CONWAY — In sports, games are all about adjustments, and in 2020 high school teams are learning to make adjustments before they play their first games. The Kennett High girls’ basketball team is doing all it can to adjust to the new protocols for the winter sports season.
Those protocols include checking in before entering the practice facility by phone. Then they fill out a daily health screening questionnaire. Next, it’s a temperature check by Coach Larry Meader or Assistant Coach Steve Cote.
If all is normal, then with masks on the players enter the Peter Ames Gymnasium for practice. Practice also has been about adjustments. Players and coaches must wear masks at all times and practice is capped at 90 minutes.
“We’re being really efficient,” Meader said by phone Monday. “There’s not much down time other than a quick water break.”
Meader said the protocols and phase-in approach put in place by Athletic Director Neal Weaver and Athletic Trainer Colby Locke, from Mountain Center Physical Therapy, have been working well.
“We are doing everything we can to assure a quality season for the student-athletes,” Cote shared on Facebook, and added, “Having coached at various levels for 30 years, this is without question the most complex season ever. Here's what I can say, however, with no hesitation: The young ladies throughout the program do what has been asked with no questioning or complaining. They want to play ball, they want to be together and they want to compete. It is our job to assure that they can do so in the most responsible, safe and positive manner possible. I can't wait to hit the floor every day — better times are ahead of us but, until then, this is how we roll!”
Under the phased-in approach, games would not take place until the second week in January, with the Kennett teams playing a regionalized schedule, much like in the fall.
The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association had an open tournament last fall for multiple sports with everyone making the playoffs and initially playing in a regionalized cluster in the opening rounds of post-season play.
“It’s going great,” Meader said. “We have our daily routine in place. It’s working for us.”
Kennett went 13-6 last winter, earning the No. 6 seed and a first-round home playoff game against No. 11 Sanborn. The visiting Indians, with a veteran team of six seniors, edged the hometown flock 33-32.
KHS lost just one senior, but an All-State, Second Team, guard in Liz Cote, who led the Eagles in scoring, steals and assists last winter. The Eagles also lost a few underclassmen who decided not to come out for the team this winter.
Meader is currently carrying 13 girls on the varsity squad in senior tri-captains Ella Chandler, Sierra Parsons and Maddie Stewart along with fellow senior Jaelin Cummings and Mariah Parker; junior Sam Habert Jaques; sophomores Catherine Chick, Sydnie Chin, Hope Elias and Kaylee McLellan; and freshmen Kaley Goodhart, Sydney Shaw and Sam Sidoti.
“These girls live and breathe basketball, which is great,” Meader said. “They show up every day ready to work hard. It’s a good group, one of the best I’ve had.”
He added: “I’m hoping to go at least 10 deep in games this season. I think we have the ability to be pretty good, but we’ve got to stay healthy and make sure there is a season.”
This winter marks the return of Stewart, who was sidelined all of last winter due to a knee injury. As a sophomore, she was second on the team in scoring and garnered All-State, Second Team, honors.
“Maddie hasn’t missed a beat,” Meader said. “She shook off some summer and fall rustiness and is back to being a double-threat from behind the three-point line or going to the basket.”
Kennett is scheduled to open the season on the road against Laconia on Jan. 11 at 6 p.m. The home-opener for the Eagles is slated for Jan. 14 at 6 p.m., with the Sachems visiting the nest.
The schedule this winter has KHS playing the same opponent back-to-back in a more regionalized schedule. Opponents on the schedule include Belmont, Berlin, Gilford, Laconia, Moultonborough and Plymouth.
Kennett was slated to play rival Kingswood in Wolfeboro on Jan. 19, and then host the Knights on Jan. 21, but the Governor Wentworth Regional School Board voted Dec. 7 to cancel all winter sports at the Wolfeboro high school.
Also new in this winter of COVID-19, teams are not allowed to scrimmage opponents. KHS will play an inter-squad scrimmage on Tuesday in the Marshall Gymnasium at 4 p.m. in the Conway Recreation Department. Recreation Director John Eastman invited the varsity boys (1:30 p.m.) and the girls to play at the facility while he trains referees for the winter sports season.
“We’ll see how good I was at splitting up the girls to make the teams even,” Meader said, laughing.