The Monadnock Region has become a haven for New Hampshire girls basketball with Monadnock and Conant (Division 3) and Hinsdale (Division 4) each winning a state title over the last three years. Fall Mountain has been a finalist in Division 3 for the last two years, but ran into Conant last season and Monadnock in 2019 and came up just short in both games. The adjusted regional schedule gives Hinsdale the opportunity to play against these Division 3 powerhouses.

Here’s a team-by-team rundown on girls basketball across the Monadnock Region:

Keene

In a year that’s anything but normal, the Blackbirds will be forced to compete against teams in lower divisions because of the regional schedule that is put in place. Third-year head coach Stacey Massiah wants to use that as an opportunity to see what his younger players have to offer. Massiah said the varsity roster will be fluid throughout the season and a lot of the girls will have a chance to prove themselves. Keene has not made it to the postseason since 2016. Freshman Ivy Keating will start the season on the varsity roster, with sophomores Ashlyn Smith, Marin Shaffer, Delilah Hatheway and Molly Chamberlin making their varsity debuts as well.

Coach: Stacey Massiah (3rd year)

Last season: 3-15; missed the postseason

Top players lost: Aubrey Mitchell, Elizabeth DeKeyrel, Maddy Miner; Senior Adelyne Hayward, Senior Renee Jones — opting out of the season

Top players returning: Senior Kaitlin Lemnah (11.3 ppg), Senior Kirsten Farhm (4.4ppg), Junior Elyza Mitchell (7.2 ppg)

First game: Jan. 20 at Mascenic at 6 p.m.

Coach’s thoughts:

On the upcoming season:

“We’re just excited that we can have the opportunity to play and show what we can do, especially now that we’re regional. Every year is an exciting year for me as a coach. Just to watch these young athletes give 110 percent at practice. This year, everyone seems to be on board and coachable and manageable and willing to put the time in and really just put the work in. We have to take one game at a time, one practice at a time, and put the pieces together.”

On facing teams in lower divisions:

“There’s no freshman team this year, so pretty much it’s a loaded JV team. We will play players according to who we’re faced against. We’re going to give those younger kids and the JV team a little experience. The girls are understanding about getting their numbers called up. They’re all excited and they know there’s opportunities to move up, so I always tell them, ‘What you do in practice, you do in games.’ If you’re doing things right in practice, good things will happen during games, individually and team-wise. The last couple weeks have been exciting. They’ve been showing us a lot.”

On preparing for the season with COVID:

“It is tough. At the beginning, we weren’t sure how this was going to play out. They’ve adapted pretty well and they know the importance of staying safe and being safe. It’s tough, you know, they’re teenagers. They want to hang out, they want to be with their friends, they want to venture out, so we just preach to them every day the importance of this. We don’t want to get shut down, we really want to play. They’ve been pretty good. Everything’s been pretty manageable and working out pretty well. For us coaches — we need to, not just coach, but we need to teach to make sure everything is going well. We’re always wearing a mask, obviously it’s tough to communicate with the girls, but I’m blessed to have a good coaching staff … where we already know the game plan and everyone is able to relay the message or get the help that they need.”

Monadnock

The Monadnock girls have won two state titles in the last four years. After going through a bit of a coaching carousel last year, first-year head coach Rob Skrocki steps in to get the program back on pace. Led by juniors Graze Furze and Grace LeClair, who Skrocki coached in middle school, the Huskies are looking to get back to the Divison 3 Final Four, and potentially compete with Conant and Fall Mountain to take the state championship back to Swanzey.

Coach: Rob Skrocki (1st year)

Last season: 8-10; lost in second round of the D3 tournament

Top players lost: Carly Ayotte

Top players returning: Junior Grace Furze (9.6 ppg), Junior Grace LeClair (8.3 ppg), Sophomore Breann Lawerence (5.7 ppg), Sophomore Mea Carroll-Clough (5.6 ppg)

First game: Jan. 13 at Hinsdale at 5:30 p.m.

Coach’s thoughts:

On making progress as a program:

“I think that any coach would be excited to take on any challenge with this particular group of athletes. I think overall, the girls are extremely dedicated so … they’re very willing to buy into our philosophy as a team. Every day we’re not approaching with the expectation of perfection. Every day it’s about progress, not perfection.”

On implementing his own new system:

“I think it’s great that we’re going to be able to implement a system at all three phases that’s going to be consistent and hopefully permanent, and that will only help us in the future as we grow this program.”

On juniors Grace Furze and Grace LeClair as team leaders:

“They’ve been great leaders already, really setting the expectations for all of the other girls in the program. They have everyone excited and ready to work hard.”

On the team as a whole:

“I can’t say enough about how impressed I am with the group of girls I’m walking into here. They’re just so excited and so willing to work, they’re excited to develop a system and they understand that if things go well, and they show up every day with the right attitude … by the time there’s an open tournament at the end of the season we might be in a position to have a really good chance.”

ConVal

Seniors Julia and Emily Donovan, twin sisters, will lead the ConVal girls basketball team this season as co-captains and the only two seniors on the roster. ConVal also brings back sophomore Morgan Bemont, the team’s point guard and leading three-point shooter last season. Three-point shooting will be a big part of the Cougars’ offense this season, as they don’t have a lot of size. Junior Mairin Burgess returns as the only forward on the team. The other seven girls are listed as guards. Last year, the team fell one win short of the postseason. This year, they bring back a majority of their roster, but lost their leading scorer in Emma Hixson. Fourth year head coach Kevin Proctor summed his roster up: “Young, but with some experience is what we have right now.”

Coach: Kevin Proctor (4th year)

Last season: 6-11; missed the postseason

Top players lost: Emma Hixson (10.2 ppg)

Top players returning: Senior Julia Donovan (7.9 ppg), Senior Emily Donovan (1.7 ppg), Junior Maddy Faber (2.9 ppg), Junior Mairin Burgess (1.2 ppg), Sophomore Morgan Bemont (6.2 ppg), Sophomore Makenna Proctor (3.2 ppg)

First game: Jan. 29 vs. Milford at 4:30 p.m. — ConVal winter sports are paused until at least Jan. 19.

Coach’s thoughts:

On not having the opportunity to practice until Jan. 19:

“Everything is shut down right now. If we decide to go back on the 19th, which I hope we do, teams will have already played games. Not being able to be in the gym to prepare, there’s definitely some concerns about safety as far as injuries go. There’s really only one way to get ready for basketball and that’s being in the gym playing basketball. That’s just the type of sport it is. The girls are trying to stay in shape, but [the virtual meetings] take the camaraderie out of it, and that motivator when your teammate is next to you, pushing you, that’s hard to fill in. But if they let us go, we’ll be ready to go. We’ll be ready.”

On the two senior co-captains, Julia and Emily Donovan:

“Tremendous kids. Great athletes. I think the role that they really play is that leadership role. They bring a tremendous amount of athleticism and just chaos to the floor when it comes to defense, they really have great instincts on the defensive end.”

On having a younger team:

“The thing that I’m really hoping for with Julia and Emily’s leadership, that we get these young girls out on the floor and get them some reps because we’re preparing, not just for this season, but for the next couple years. These guys have a real shot to keep the program going the way it’s going. They’re young, but they get it. They get the idea. They want to play with this team. They want to have team success. They’ve been playing together since 5th and 6th grade, so they would really like to keep the program going in the direction that we have it pushed towards.”

On the sophomore class:

“I really think those two sophomores, Makenna and Morgan, are going to be really fun. They really like being on the floor together, and having that kind of camaraderie with two young players who understand their role, that’s going to be fun. Those two can light it up from the outside and so we’ve been working a lot on attacking the hoop. If they can do that, having the confidence to get to the rim, that’ll open up their game a lot more. That’s going to be a fun thing to see. If they can see the rim, I want them to shoot it. That’s the kind of shooter they are.”

Conant

The reigning Division 3 state champions bring back four of their starters, including reigning D3 Player of the Year, senior Elizabeth Gonyea. Uh-oh. Conant has played in three of the last four championship games, winning two state titles, and there’s no reason to think that they can’t do it again this year. Sophomore Emma Tenters, who filled the team’s “6th man” spot last year, returns to the roster and will “see plenty of minutes and be a big impact player,” said fifth-year head coach Brian Troy. Junior Teagan Kirby led the team in rebounds last season and will likely have a similar role for the team this year.

Coach: Brian Troy (5th year)

Last season: 18-0; D3 state champions

Top players lost: Silas Bernier (9.0 ppg)

Top players returning: Senior Elizabeth Gonyea (15.6 ppg), Sophomore Emma Tenters (8.6 ppg), Sophomore Brynn Rautiola (7.2 ppg), Junior Teagan Kirby (10.3 ppg), Junior Mylie Aho (6.5 ppg)

First game: Jan. 19 at Hinsdale at 5:30 p.m.

Coach’s thoughts:

On this year’s roster:

“We have a young group that are … ready to take on some more leadership roles. Obviously losing Silas is losing a lot of leadership, but girls have stepped up nice in the preseason and are filling the roles, so we’re excited going into this season. We have pretty much the same team returning and a few additions, so we’re excited.”

On the team’s depth:

“We’re a pretty deep team, we have a very nice bench. Six, seven and eight are very good. We’ll see how the minutes play out, we’re still figuring out lineups and stuff in practice. We’re just kind of taking it one day at a time.”

On preparing for the season with COVID:

“We feel good, despite the circumstances. Obviously, things a little bit different, but the girls have been real positive. We have a great culture here at Conant, a culture of tradition and pride and the girls wear that on their sleeves. They come in and they work really hard in practice, they get after it. It’s a very positive environment, so things have been great in preseason so far. I feel like our chemistry has grown day-by-day too. The girls are excited, I’m excited about this year’s team and hopefully we can just keep making big strides forward.”

Fall Mountain

Fall Mountain, the D3 runner-up last season, brings back seven of their top rotational players from last year, all of which were part of the starting lineup at some point throughout the season. Senior Shea Pickering was battling a broken thumb last season, so she was on a minutes restriction last year, but third-year head coach Matt Baird-Torney said she will be back at 100 percent for the upcoming season. The Wildcats will be again led by junior Avery Stewart, who led the team in scoring last season, and senior Sophie Bardis. With all the rest of last year’s starters returning, and with Pickering back in the mix and juniors Emma Oliver and Sam Melot coming up from the JV team, coming up to varsity this year, Baird-Torney’s biggest dilemma this season might be picking who to send out for the opening tip.

Coach: Matt Baird-Torney (3rd year)

Last season: 15-3; D3 runner-up

Top players lost: None

Top players returning: Junior Avery Stewart (15.8 ppg), Senior Sophie Bardis (11.8 ppg), Senior Morgan Beauregard (6.8 ppg), Junior Makenna Grillone (7.9 ppg), Senior Erin Brady (5.5 ppg)

First game: Jan. 18 vs. Newport at 5 p.m.

Coach’s thoughts:

On having such a deep and experienced roster:

“We haven’t named starters yet, but I have seven that can start and we wouldn’t miss a beat. They know the level that they have to play at. Once you’ve been to a final — we’ve been the last two years — they understand what it takes. And anything less than that, you’re not going to reach your goals. And obviously they haven’t finished yet, so they’re as hungry as ever.”

On preparing for the season with COVID:

“It’s going well. Obviously not having a summer league, and then we were one of the last teams to get the OK to get on the floor, so we missed a lot of the open gyms and skills and drills stuff. With that said, the first few nights, the girls were talking about not having their legs and adjusting to the masks, that sort of thing. We’re getting back to our game-ready fitness level right now, so that won’t be an issue for us, which is a big part of our game. The luxury we have is that the girls know our system. When you have seven returners and they’ve all been with me for multiple years, so we’re not putting in necessarily anything new that’s going to take time so we can really focus on getting back to playing the basketball that we left off with last year. The preparation is a little different because we have teams out of division and teams we’ve never seen, but in terms of what we’re doing, we feel comfortable with what we’re doing and the girls, first and foremost are just grateful right now. They’re just happy to be out there forgetting about everything else for an hour and a half at practice.”

On the home-and-away regional schedule:

“It makes sense. It’s interesting because we’ve never seen that, so you’ll either set the tone the first game or set yourself up for a redemption game. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.”

On how other teams perceive them after making two championships in a row:

“For the girls, they’ve been to the finals where maybe people didn’t expect them to, and then we’ve been there when we were considered one of the top two teams, so it seems like now the girls now know what to expect. But when you enter a season, what changes is what the standard, not for them, is, but what other people think and say. And they’re kind of seeing that as they get more experience, how teams look at them, how they play them. Last year, every team came in and that was their championship game. For some teams, this could be the biggest win that they have. Now that they’ve seen that, I’ve really seen a difference in the practice where they realize it doesn’t matter who’s on the schedule, what their wins and losses are, traditionally how good they’ve been, they know they’re going to get their absolute best. So it’s been really neat to see, as a coach, now that a majority of them are seniors to understand that and to learn from that.”

Hinsdale

Hinsdale brings back senior Angelina Nardolillo, who spent last year at Northfield Mount Hermon prep school in Mount Hermon, Mass. Nardolillo played for Hinsdale her freshman and sophomore year and was a big part of the Pacers’ offense, leading the team in scoring her sophomore year. Freshmen Brookelyn Pagach and Lilly Taylor join the varsity roster this season and head coach Terry Bonnette says they have the potential to be impact players right away.

Coach: Terry Bonnette (20+ years)

Last season: 16-2; No. 3 seed in the Division 4 tournament, lost in the semifinal round

Top players lost: Senior Brianne Gaffney (injury)

Top players returning: Senior Delaney Wilcox (16.6 ppg), Junior Megan Roberts (11.9 ppg), Senior Olivia Pangelinan (6.2 ppg), Senior Kleay Steever (3.8 ppg), Senior Audrey Martin (5.9 ppg)

First game: Jan. 13 vs. Monadnock at 5:30 p.m.

Coach’s thoughts:

On playing a regional schedule:

“Our schedule this year is a tough schedule, we’re playing all upper-division teams. We’ve got Monadnock four times, Conant four times, Keene twice and Mascenic twice, so we have a tough schedule, which is good, but it’s going to be a challenge.”

On preparing for COVID:

“We were shut down right after Christmas until after New Year, then we lost another three days of being shut down, so we’ve had limited practice, like I’m sure everybody else has had as well. But the girls are excited. Whatever protocols we have, they’re dealing with because they’re just excited to play, so that’s why we’re hoping we can play. So far it’s been OK. The girls are working hard, they’re playing with their masks on. There are things that I think we’re behind, probably like most teams are, there are things we haven’t done yet because of limited practice time. But we’ll get there. We’re all in the same boat.”

On this year’s roster:

“I think we have a good nucleus. We have everybody back, we added Angelina, we added another couple freshmen. We have a good nucleus that we’re excited about. We’re playing a tough schedule, but that’s a good thing to get us ready for playoffs. So they’re ready to go, they’re excited to play. It is a good core, it really is. I’m just hoping, like everybody else, that we can have a season here and not get shut down every couple of weeks.”

— Stats and records compiled from nhsportspage.com

Chris Detwiler can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1411, or cdetwiler@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Detwiler.