Seniors will be key for Eagle boys
Kennett basketball squad features seven returning seniors
|MATT ASHNAULT is one of two senior captains for the Kennett boys’ basketball team this winter. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)|
December 14, 2009NORTH CONWAY — For anyone who studied the roster for last year's Kennett boys' basketball team, the names on this year's roster will be quite familiar.
That is the good news for coach Steve Coté and the Eagles.
The bad news is that while most of the roster has been around the varsity team for a while, playing time has not always been abundant.
"We lost four guys who were important parts of the program for many years," said Coté. "Fortunately we're coming back with eight seniors, most of who have played for two or three years at the varsity level.
"They haven't gotten a lot of playing time, but they understand the speed and physicality of Class I basketball," the Eagle coach continued. "The concern is going to be coming together as a unite and working hard on defense and offense."
Coté notes that the team members have been working hard and adopting to the system that he and his assistants are putting in place, but he admits it make take a few games to get things running smoothly.
"We'll be working pretty hard on our offensive and defensive schemes right up to the bitter end," Coté said. "Likely we'll be utilizing the first few games and the holiday break as an extended preseason as an effort to get things rolling."
This year's team will be almost completely new, and entails a different type of game than last year's squad played.
"This is a whole new team that deserves a program that will feed off their strengths," the Eagle coach noted.
Leading the way for the Eagles this season will be senior captains Matt Ashnault and Nik Gagnon, who will be interchangeable at the point guard and two-guard positions.
For both players, it is their third year at the varsity level and Ashnault got the bulk of the playing time at point guard for the Eagles last season.
"They're really the heart and soul of this year's team," Coté said. "The fact that they're interchangeable at their positions is going to be a strength for us."
Fellow senior Tanner Baillargeon is also entering his third season at the varsity level and will be starting at the three spot for the Eagles.
"His strength is disruptive and physical defense," Coté said. "Nobody works harder when he is out there."
Starting at the four spot will be senior Cam Eldon, who saw some time at the varsity level last year and is being asked to step up defensively this season to match his offensive work.
The team's starting center will be senior Dave Ingram, who will play a different style than his predecessor, Ian White.
"He had a hard time breaking into the lineup with Ian ahead of him, but all the time and experience of going against Ian every day has allowed him to prepare for the starting role," Coté noted. "He's a very mobile center and we'll look for him to run the floor."
Rounding out the senior class are returning players Scotty Saunders, who will see time at the three spot and Thomas Stapinski who will see time at the guard positions.
The lone senior newcomer is Liam Duggan, who played freshmen hoops and a little as a sophomore, but took last year off. He is 6'5" and Coté praises his great spirit and notes he has been working hard and will be a solid backup to Ingram in the middle.
Juniors Matt Lautenschlager and Brandon Frost will see time at the four and three spot, respectively. Both were on the varsity roster last year and will be asked to step into a larger role this year. Newcomer Brian Fox earned a spot on the team with his hard work as well.
Coté is carrying two sophomores. Robert Starkey and Alex Milford played freshmen basketball last year and will be splitting time between JV and varsity as they get their feet wet at the upper level.
The advantage of having a number of seniors who've been in the program for a while is giving the coaches a good chance to work with the younger players and develop them for the varsity game.
"We've been working very hard with the underclassmen because one of the luxuries has been guys who've been here three years," said Coté. "They're ready to step in and get the job done."
The Eagle mentor notes that he and the team are not sad to see the long trips to Hanover and Lebanon disappear from the schedule this year, though notes that replacing those games with contests against Portsmouth and Oyster River means a tough schedule.
He also points out that the Eagles are glad to see Berlin on the schedule this year. The Mounties are expected to be one of the top teams in Class M and scored 81 points on opening night Friday, Dec. 11, against Prospect Mountain.
"They're a natural, local rival for us," Coté said.
The Eagles will open the season with a trip down Route 16 to Dover to take on St. Thomas on Friday, Dec. 18, at 6:30 p.m. The boys host Bow on Tuesday, Dec. 22, in the home opener, the final game before the holiday break. That game is set for a 6:30 p.m. start.