2023 Women’s basketball season preview

The Knights women’s basketball team will take the court for the first time since the 2009-2010 season. The inability to field a complete Roster had left the program dead in the water. However, after a decade of recruiting and inquiriesamong students the program has been resurrected. 

Hired to navigate the revived program is Malaquias Carney. The Lawrence native played for his high school basketball team and four seasons at Clarkson

The 2023-2024 Women’s basketball players NECC website

university. In 2019 he founded MAC basketball which focuses on empowering and educating players through basketball. Carney has also worked with Lawerence high school, Pingree school, Hamilton-Welham. In addition, he works with playmaking New England AAU. He has also served as an assistant coach under Darren Stratton. This will be Carney’s first role as a head coach. 

“I have always been an assistant and in the gym kind of guy, so I have always been able to be crazy and myself. I think I’m always going to be myself but just trying to figure out how that looks like a head coach. It’s going to be a fun journey I know I was built for this,” said Carney. 

Throughout the last several weeks, each of the players have developed a strong bond and connected through playing and practice together. 

“We all kind of clicked because we were all the same age and in the same situation where we played basketball and then stopped playing for a few years. Now we’re coming back and so everyone is coming back into the social aspect of the game. We have bonded over that” Emma Ruggerio of Chelmsford, MA Said. 

“All the girls on the team are very outgoing, no one is closed off, so we all got to know each other” Iesha Burgos of Haverhill, MA added 

NECC’s long battle with numbers isn’t over, the hope is that this will be the foundation of a basketball program for years to come. 

Three Knights players sitting on a bench
Three Knights players on a bench NECC website

“We want to grow and have that growth allow us to recruit a new crop of talented players and keep the program running,” said Carney. “It’s really about longevity, it’s not just having one good year or two we’re trying to build something that can keep going and doesn’t go away this time,” said Carney 

Women’s basketball will play their home opener on Nov 26th against Suffolk community college. The first tip is set for 4:00 p.m.

Women defeat CCRI, advance to national tournament

a team photo of the Knights celebrating the win
A team photo of The Knights celebrating their win NECC athletics website

The Knights punched their ticket to the NJCAA tournament on Oct 29 with a three-set sweep over the community college of Rhode Island. The region 21 championship match victory secure a 2023 region district title, NECC’s first since 2018. The tournament takes place on Nov 9th and 10th in Cedar Rapids, IH. 

In the match The Knights (23-0) defeated CCRI with ease in three sets. The first set was 25-9, the second 25-14 and the final set 25-8.  

The Knights struck first with a kill by Abigail Heredia of Lawerence, MA In set one. CCRI responded with a point of their own to even the score at 1-1. A 6-1 Knights run followed to lead 7-2. A 5-2 run gave NECC a commanding 12-4 lead. CCRI picked up a point by a miscue from NECC. A 5-2 run from The Knights was highlighted by three kills fromHeredia. A six-point run ended the set 25-9.  

NECC picked up where they left off jumping out to a 3-0 start in set 2. CCRI collected a point through a service error by Chantel Melgen of Lawerence, MA. Each team traded points leading to a 4-2 Knights lead. The Knights started to pull away on an 8-4 run for a 12-4 Knights advantage. CCRI chipped away at the deficit collecting four points to trail by four 12-8. A kill by Telaviv Nunez assisted by Vielka Sanchez both of Lawerence, MA to extend the lead 21-11. The Knights closed match on a 4-3 run to win 25-14 and claimed a 2-0 set edge 

The third and final set was much of the same, NECC lead on a 12-2 run to start the set. The run was broken up by a kill from CCRI. A 12- 4 run put NECC within a point of victory. Sanchez hit a rocket over the net for an ace to win the match and the regional championship. 

Heredia had a team high 11 kills and a .579 kill percentage. 

On the defensive end Melgen and Lirianys Rosario of Lawerence recorded seven digs each. 

The most outstanding regional player award was given to Sanchez. Sanchez collected 10 aces and four kills in the match. 


Men’s basketball season preveiw

Men’s basketball will begin their season with their first midnight madness event in program history. The event took place on Nov 1st, the first official game of the NJCAA season. 

The Knights finished 31-1 and made their first national tournament appearance in program history. This has created excitement around the program that has never been greater. Although they fell short of their goal of a championship,they are looking to avenge the loss by making it further this season. 

a photo of NECC basketball players
A group of Knights players NECC website

“We had a pretty good run last year, but we did not achieve our ultimate goal of a national championship and we can see everyone is hungry for that already” said sophomore Ata Savas Kurtulus of Turkey. 

Already The Knights have received national recognition. They were ranked fifth nationally by the NJCAA men’sbasketball committee. This is the first time the program has ever been nationally recognized in the preseason. 

The roster has turned over quite a bit from last. However, a duo of from last year’s squad, first team All-Americanmember Luis Reynoso of Lawerence, and team Captain Darlin Santiago are prepared to take on leadership roles. 

“If I mess up and my teammates mess up, I will let them know they got it next time. I will let them put their heads down and keep competing,” said Santiago. 

Reynoso had an incredible 2022-2023 campaign. He was named to the first team All-American. He averaged a team high of 19 points per game, 13 rebounds and 3.4 assists.  

The projected starting five are guards Santiago, freshman Jalen Aquino of Lawerence, MA Edwin SamMbaka of Paris,France. Reynoso who will start at forward and freshman Karl Wolfgang of Douala, Cameron will play at the center position 

Leading this roster is head coach Darren Stratton. Stratton will enter his 21st season across two stints with NECC.During his tenure he has an all-time record of (288-202). Stratton was also named the NJCAA east district coach of the year last season. 

Notable games on the schedule include midnight madness on Nov 1st at the fitness center. The NECC Turkey classic on Nov 25th against SNUY Adirondack and Nov 26th vs Suffolk community college. The Knights will wrap up the regular season against Bristol community college away on Feb 24th. 

Men’ basketball blowout Bunker Hill in the first midnight madness event

a promo of thmidnight madness event
Midnight madness event promotion NECC athletics website

Once the clock struck midnight on Nov 1st the Northern Essex basketball team took the court to face Bunker hillCommunity college in what was the first midnight madness event in program history. In the early morning hours, The Knights defeated The Bull dogs 95-55 in a dominating fashion.  

NECC looked rusty early on trailing 7-4. The sluggish start urged head coach Darren Stratton to call a timeout. Following the timeout, The Knights found their footing turning the three-point deficit into a 13-point lead, 20-7. A pair of free throws by Bunker Hill at the 10-minute mark broke the streak. 

The Knights then went on a 17-2 run for a 37-11 advantage. This shifted the momentum completely towards NECC. 

A buzzer beating shot from behind the arc by freshmen Kyoya Sasaki of Tokyo, Japan put the Knights up 52-20 as they entered halftime. 

NECC took a moment during the break to recognize the Volleyball team for their 2023 region district title and upcoming tournament in Cedar Rapids, IA. Head coach Francesca Nival, and four players Abigail Heredia, YenelisBeltre, Telaviv Nunez and Chantel Melgen all of Lawerence, stood on center court to receive the nod. 

The Knights held The Bull dogs scoreless the first three minutes into the half. A lay up at the basket by a Bunker Hill ended their drought. In the next six minutes Bunker hill kept pace outscoring the Knights 12-9, 64-32 Knights. 

Across the final seven m

A knights player attempts a two-pointer
Knights’ Luis Reynoso attempts a two-pointer | NECC Observer

inutes The Knights went on a 25-9 run for the 95-55 win over Bunker hill. 

Returning First team All-American Luis Reynoso of Lawerence, MA led the team in points and rebounds with 15 and 12 respectively. Sasaki had an impressive college debut with 13 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Sophomore guard Darlin Santiago of Salem, MA chipped in with double digit points with 11. 

As a team, The Knights Impressed offensively shooting 43.4 percent and on defense holding The Bull dogs to just 23.2 percent in the game.  



a photo of fans during the midnights madness event
Fans during the midnight madness event | NECC Observer