WHITEFIELD — Masks on and no spectators, high school basketball returned to New Hampshire’s North Country on Monday night.
Brody LaBounty had 11 points and seven assists, Tyler Hicks stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two blocks, and Avery Hazelton notched 12 points and seven boards as White Mountains rolled rival Berlin 58-30 to crack open the long-awaited 2021 season.
“I was very happy for the kids tonight,” said Spartans coach Mike Curtis. “We’ve practiced since Dec. 14 and they have been great. I am glad the JV and the varsity kids got to compete.”
It was the first New Hampshire high school basketball game since the COVID-19 pandemic cut short the postseason last March.
“It felt really good to be out there with my team,” said LaBounty, the Spartans’ standout junior point guard.
It was a surreal scene at the Whitefield high school on Monday. Just a few cars dotted the parking lot. Team benches were opposite their regular location — the players sitting in the bleachers to keep six feet apart. There were just a handful of people in the stands, administrators, scorekeepers and a scattering of media members.
There was no jump ball to start the game — a statewide rule enforced to protect the referees. The players had to muster their own energy. The loudest sounds were sneakers squeaking and the ball bouncing.
“When I was in the moment, I didn’t notice not having fans,” Curtis said. “If I was facing the bleachers, I bet it would be different. Subbing was hard, keeping track of fouls could be an issue in a close game, and coaching kids who on the bench is impossible since they can’t understand you and they are four rows away.”
It was the quietest rivalry clash in, well, forever.
“I could hear the play-by-play guys. That was interesting,” Curtis said with a laugh.
On the court, the play was ragged, but to be expected for a season opener. And despite the silence, the Spartans made noise early.
With LaBounty setting the tone on offense, the Spartans used their pressure defense to jump out to a 17-5 advantage after one quarter and built it to 36-16 at the break.
White Mountains limited their turnovers (11) and shared the ball well (15 assists).
It was never close in the second half.
“The other three starters Brayden White, Parker Valdez and Hazelton (one start of their careers) played well,” Curtis said. “Parker also did a nice job defensively.
“I thought Avery (6-foot-8 junior forward) found his game in the second half and it was good to see the bench contribute.”
Jeremyah Dow had eight points to lead Berlin.
“It was weird not to have any fans there,” LaBounty said. “It was different for sure. We have to rely on ourselves and our bench to create energy for us. But overall, it was a fun night and a good team win.”
White Mountains is slated to play at Littleton on Friday at 6 p.m.
Across the Vermont border, student-athletes are prohibited from “contact” and can only participate in non-contact skills and drills training. There is no date yet for interscholastic competition.
BERLIN (0-1): Haden Poulin 1-1-3, Shawn Goyette 3-0-6, Jacob Mercier 1-2-5, Kameron Huntoon 2-0-6, Kevin Murphy 0-2-2, Jeremyah Dow 3-1-8. Totals: 10-FG 6-6-FT 28.
WM (1-0): Robert Breault 0-2-2, Brody LaBounty 4-2-11, Logan Ames 1-1-4, Brayden White 2-0-5, Parker Valdez 2-0-5, Forest Pribbernow 2-1-5, Tyler Hicks 6-3-15, Avery Hazelton 5-2-12. Totals: 22-FG 10-22-FT 58.
BHS 5 11 3 11 — 30
WMR 17 19 8 14 — 58
3-Point FG: B 4 (Mercier, Huntoon 2, Dow); W 4 (LaBounty, Ames, White, Valdez). Team Fouls: B 15, W 10.
GROVETON 60, GORHAM 31: In Gorham, Julian Kenison scored 22 and Matt St. Cyr added 10 as the Eagles played their first game since a semifinal loss to Newmarket at Plymouth State on March 9.
Liam Cairns hit double figures for the Huskies.
Groveton hosts Berlin on Monday.
“It was good to get out there,” said Groveton coach Mark Collins. “We’ve just been practicing. so it was good to get an idea of what we need to work on and go from there.”
GROVETON (1-0): Colby Stinson 1-1-3, Kaden Cloutier 3-0-9, Aiden Whiting 0-1-1, Ben Wheelock 2-2-6, Matt St. Cyr 4-0-10, Julian Kenison 8-4-22, Brandon Laundry 4-1-9. Totals: 22-FG 9-14-FT 60.
GORHAM (0-1): Saladino 2-0-4, Lemieux 1-0-2, Burton 1-2-4, Leclerc 0-1-1, Frisk 3-1-8, Cairns 5-1-11, York 0-1-1. Totals: 12-FG 6-13-FT 31.
GRO 20 14 17 9 — 60
GOR 7 2 10 12 — 31
3-Point FG: Gr 7 (Cloutier 3, St. Cyr 2, Kenison 2); Go 1 (Frisk). Team Fouls: Gr 11, Go 14.
GROVETON 60, GORHAM 32: In Groveton, Marissa Kenison, Madison Ash and Emily Schafermeyer all hit double figures to lead the Eagles in the season opener.
GORHAM (0-1): Sarah Grodin 11, Halery Desitels 6, Madi Buteau 4, Madison Girouard 4, Emma Bernier 3, Zoe Grondin 2, Amber Wilson 2. Totals: 8-14-FT 32.
GROVETON (1-0): Marissa Kenison 17, Madison Ash 15, Emily Schafermeyer 10, Emmalee Deblois 8, Julie Glover 6, Paige Lambert 2, Mackenzie Pape 1, Aspen Clermont 1. Totals: 8-11-FT 60.
GOR 7 14 4 7 — 32
GRO 20 13 12 15 — 60
3-Point FG: Gr 2 (Schafermeyer 2).