Girls’ basketball: D-II season recap

Concord Christian junior Lilli Carlile calls out a play during the Division II girls' basketball championship game at UNH on March 10, 2024.

Concord Christian junior Lilli Carlile calls out a play during the Division II girls' basketball championship game at UNH on March 10, 2024. Chip Griffin—Photos By Chip

Annelise Dexter looks for a lane to drive to the basket for Pembroke during the D-II girls' basketball championship on March 10, 2024.

Annelise Dexter looks for a lane to drive to the basket for Pembroke during the D-II girls' basketball championship on March 10, 2024. Chip Griffin—Photos By Chip

John Stark senior Abby Duclos dribbles to the basket during the D-II semifinal at Salem High School on March 6, 2024.

John Stark senior Abby Duclos dribbles to the basket during the D-II semifinal at Salem High School on March 6, 2024. Chip Griffin—Photos By Chip

Bow senior Juliette Tarsa (15) tries to dribble by Pembroke's Kaitlin Arenella during the Division II quarterfinal at Pembroke Academy.

Bow senior Juliette Tarsa (15) tries to dribble by Pembroke's Kaitlin Arenella during the Division II quarterfinal at Pembroke Academy. Chip Griffin—Photos By Chip

Bishop Brady junior Payton Bryson floats up a shot against Bow on Feb. 9, 2024.

Bishop Brady junior Payton Bryson floats up a shot against Bow on Feb. 9, 2024. Chip Griffin—Photos By Chip

Merrimack Valley forward Kayla Smith shoots around a group of players during the Pride's D-II first round matchup against Bow on Wednesday, February 28, 2024.

Merrimack Valley forward Kayla Smith shoots around a group of players during the Pride's D-II first round matchup against Bow on Wednesday, February 28, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Coe-Brown center Kalina Kasprzak blocks a shot from Merrimack Valley forward Kayla Smith during a game in December.

Coe-Brown center Kalina Kasprzak blocks a shot from Merrimack Valley forward Kayla Smith during a game in December. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 03-12-2024 12:18 PM

Area girls’ basketball teams made up three of the four semifinalists in Division II this season, with No. 1 Concord Christian ultimately taking down No. 3 Pembroke for the state championship. Sunday was the Kingsmen’s third straight state title, playing in its third different division in three years.

Overall, six of the seven area teams qualified for the playoffs.

Here is a season recap:

Concord Christian Kingsmen

Record: 20-1 (17-1 regular season; first in D-II)

Seniors graduating: Taylor Rioux

Playing in their only season in Division II before moving up to D-I next year, the Kingsmen mostly dominated their way to the D-II championship, beating Pembroke, 65-53. They’d also defeated No. 9 Derryfield (53-18) and No. 4 John Stark (68-50) en route to their title.

Led by junior Lilli Carlile and sophomore Emma Smith, CCA lost just once — to Laconia by two points — and won its games by an average margin of 26 points. Graduating just one senior, Concord Christian should be a formidable opponent next season facing D-I competition.

Pembroke Spartans

Record: 18-4 (15-3 regular season; second in D-II)

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Seniors graduating: Annelise Dexter, Taylor Renna

While the Spartans came just short of winning the D-II title, it was still a highly-successful year for Steve Langevin’s group. Pembroke started the year 10-0, led by senior Annelise Dexter, but the Spartans also received contributions from all over the floor. Senior Taylor Renna, junior Kaitlin Arenella, sophomore Kate Stephens and freshman Anne Phillips all played major roles in the team’s success.

Though the Spartans dropped their last two games of the regular season, they turned things around once the playoffs began, beating No. 14 Timberlane (51-41), No. 6 Bow (55-44) and No. 2 Laconia (44-35) to reach the championship game.

Pembroke will lose Dexter and Renna off the roster, but it still looks to be a top D-II team next season with so much talent returning.

John Stark Generals

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

Seniors graduating: Abby Duclos, Eleanor Girardet, Avery Geaumont, Hayleigh Dennis, Izabel Korbet

The Generals relied heavily on senior leadership this season, and it did not let them down. Their starting five of Abby Duclos, Avery Geaumont, Eleanor Girardet, Hayleigh Dennis and Izabel Korbet guided the way, as John Stark reached the D-II semifinal where it came up short against Concord Christian.

After finishing 9-10 a year ago, John Stark took a major step forward this year. It started the season 4-3 but won 10 of its next 11 games to vault itself near the top of the standings.

The Generals lose most of their key contributors from this season, so next year might be more of a rebuild, but this senior class set a new bar for what the program is capable of accomplishing under head coach Tiffany Lewis who just wrapped up her second season leading the way.

Bow Falcons

Record: 14-6 (13-5 regular season; sixth in D-II)

Seniors graduating: Juliette Tarsa, Sidney Roberge, Kendall Murray, Kate Labrecque

For the first time since 2021, the Falcons didn’t have a chance to play in the championship game, but the season was in no way a disappointment. Under first-year head coach Cassidy Emerson, Bow made noticeable strides throughout the year, relying on a bit of a different cast to lead the way.

The Falcons beat No. 11 Merrimack Valley in the first round, 51-36, and while they ultimately came up short in the quarterfinals against Pembroke — losing to the Spartans for the third time this season — Bow looks to still be well-positioned for the future with Emerson at the helm. However, losing four seniors will require some new faces to step up on offense.

Coe-Brown Bears

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

Seniors graduating: Kalina Kasprzak, Ainsley Kilbreth, Bailee DeTrude, Saere McGuinness

The Bears struggled to a 2-5 start at the beginning of the year, but a midseason surge — winning eight of 11 games — propelled Coe-Brown into the thick of the playoff picture. Beating Pembroke in overtime late in the season signified a major step forward for the program.

Last year, the Bears finished just 4-14.

CBNA saw its season end in the first round of the playoffs against No. 7 Hanover with a 70-42 loss.

Merrimack Valley Pride

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

Seniors graduating: Sarah Navoy, Annika Horne, Sangabo Shegow

MV pieced together a solid season after a four-game losing streak midway through the schedule threatened to derail the Pride’s playoff hopes. Still, offensive struggles ultimately hurt MV, which averaged just 44 points per game. In Merrimack Valley’s first-round playoff game against Bow, the Pride scored just 36 points.

Head coach Bob McNutt is optimistic heading into next season with so many key players returning, including Kayla Smith, Sydney Bailey and Izabelle Navoy — three of the team’s starters this year. Smith scored 24 of MV’s 36 points in the quarterfinal loss to Bow.

Bishop Brady Giants

Record: 6-12 (missed playoffs; 16th in D-II)

Seniors graduating: Mia Wagner, Morgan Casey

It was a rough beginning to the year for the Giants, who were hit with injuries and illness that hampered the team through the first part of the schedule. Head coach Sal Alosa said he saw significant progress later in the season, but his team simply ran out of games to qualify for the playoffs.

Graduating just two seniors, Alosa hopes his returning cast can build off its experience from this year and position itself well for a playoff run next season.