTER photographs / Monitor staff

Concord Christian’s two-player bench looks on during CCA’s Division III semifinal matchup with Stevens last February.

Concord Christian’s two-player bench looks on during CCA’s Division III semifinal matchup with Stevens last February.

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 12-26-2023 5:27 PM

Modified: 12-27-2023 12:54 AM


In 2021-22, Concord Christian Academy girls’ basketball won the Division IV state championship, finished 21-0 and outscoring its opponents by an average of 35.9 points per game. In 2022-23, CCA won the Division III state championship, finished 21-1 and outscored its opponents by an average of 38.4 points per game.

Seeking stiffer competition and more opportunities to grow, the program is now two weeks into its first and only season as a member of Division II, before moving up to Division I next season.

So far, the team is 4-0, including a noteworthy 61-38 win over Laconia, a team that reached the final four last season.

The NHIAA classifies schools into divisions based on school size. More popular sports like football, soccer, basketball, baseball and softball all have four divisions. 

With 106 students according to the NHIAA’s handbook, CCA falls into Division IV, the division for the smallest schools. But, schools have the option to petition up or down. In this case, the girls’ basketball team has petitioned up each of the last two years and will do so again next year.

While it’s not uncommon for schools to do this – Bishop Brady, for example, is classified in Division IV but often competes in Divisions II or III for soccer, basketball, baseball and softball – it’s exceedingly rare for one program to play in four different divisions in four consecutive seasons.

“It’s a unique circumstance for this specific group of girls, for them to get to play at every division during their high school career,” said Rebecca Carlile, now in her fifth year as the CCA girls’ basketball head coach. “That’s kind of cool, and they’ll have seen a lot more than most players who graduate from New Hampshire high schools, as far as really understanding the vast array of competitors and levels of competition.”

Stiffer competition

Concord Christian won last season’s D-III title with just seven girls on the roster. This season, they have eight.

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The small roster itself isn’t exactly a new challenge. Seemingly every year she’s had this job, Carlile’s had a small roster, and they’ve still won at the highest of levels. A few seasons ago, they even had to submit waivers to the NHIAA to allow seventh and eighth graders to play just so they could field a team.

When you’re winning games by an average of 40 points though, having a small roster is a bit easier of a challenge to navigate – fouls become less of an issue and the players aren’t exhausted from playing 32 minutes of high-intensity basketball. This season, when CCA will likely play far fewer blowouts, the short bench could be more of a factor.

“We’re having to work a lot harder in practice. We can’t just show up to a gym and win a game by 40 points,” Carlile said. “They’re not used to coming with their A-game every night, night after night, so that could potentially be a challenge for us.”

In addition to 16 regular season games scheduled with D-II schools this year, CCA will also play twice against D-I’s Bishop Guertin. It’s all part of their quest to be challenged more on the court and maximize the experience for their student-athletes.

Going 42-1 over two years with massive margins of victory and winning two state titles is impressive no doubt. But at some point, the value of playing in game after game that’s basically over by the end of the first quarter diminishes quickly. 

Playing in D-II this season and D-I thereafter should certainly address that shortcoming, pushing the CCA’s girls’ basketball program to reach for even loftier accomplishments.

“Division II will lend us a little more competition and that’s really what we’re looking for, to find a competitive season,” said Carlile. “Obviously, our eye is always on the prize. It may end up that we take a couple more hits this year than we have typically as far as losses, but we’re excited to have some competitive games.”

CCA’s season resumes on Jan. 5 with a road game against Sanborn.