Conant girls basketball looks to defend title

  • Conant senior Mariah Chamberlain was a first-team all-state selection last year and is one of four returning starters from the Orioles's Division III championship team. Staff photo by TIM GOODWIN

  • Above: Sophomore Elizabeth Gonyea was a first-team all-state selection as a freshman last year during Conant's run to the Division III state title. Below: Conant senior Camri Aho will be a big part of what the Orioles do this year, as they try to repeat. Staff photos by TIM GOODWIN

  • Conant senior Camri Aho will be a big part of what the Orioles do this year, as they try to defend their Division III title. TIM GOODWIN / Ledger Transcript staff—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, November 28, 2018 11:13AM

At this time last year, the Conant girls basketball team was hungry.

Fresh off a loss in the Division III championship game, the Orioles were hoping for another shot at the program’s seventh title, and second in the last four years. A late season surge, coupled with an impressive playoff run, put Conant back on the floor of Southern New Hampshire University with a shot at bringing home the NHIAA championship plaque. This time, the Orioles took care of business with a 36-30 victory over Hopkinton.

“We had an idea of what that team could be, but we really exceeded expectations,” said coach Brian Troy.

And now, they enter the 2018-19 season with an understanding that there’s a bit of a target as the reigning champions.

“Everyone is going to come out and play their best game and try to beat us,” said senior Mariah Chamberlain. “So we can’t go in and expect to win because we’re the defending champs.”

Only losing one player from last year’s title winning team, Taylor Banish, the Orioles return four of five starters, including a pair of first team all-state selections in Chamberlain and sophomore Elizabeth Gonyea, with hopes of making it a third straight trip to the final game in Division III.

But losing Banish was a big one.

“She was a big part of the program,” Troy said. “She was the heart of the team, the soul.”

But coach Brian Troy knows that a lot needs to happen between now and March before the Orioles even think about defending their title.

For this team, it’s about not getting too ahead of themselves and focusing on the process. Its worked the last two seasons and Troy hopes the same can ring true for this year’s squad.

“We always take pride in identifying as a tough-minded team,” Troy said.

But even though the Orioles are coming off a championship season with most of the team back, that doesn’t mean they’re going to get complacent with their approach. Sure, last year’s style of playing the ball into the post obviously worked, but Troy expects this team to get out and run a little bit more, play with a more up tempo pace.

“We have a lot of athletes that can compliment that style of play,” Troy said. “So I’d like to be a more offensive style of team, getting out and running a little more.”

Not only does Conant have the ability to go down low to Chamberlain, but they have a number of girls who can both shoot and get to the basket in Gonyea and senior Camri Aho, to go along with a talented group of freshman.

“Teams are going to have to choose to either sink in or get outside on our shooters,” Chamberlain said.

Troy selected four first-year players for the varsity squad in Teegan Kirby, Delaney Beaven, Regan Despres and Mylie Aho. Each one showed they are more than capable of playing at this level and Troy expects them to play key roles both in the near future and down the road for the Orioles.

“It all depends on how quickly the young girls can figure out their roles and how they can contribute,” Troy said.

And its up to junior point guard Silas Bernier to distribute the ball to the multitude of options.

“We have a lot of girls who are quick and athletic,” Chamberlain said.

But as deep as the offense is expected to be, its the other side of the floor that Conant will hang its hat on. And on both sides of the floor, it will start with Chamberlain.

“A big part of our offense and defense is Mariah,” Troy said.

Conant has a number of things on their side entering Friday’s season opener versus Belmont. There’s the depth, experience and an understanding of what needs to be done to win it all.

“They know what it takes and what they have to do to go out and earn it every day,” Troy said. 

At Friday’s alumni game, the girls were honored with the unveiling of their championship banner. Now they can officially turn the page to this season, and their quest to add an eighth to the walls of Pratt Auditorium