Milford, Souhegan tout experience this year

Dan Murray finds himself in an enviable position this season.

The Milford coach returns four starters from last year’s 11-8 team and has so many seniors – nine to be exact – that he couldn’t guarantee playing time to all of them. He may also have the most promising newcomer in the division.

Junior Bojan Jovanovic joins the Spartans for one season as a foreign exchange student from Serbia. He’s 6-foot-4 with an athletic, muscular build. He’s a ball-handler, a shooter from short and long range, can rebound and run on the fast break.

Jovanovic’s experience at an organized level, however, is limited. He played club back home because he was the smallest player. Now he’s adjusting to the American game.

"He kind of stands a lot. He tries to do too much with the one-on-one game," said Murray, who, despite the slight critiques, plans to start Jovanovic this season.

Milford’s experience alone should be enough to make it the most likely local team to compete with D-II powers Portsmouth and Lebanon. Murray said his team also has the talent.

The Spartans expect to play an up-tempo game with a far shorter shot clock than their opponents. Murray said the plan is to shoot as many shots as possible, firing away on the first or second pass while the rest of the team crashes for rebounds.

"Our key is going to be getting out and running," Murray said. "We want to take quick shots but good shots. We have a lot of good shooters, but we can kind of get bogged down in the halfcourt."

Souhegan spent the last two seasons in the bottom half of the division, sneaking into the tournament as a lower seed before being ousted in the preliminary round. This year’s goal is to compete for a home seed – a top-eight finish – in the D-II tournament.

The Sabers will at least have experience on their side. They return starters Jerrell Webster and Raj Ghandi, who give Souhegan a veteran presence up front, along with three other seniors from last season, but coach Peter Pierce said they need to make more of a commitment to defense in order to reach those goals.

COACH: Dan Murray, ninth year

LAST YEAR: 11-8; lost to Hanover in preliminary round

RETURNING STARTERS: Jack Briggs, sr., guard; Kirk Palladino, sr., guard; Daniel Murray, sr., 6-2 forward; Ryan Baniskevich, jr., guard/forward

RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Tom Simo, sr., forward; C.J. Steinbecher, sr., forward; Shane Winnett, jr. guard; Josh O’Laughlin, sr.; Max Urda, sr.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Shane Greska, sr.;6-4 exchange student from Serbia – Bojan Jovanovic, jr.; Nick Gutterson, jr.; Weston Pare, jr.

COACH’S COMMENTS: "I think we’re going to be very competitive in all our games," Murray said. "I think we’re going to win a lot more than we lose. We have depth and shooters and drivers and we work very hard on the defensive end. I expect us to be up near top four area and then we’ll be competitive in the playoffs."

Souhegan

COACH: Peter Pierce, third year

LAST YEAR: 6-13; lost to Bishop Brady in preliminary round

RETURNING STARTERS: Jerrell Webster, sr., forward/center; Raj Ghandi, sr., guard/forward

RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Gabe Cruz, sr., guard; Zach Theriault, sr., forward; Aaron Stonebreaker, sr., center; Ryan Boehm, jr., guard; Davis Biddle, jr., forward; Zach Thibeault, jr., center

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Josh Anson, sr., guard/forward; Alex Craven, sr., forward; Owen Batchelder, jr., forward; Ryan Snow, jr., guard/forward; Conner Mack, jr., forward; Nate Gibbons, jr., forward; Ryan Hickey, soph., guard; Anderson Geffard, soph., guard

COACH’S COMMENTS: "We expect to be better," Pierce said. "We’ve spent more time together and we’ve had some pretty good participation in the program and I think it should mean positive results for us. We should be a better basketball team than we’ve been the past couple of years."