The 2018-19 boys’ hoops season was not the banner campaign we’ve come to expect in the Northern Westchester/Putnam County region. There wasn’t a single team from the region – outside of Class C Haldane, with its automatic qualifier – to make it past the quarterfinals. In fact, only Class AA Mahopac and Class B Putnam Valley won its opening-round game to reach the quarters. Both were then eliminated, leaving many in the area to wonder where it all went wrong.
Truth be told, it won’t be easy to turn those fortunes around in 2019-20 as teams like Mahopac and Put Valley and Somers have lost a ton of senior talent, and others will need to mesh what little star power they have with young, developing talent in a hurry to make up the ground. Sometimes, it takes years to recover: Walter Panas is still reeling from the loss of its 2018 graduating class, and both Mahopac and Put Valley could be due for a dip in production.
In this neck of the woods, there are no Mount Vernons and Peekskill is no longer the Peekskill we were once awed by, but here’s a couple of quick predictions as a new era dawns in neighboring Dutchess County: Class AA Arlington will run away with the League I-A title (with Mahopac, Carmel, RCK, Jay EF) this winter; and reigning NYS Class A champion Poughkeepsie will be the new Peekskill – the kind of former Red Devil team that used to spank Class A with a paddle — for as long as second-year Pioneers Coach Cody Moffett remains on board. The Pioneers, who have been as inconsistent as they have been good over the last 30 years, will be the team to beat so long as Moffett can hold that talent-rife program together, and much of Class A will trail the Pioneers in envy.
That’s our take as we enter the 2019-20 season: Let’s see if anyone from the NWE/Putnam area can challenge that notion, and let’s see who is earning tickets and who is purchasing seats to the Westchester County Center Final 4 in early March.
Seventh-year Coach Jordan Hirsch’s Sailors (68-59 since he took over) will be directly in Poughkeepsie’s path twice a year, and it wasn’t that long ago that it was the Sailors who were either battling for or grabbing league title rights.
“Basketball is extremely important in the city of Poughkeepsie right now, and you can credit Cody with that effort,” Hirsch said. “They have to be considered the favorite, even after losing a bunch of seniors to graduation.”
The Sailors came back down to earth last year, losing in the outbracket round and finishing 5-16 after reaching their first Final 4 in nearly three decades in 2018. Outside of League II-E foe Peekskill, the road trips within the league will be long for the Sailors, who will also compete with Dutchess-based Beacon and Lourdes in the five team league.
Projected Starting 5: Sr. F, Tommy Fucheck; Jr. G, Nick Hiltsley; Sr. F, Sergio Siverio; Sr. F, Marcus Lenz; Sr. G, David Goldman; Sr. G, James Cavalieri; Sr. G, Jared Aaronson
Main Contributors off Bench: Fr. G, Dean Hiltsley; Jr. G; Jeremy Rench; Jr. G, Josh Gillison; Jr. F; Chris Connolly; Jr. G, Jack Kapfer
Hiltsley was the club’s leading scorer last season as a sophomore with close to 300 points, and Fucheck led the team in assists as a forward.
The Sailors will need to do all the little things that don’t show up in the scorebook if they are going to challenge behind Poughkeepsie. “This team’s strength is chemistry and collective motor,” the coach said. “They play extremely well together and pride themselves on making effort plays.”
The Sailors are on the “smallish” side and will have to crash the boards. “This isn’t necessarily something to improve (because it’s out of our control), but we lack height.” Hirsch admitted. “We will need to play very disciplined, physical and tough to battle teams that have significant height advantages over us.
Outlook: Without a true sniper and little size to speak of, the Sailors would do well to exceed last year’s victory total and qualify for the playoffs. Facing Poughkeepsie and Beacon twice this winter will give the Sailors an idea of where they need to be. Both clubs are uber-talented. Peekskill is also in the league.
“What I’ve enjoyed most in working with this year’s group is how competitive they are. Every practice is high energy and this team is looking to win every drill in practice,” Hirsch said.
Poughkeepsie is coming off of a state title and federation run, so the Sailors will have seen the best the class has to offer. The usual suspects include Tappan Zee, Byram Hills and an improved Rye program. Additionally, Clarkstown South, a perennial Class AA power, has dropped down to Class A.
The history, second only to Mount Vernon in Section 1, speaks for itself, but the rhetoric has fallen on deaf ears in recent years as the prideful Red Devils, winners of five-straight sectional titles from 2005-09, search high and low for the mojo that brought Peekskill five NYSPHSAA titles under former Coach Lou Panzanaro. It’s been quite some time since the Peekskill we all grew up with showed up for the Section 1 hoops season, and it is the job of sixth-year Coach Tony Turner (42-63) to right the ship this winter.
Projected Starting 5: Slick-shooting Sr. Antonio Taylor, All-League G, 6’2”; Jr. Jordan Wilson F, 6’2”; Sr. Laquan Jenkins, F, 6’2”; Jr. Elijah Ritter, G, 5’7”; Jr. Brennan Heaven, G, 6’4”
Main Contributors off Bench: Jr. G Jayson Tinsley; Jr. G Shamar Barnett; Sr. F Mehki Hodges; Sr. G Jaron Reed.
Key Newcomers: LaQuan Jenkins, Elijah Ritter, Shamar Barnett, Jacob Poole, Jaydan Walters, Gabril Sesay.
Team speed is listed as a key strength and the perimeter shooting of Taylor will be on display all season. The kid can snipe from distance and get to the tin. Recognizing each other’s strengths and weaknesses is something the Red Devils have needed to improve upon in recent years.
Outlook: After going 10-12 last year and reaching the field of 16, Peekskill lost in the first round to Horace Greeley. Losing in the first round is something Peekskill finds tough to swallow, and losing All-Section G Shion Darby won’t help their chances of changing the tide, but they are confident they can.
“We want to improve every game and compete for the Section 1 Class A title,” Coach Turner admitted. “We like to think we’re the league favorites.”
That’s the moxie that former Red Devil teams carried with them en route to Glens Falls 10 times between 1995 and 2009 for the NYS Final 4. While that might be a reach in 2020, the Red Devils could challenge Poughkeepsie and/or Beacon for the league and try to secure a 12-14-win season. That would be a big step in the right direction.
LAKELAND is one of the few teams in the area to return some significant
LAKELAND is one of the few teams in the area to return some significant talent, despite Joey Vetrano – the B.C.-bound baseball star — opting to concentrate solely on baseball this season. The 6’3” senior’s departure from the hardwood will hurt Coach Steve Fallo’s Hornets (11-11) along the boards and in the paint. The Hornets are lucky to have enough depth to make up for that loss and a healthy Jack Kruse goes a long way. The 6’1” All-Conference senior swingman missed the better part of last season but can drop 20 on any given night off a silky smooth jumper and a knack for the rack.
“We are actually playing really well together at this point,” Kruse said. “Communication and defense are getting stronger as we go along. We are just trying to use our speed to our advantage, so we are trying to get in the best shape possible. Shooting is definitely a strong suit of ours. We’re going in with confidence and a crazy fan base behind us.”
That fan base – should it turn out — can expect to root on a team that hopes to contend for a Final 4 spot at the County Center in March.
“That’s the goal, no doubt,” Kruse said.
Projected Starting 5: Kruse, G Augie Karaqi (5’10”), G Mike Arcure (5’8”), G Jeff Owusu (5’9”) and G Rob Nardelli (5’11”) are expected to round out the guard-heavy starting five.
Main Contributors off Bench: C Kevin Keegan (6’2”), F James Barefoot (5’10”), F Brian Cummins (5’10”) and F Aidan Welcome (6’) will push for starting time and afford Fallo with solid situational athletes off the bench. F Reed Thompson (6’2”), G James Apostolou (5’10”) and athletic F Landon Ruggieri (6 ‘1”) are all in the mix.
Outlook: There’s no doubt the Hornets will put points up with Kruse and Karaqi supplying the giddy-up to the offense, but the lack of size will undoubtedly hamper the Hornets’ chances of challenging the big dogs of Class A; like defending champion Poughkeepsie, finalists Tappan Zee and semifinalists Greeley and Rye. Lakeland hopes to counter that with ‘Speed and Snipe’, something the Hornets will need to apply.
“We need to become a better defensive team,” Fallo said. “Hopefully, we can compete for a league title and be competitive every night. “We’ll play a fast-paced game and we can shoot the ball. Everyone on this team has a green light to shoot if they’ve got a good shot.”
Lakeland can settle for another .500 season or they can push the limits of 13 wins and a quarterfinal playoff push or bust, which is well within reach despite the competition. But one thing they should not settle for is anything less than a league title.
Lakeland will open today at Lourdes and play its home opener at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, against Arlington in the opening round of the Relay for Life Tournament, with Tappan Zee playing Suffern in the first game at 4:30 p.m. This is one of the toughest tournament fields in the section this season. As of press time, the consolation and finals of the tournament are scheduled for noon and 5:15 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7.
After a highly successful 2018 season that saw the Panthers reach the Final 4, Panas came back to earth last season, finishing 5-16 under Coach Mike Auerbach, now in his third year at Panas, ninth overall (89-76). The unit has had a strong off-season, which should enable them to be much more competitive this season.
Projected Starting 5: includes some key returnees and a blend of rookies: Arturo Macchia 5’10” So. G; Caleb Evans 6’2” Jr. G/F; Robert Ennis 6’0” Sr. G; Josh Nnadiri 6’2” Sr. F and Tom Palmaffy 6’0” Sr. F.
Main Contributors off Bench: includes sparkplug Lorenzo Santucci 5’9” Sr. G; Alex Tavarez 5’10” Fr. G and big Anthony Sarcone 6’6” Sr. C.
Ennis and Santucci are big-play threats, returning seniors with the most varsity experience. Santucci (10 PPG) can score the ball effectively and get to the rack, while Ennis worked into a consistent role the second half of the year after missing all of November and December with a knee injury.
“Santucci is an explosive scorer who has rounded out his game in the off season, while Ennis will do a lot of everything for us,” said Auerbach, a former Panther in his own right. Macchia played off the bench last year for us as a freshman and will step into a much bigger role this year. He’s an athletic guard who plays with a ton of energy and is as competitive as you can get. Palmaffy missed all of last season rehabbing a knee injury but has had an excellent off-season for us. He’s a physical forward who plays bigger than his size but can also step out and be a threat from the perimeter. Lukas Velez and Mike Ramos are both returning seniors who will provide us depth at both the guard and forward spots. They both have improved over the off season and are capable of contributing when called upon.
The loss of 6’5” senior C Jason Keefe, who recently underwent surgery for a knee injury sustained during the football season, is a big blow to the Panthers’ paint presence.
“While he will miss the entire season, Jason’s a terrific leader for our program and having him around will be an important part of our development as a team,” the coach said
The key newcomers will need to make up for the loss, including Evans, a talented transfer back from Beacon. “Caleb is about 6’2” with point guard skills,” the coach said. “His ball-handling and passing will be a big part of our offense. He is also a good shooter who can string together makes in bunches.”
Nnadiri is a 6’2” senior who transferred into Panas in September from Nigeria. He’s an athletic wing who will really help us defensively. Sarcone is a 6’6” senior who played a big role for us during the off season. He’s a mobile center defensively and can also finish around the basket on offense. Tavarez was the leading scorer for our JV team a year ago as an eighth-grader. He’s a very talented guard whose skills and basketball IQ are ahead of his age. Simmonds, who is currently injured, is a junior guard/forward that we looked forward to working into the mix once healthy. Andrew Keefe and Zapata are both junior forwards who were solid contributors a year ago on JV.
“We feel like we can be much more athletic than a year ago,” Auerbach admitted. “We’ve looked good in the off-season and pre-season when we can get out in transition either after a stop or by forcing a turnover. We also share the ball well as a team and can get scoring from a handful of guys.”
The Panthers are not big or bulky, so what they lack in size they need to make up for in other ways.
“We don’t have a ton of bulk up front, but are hoping our length and athleticism can make up for that,” the coach said. “Also, despite having seven seniors we don’t have a lot of varsity experience because of a rash of injuries sustained over the last couple of years.”
Outlook: Five wins a year ago was an aberration from a Panas program that habitually challenges for double-digit wins, including playoff victories. The goal should be to double last year’s win total (at the very least), challenge Lakeland, Somers and the rest of the lot for the league title and win a playoff game.
“We’re optimistic we can have a much better season than a year ago,” Auerbach said. “We’ve looked very good at times in the off season when we can get the game at our pace and tempo. The energy in the gym is excellent. Their attention to detail and willingness to learn and grow as group has been very positive.”
Lakeland returns a lot of key players and should be among the front-runners in the league. John Jay CR returns some starters and Auerbach was impressed with their JV a year ago.
The faces may change, but the pace remains the same at Somers. Frenetic, tempo-setting defense and transition offense are the common denominators each and every season, and that won’t change in 2020. Plus, if there is any truth to the whispers around the program, Tusker Coach Chris DiCintio will want to go out like he came in: Swinging! After 11 years at Rye and now in his eighth season at Somers, DiCintio (220-164) has considered the notion of life after varsity basketball.
After 16-5 season and an opening-round loss to Beacon, the Tuskers do return enough chips to cash in on another successful season and certainly have more than enough to challenge the likes of Lakeland for the league title.
Projected Starting 5: Guard-heavy lineup includes Drew Lasher 5’10” senior guard is as fast and athletic as any backcourt player in the league; Joe Grippo 5’11” senior guard;
Dylan Berliner 6’1” senior guard; Ben Germaine 6’2” junior forward; Bennett Leitner 5’9” sophomore guard.
“Drew has an outstanding ability to get to the rim with the ability to score from the perimeter, and he’s a lock down defender,” DiCintio exclaimed! “Grippo is a tough, athletic guard with smooth stroke. Dylan is a long, lanky guard that can score from anywhere on the court. Quick release with deep range and an uncanny ability to score in traffic using his length. Ben is a strong, fundamental forward with high Basketball I.Q. His ability to hit the outside shot enables Somers to use him as a stretch four if needed, and he’s a tough rebounder. Bennett is a fast and tough guard that plays older than he is. His ability to defend and lead make him one of the league’s best sophomore guards. He’s a very unselfish player.”
Main Contributors off Bench: Size off the bench enables the coach to make situational subbing. Kenny McGrane 6’4” senior forward (long, athletic forward that can do damage inside and out); Nate Townsend 6’5” senior forward (tall forward with an excellent fundamental game;
Henry Gilroy 6’4” junior center (veteran with the ability to defend and score around the rim);
Daniel Loscher 6’2” junior forward (tough forward that has a smooth stroke from the perimeter and an uncanny ability to rebound the basketball); Robert Repp 6’2” junior guard (smart, fundamental guard that knows how to direct the team at point).
Outlook: The Tuskers lost four starters from last season’s 16 win season, including All-Section guard Lucas Fecci and All-Conference center Max Germaine. Lasher and Leitner will need to fill the Fecci role. He was a pain in the ass for opponents to deal with. Lasher has the speed and athleticism to fill such a role and his experience for this team will be invaluable. Add in the scoring threat of Dylan Berliner who can hit from anywhere on the court, and the Tuskers should be just fine in the back court. Senior Joe Grippo and Sophomore Bennett Leitner, both whom were starters along with Lasher on the very successful soccer team this past fall, will make the Tuskers fast and athletic on both ends of the floor.
“The big test for the team will be our inside game,” DiCintio said. “All we lost leaves some question marks. Ben Germaine, the younger brother of Max Germaine, will be called on to man the middle along with Gilroy. If we use our speed and athleticism to press and play fast and Germaine and Gilroy can man the middle, Somers should have no trouble continuing to compete at the same level the Tuskers basketball program has become accustomed to.”
DiCintio agreed that Lakeland could be the team to beat in the league, with the Tuskers providing a stiff challenge. Panas will be improved while Yorktown, Jay and Brewster round things out.
Like most coaches in Class A, DiCintio figures Rye, Poughkeepsie and Tappan Zee will be the primary contenders for the Final 4. Somers will host its annual Mike DePaoli Holiday Tournament on Thursday 12/13 through Saturday 12/15 featuring Mahopac vs. Kennedy on 12/13 and Somers vs. Yorktown on 12/14. The championship is on 12/15.
In his second season at Yorktown, Coach Mark Pavella is still very much in the process of a rebuild, looking to build off last year’s outbracket playoff loss, in which 22-seeded Huskers (7-14) found the sledding tough in a 62-47 to No. 11 Beacon. Yorktown didn’t have the horses to run with the top challengers in Class A last season and things could be equally tough in 2020.
Projected Starting 5: A very fluid situation, according to the coach. Roni Brucaj F 6’2” Sr; Sam Pincus 5’11” G Jr.; Rob Miller 5’11” PG Sr.; Anthony Granitto 6’2” F Jr.; Eddie Brucaj F/C 6’5” Soph.
Main Contributors off Bench: Sean Vogel 6’1” F Sr.; Jared Faivre 5’9” SG Jr.; Matt Mahoney 6’1” SG Sr.; David Dippolitto F 6’ Jr.; Antoine Cole PG 5’7” Fresh.; Daniel Trashani G 5’10” Jr.; Jack Prybylski G 6’1” Soph; Martin Kopacz F 6’3 Sr.
“We have nine new players on the varsity this year,” Pavella said. “We have good senior leadership, and the guys compete in practice. I’m excited about the new season. All of the underclassmen will have a chance to contribute. It’s a hard-working group that plays well as a team. We will need to rebound the ball and defend to be able to compete each night.”
Outlook: With nine new players, the Huskers are an enigma, but opponents can expect a physical style of play that should translate into some low-scoring scraps within the league. The Brucaj brothers will be impactful players and young Eddie has a chance to make a name for himself.
“I think the league is competitive top to bottom this year,” Pavella said. “Any team can step up and win it this year. Panas has looked good this off-season.”
Pavella, like many coaches believes, Tappan Zee, Poughkeepsie and Byram Hills are the teams to beat in Class A, and he likes Beacon to make some legit noise.
Yorktown opens the season with a challenging contest at 6 p.m. today at Fox Lane. The Huskers will then host the annual George Budries Yorktown Boys’ and Girls’ Memorial Basketball Tournament Friday (6:30 p.m.) against Walter Panas.
Veteran Coach Tom Nelligan will draw blood from a stone given the chance, and the 2020 Bears will need every ounce he can squeeze out of them after
The Rams will welcome their fourth new coach since George Coates left in 2013 after the sudden recent resignation of Paul Brennan, who will be replaced by Joe Ross this season. Ross is no stranger to the program, and basketball in general. He’s worked for several years with various Carmel teams before this season. Over the course of a 20-year career, he’s have also been a head coach with St. Joseph’s College (Brooklyn) and Sarah Lawrence College (Bronxville), and his attention to detail will be evident from the get.
Projected Starting 5: Jarid Garcia (G, senior, 5’10); Drew Fiore (G, soph, 5’11); Alex Beauchesne (G, senior, 6’0); Kevin Kovacs, (F, senior, 6’3); Ben Autieri (F, junior, 6’0)
Main Contributors off Bench: Nick Harrington (F, senior, 6’0), Tommy Prisco (F, senior, 5’10), Trevor Cayea (G, soph, 5’9), Kevin Dall (F, soph, 5’10), Nick DiLeo (F, soph, 6’2)
“This team will defend, can go to deep into its bench and has multiple players who can contribute at multiple positions,” Ross said. “We will have to look beyond the talented Garcia and find others to become consistent offensive threats. Time on the floor and day-to-day experience are things that will help this team move forward.”
When Garcia returns (out until early December with mono), the Rams get back an explosive returning starter, who should be among the top players in the league. Beauchesne, an All-Section football stud, is among the top defenders in the section and will be looked to provide more offense this season. Kovacs is said to be a long wing who can score from a variety of spots on the court, hopefully picking up some of the slack for graduated wing Shane McNerney, and sophomore Fiore will be asked to contribute at multiple positions.
Harrington will be looked to provide some much-needed scoring and sophomores Fiore, Dall, DiLeo and Cayea will all be asked to quickly contribute at the varsity level while preparing for their future.
Outlook: A rash of injuries have plagued the program in recent years and a 5-14 2019 finish was not the expected outcome last year, but it did set up immediate elimination in a first-round playoff loss to Suffern.
The unit returns just two players with significant varsity experience and will take some time to figure things out, but it is also talented, unselfish and works hard, according to the coach.
“We are excited to see what it looks like in February,” he said.
What it looks like leading up should be a team that gives every ounce it has to make up for the evident shortcomings and the number of starters lost to graduation.
A strong, well-coached Arlington team should cause problems for the rest of league, including Mahopac, Jay EF and RCK. The Admirals have country-boy strength inside along with smart/talented guard play.
Outside of the league, Mount Vernon remains the class of the section.
Another program, another new coach, but this one has integral ties to the Mahopac basketball community. First-year Mahopac Coach Tom McMahon has previous ties to the varsity program, having served a brief stint as its head coach over a decade ago, and he’s had his finger on the pulse of the Indian hoops community for decades while serving as a St. John’s CYO bigwig. He knows the kids in the program inside and out, and he hopes that knowledge serves him well as the Indians enter the 2019-20 season with a slew of new faces. Few programs in Section 1 were hit by graduation as hard, with four starters and a host of key bench players, having graduated from a team that went a very respectable 12-8 before bowing to Suffern in the quarterfinals.
Projected Starting 5: Vin Bastone (JR, G/F, 6’2”), John Cosentino (JR, G, 5’10”), Matthew McMahon (SR, G, 6’0”), Ryan Reilly (SO, G/F, 6’3”), Luke Syku (JR, G, 5’11”)
Main Contributors off Bench: Michael Callahan (SO, G/F, 6’2”), Patrick McMahon (SO, G, 6’0”), Colum Ranaghan (SO, F, 6’3”), Chris Clark (JR, G, 5’11”), Adam Mitchell (SR, F, 6’0”), Mike Kertelits (SR, F, 6’3”), Tommy O’Brien (SR, G, 5’10”).
“We have some decent shooters and a deep rotation,” said McMahon, who has two sons on the team and has worked vigorously with the unit throughout their CYO days. “Rebounding, player and system development are things we need to work on. We are very inexperienced with only two returning players who saw meaningful varsity minutes last year. We also have a new coaching staff, so the boys have had to learn an entirely new system.”
Outlook: Teams will look to lock of Matt McMahon, who can knock it down from beyond the arc with great proficiency, so Bastone, a legit athlete, will have to get good in a hurry to form a competent 1-2 punch. Outside of Arlington, the Indians should be able to compete with the likes of Carmel, Jay EF and RCK, which is said to be improved. The Admirals are clearly the team to beat and should run away with the league.
“Our goal is to compete night in and night out and get better every single day as guys start to get used the system, the varsity experience and what it takes to be successful at this level,” McMahon said. “We will also be focused on building a culture at the varsity, j.v., freshman and modified levels. With a good mix of upper and underclassman, we should be one of the better shooting teams, but we will have to work to rebound and secure the ball on that end of the floor. We have a challenging schedule and a very tough league, so we will need to be prepared and mentally tough every night.”
Mahopac’s schedule is loaded with legit opponents, including Arlington and RCK twice, plus perennial powers Mount Vernon, New Rochelle and White Plains.
Fifth-year Pride Coach Mike Casey (38-43) has settled in at Ossining (5-15) and hopes to ride the basketball buzz within the community. The Ossining girls have won nine-straight Section 1 titles and enter the 2020 season as the reigning NYS champs, so Ossining is all about balling. The program has seen some of the finest players in the country go through it in recent years, including Obi Toppin (Dayton) and the Griffin brothers, Alan (Illinois) and Duke-bound Adrian, both of whom transferred to Stepinac.
Projected Starting 5: Jaeden Carr PG So. 5-10 (All-League); Khy’Leil Hawkins Jr. 5-9; Griffin Dahle Jr. 6-3; Mark DeAngelis Sr. 5-9; Zaysean Goodson Sr. 6-3.
Main Contributors off Bench: Jordan Smith Sr. 6-2; Caden Hallinan Jr. 6-2.
Carr, Hawkins and Dahle are players to keep an eye on, as are Hallinan, Jalen Blalock, MJ Aurora, Sr.; Thomas Kress, Sr. Jamir Harris, So.; John Rivera, Jr.; Vinny Bernardo, So.; Chris Acosta, Jr.
“The Pride will look to multiple players who can score the ball,” Casey said. “The defense will need to continue to progress throughout the season.”
Outlook: League I-D is stacked with perennial powers like White Plains, Horace Greeley and Fox Lane, which have dominated in recent years, and White Plains is said to be the team to beat while the Quakers are in transition with a new coach. That said, Greeley has been rock solid in recent years. Port Chester rounds out the league that is there for the taking.
“We are looking to bounce back from last season,” Casey said. “While only returning two starters, there are several returners who saw significant minutes last year. Ossining is looking to be competitive while pulling off some big wins. White Plains has an edge on Greeley. Class Favorite is Mount Vernon, aren’t they always?
The No.1 seed headed into the tournament last fall, former Coach Mike McDonnell’s Tigers (18-4) ran in to a Woodlands buzz saw in the quarterfinals where the eight-seeded Falcons busted up the Class B bracket. And since that point in time, Putnam Valley is no longer the same. McDonnell resigned and went to Kennedy Catholic. Twelve seniors and all five starters have graduated, leaving veteran Coach Al Morales with an unsettled situation as he takes over the Tigers after several years at Kennedy. In essence, the coaches traded places, and Morales inherits a full-blown rebuild. That said, the Tigers have looked better than expected in the pre-season, including a scrimmage against Brewster.
Projected Starting 5: With so many new faces, nothing has been solidified as of press time, but the following players figure to have an impact. Cole Durocher, 5’8” G soph.; Arthur Holzman, G soph.; Joe Lewis, 6’2” F sr.; Anthony Williams, 6’ G sr.; Mike Doebbler, 6’4” C; Matt Aviles, 6’2” F sr.; Mike Reichardt 6’1” G sr.; Mike Cioffi, 6’ G sr.
“We are very athletic,” Morales said. “But we need to work on our defense and taking better care of the ball.
Aviles is the wild card. He has the potential to average 15 PPG if he comes to play and dedicates himself at both ends of the floor. He can turn his high school career into something special if he desires to do so.
A 6’4”, Doebbler has something you can’t teach, so if he can wreak some havoc in the middle and pick up points off the boards, the Tigers will benefit immensely. Durocher needs to let the game come to him and when he does, he can score the ball.
Outlook: This will not be a typical PV year where you can pencil in double-digit wins and a solid playoff run. The Tigers had been to five Final 4’s and two championship appearances over the last six years before the 2019 season, but matching that type of success will be a tall order for such a young unit. The schedule has been dialed down some, and the league includes North Salem, Pawling and a Haldane club that should/could challenge for the league title before a strong run at the Section 1 Class C title.
Morales, a solid X’s and O’s coach, has a learning curve to adjust to as well, having not coached against Section 1 foes for many years. That said, he knows talent well and can coach up those that are eager to learn. If the Tigers can find 6-8 wins on this schedule, that’ll be a tough challenge, but they have managed to do that and more the last decade. Anything less will be a major disappointment.
“Since we have a young team, new system and coach we will need some time to get going,” Morales said. “We must focus on making defense our best offense while taking it one day at a time.”
Defending champion Dobbs Ferry and Valhalla are said to be strong challengers for the Class B title this season.
There is little doubt about the effort of a Blue Devil team under 14th-year Coach Joe Virgadamo: You go hard or you go home. The feisty coach accepts nothing less than all-out and that’s what the Blue Devils will need to meet their lofty pre-season goals. After losing to Class C champion Hamilton in the semis last year, the Blue Devils (14-7) return a ton of talent ready for another go at what would be Haldane’s first sectional title since three-peating in 2016; what was the finest era in school history.
Projected Starting 5: Daniel Santos 6’2”, G, Jr.; Darrin Santos 6’1”, G, Jr.; Alex Kubik 5’10”, G, Sr.; Matt Champin (All-Conference) 6’4”, F, Sr.; Mame Diba (All-League) 6’4”, F, Sr.
Main Contributors off Bench: Soren Holmbo 6’2”, G, Fr.; Matteo Cerbone 6’3”, F, Fr.; Jagger Beachak 6’2”, G, Sr.; Doug Donaghy 5’11, F, Jr. Newcomers to watch include Soren, Matteo, Vincenzo Scanga, Christian Pezzullo, Johnathon Bradley.
“Our starting lineup can change as our practices have been very competitive,” Virgadamo said. “I think we will have different guys stepping up and scoring any given night. We are very long and athletic. We are going to try to get deep into our bench early on. Our ball movement and communication has been outstanding.
Outlook: 15 wins is a realistic goal, as is the League III-E title. There’s no reason to believe Haldane can’t reestablish itself as a legit Class C challenger either, with all the Blue Devils return. Champlin is a difficult matchup for anyone and Diba is just coming in to his own. They are a versatile, nightmarish frontcourt duo. The guard play is sound but will need to find another next level if the Blue Devils are going to compete for the section, given the gritty style of Hamilton and Tuckahoe.
“We have a very competitive schedule this year and we will be ready for a tough Class C sectional tournament,” the coach said. “Putnam Valley and North Salem will be tough in our league. Hamilton is the favorite being that they return everyone. Tuckahoe will also be solid with (former Greeley coach) Felix Nicodemo.”
Al Morales is gone, Mike McDonnell is in. The Gaels (2-22) struggled through their CHSAA season last year, but McDonnell believes his backcourt is among the deepest he’s ever coached.
With just one returning senior, F 6’2 Connor O’Reilly, the Gaels are made up of primarily juniors. Key varsity returnees: Guards Lou Hoinkis and Jaden Wilson; four new transfers this summer led by talented point guards guards Chris Ward Jr. from Ardsley, Jaden Watkins (Spackenkill) and sharpshooting Denis Ward (Carmel) along with forward Donovan Ramgahan of Arlington.
The team will compete in Class B CHSAA and faces a very strong schedule: St Dominics, St Mary’s, Holy Trinity and Kellenburg (LI), Albertus Magnus, Somers Tourney, Regis, Salesian and Sacred Heart. “This is the deepest group of talented guards I’ve ever coached,” McDonnell said. “The boys have worked their tails off from the summer until now and are hungry to challenge for a Class B championship.”