Walter Panas Has Eyes on Class A Prize

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Local Ballers Take Aim at League, Sectional Titles

By RayGallagher, Examiner Sport Editor @Directrays
From Class C Haldane to Class A Walter Panas, Somers, Lakeland and Yorktown, the Northern Westchester/Putnam Examiner area boys’ hoops teams are locked and loaded for a run at their respective league titles, including Mahopac senior F Ryan Reilly (30) and the Indians.

Football ran long in these parts in the fall of 2021, and the Examiner has some catching up to do when it comes to hoops. We make no apologies for that: Class AA state champ Carmel, plus Class A runner-ups Somers and Class B Pleasantville, took our readers on the finest grid journey we’ve ever seen in this neck of the woods.

That said, excitement is off the charts for the 2021-22 Section 1 basketball season for a vast majority of the Examiner-area clubs that hope to contend for league and sectional titles this coming March. Yes, COVID-19 restrictions will dampen some of the enthusiasm. It’s simply impossible to ignore the fact that players will be forced to run up and down the court with face coverings on, and it’s difficult for some, if not most, to come to grips with the fact that the Westchester County Center will not host the sectional Final 4’s since the building is a shell of itself after serving as a COVID vaccine center/warehouse for most of the last year.

It is what it is, and Section 1 coaches, players and fans are prepared to make the best of it. Here’s a glimpse of what we can expect from the teams within the Northern Westchester/Putnam County regions.


With 30 teams scattered about five leagues in Class A this year, much of the Examiner-area hubbub centers around Walter Panas and Yorktown. Coach Mike Auerbach’s Panthers return one of the premier guards in the section in silky All-League junior G Alex Tavarez, who has the swag and hops to match his rep, and the inclusion of 6’8” 340-pound senior transfer Maleek McNeil has added some big-time buzz to the mix. The inside-outside combo of Tavarez’s speed and silk and McNeil’s brute strength undoubtedly gives the Panthers a shot to contend for league and section prowess.

Yorktown’s All-Section C/F Eddie Brucaj is poised to deliver what could be a record-setting season for double-doubles. The 6’7” senior has a chance to deliver a Final 4 campaign if everything shakes out for Coach Mark Pavella’s Huskers.

Lakeland has the hardware in tow after taking the COVID-shortened Northern Westchester/Putnam small school regional last year, but Coach Steve Fallo’s Hornets were hit hard by graduation. Do not sleep on Mahopac, which features a slew of multi-sport athletes that will pose a ton of problems if you look past them. It’ll take some time for Somers to get on the same page as they deal with multiple late additions due to the autumn success of the Tusker football and soccer programs, but the Tuskers have the multi-sport athletes to challenge for their first league title since 1989. Brewster is well coached but hasn’t been more than a thorn in the side of most foes the last few years as the Bears have battled through a slew of low-scoring affairs. Peekskill has also been hit hard by graduation, but the Red Devils are an unknown, as they try to forge their way back to relevance. Hen Hud will work within the confines of one of the toughest leagues around with Poughkeepsie, Panas and Lourdes serving as a trio of rough challenges for the Sailors.



2021 Record & Playoff result: 9-5, Lost at Briarcliff in 2nd round
Coach: Mike Auerbach (5th year at Panas, 11th overall, 111-89)
Key Departures: Caleb Evans, Rob Simmonds
Key Returning Players: Alex Tavarez 6’0” Jr. G. (All-League, 19.5 PPG, 5 APG, 5 RPG); Cam Nicholas 6’1” Sr. G (4.4 PPG, 2.5 APG); Oliver Smith 6’3” Sr. F (6.1 PPG, 7.2 RPG); Dillon Chenard 6’9” Jr. F (3.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG); Derek Mojica 6’1” Jr. G/F; Kerwin Daly 6’2” Sr. G/F; Jadon Frederick 5’10” Sr. G; Ethan Linton 5’10” Sr. G
Key Newcomers: Maleek McNeil 6’8” Sr. F; Jerry Smallwood 6’0” Jr. G
League Favorite: Poughkeepsie
Section Favorite: I haven’t seen everyone over the summer and fall but I imagine the usual favorites will be in the mix. Poughkeepsie, Tappan Zee and Byram Hills. We suspect Mahopac, Eastchester, Somers, Lakeland, Pearl River all look tough as well.
Team Goals: Compete for a league title and be in position to make a run come sectionals.
Coach’s Comments: We’ve had a really good summer and fall. Hopefully, it carries over into the high school season. We return a handful of guys with varsity experience which could be a plus for us early on. Junior, Alex Tavarez, who averaged nearly 20 points as a sophomore should be one of the better guards in the area. Obviously, the addition of Maleek McNeil has made a big impact. He’s a 6’8” forward with guard skills and a high basketball IQ. Alongside McNeil, fellow forwards Oliver Smith and Dillon Chenard have worked hard to improve their games and will provide more offensively than a year ago. We have some shooting and ball handling depth with Cam Nicholas, Jadon Frederick, Derek Mojica, Kerwin Daly and Jerry Smallwood, which hopefully will take some pressure off our top scorers.
Out of the Gate: The Panthers have not let Auerbach down, getting off to a 4-2 start, including a disappointing 45-44 Panther tourney title loss to undefeated North Rockland (4-0). The 61-56 loss to Eastchester was an eye-opener that should let the Panthers know that Class A will be a dog fight.

Lakeland junior F Logan Shiland will provide a major paint presence for the Hornets.


2021 Record & Playoff result: 9-6 (won the Putnam-Northern Westchester Small School tournament title game)
Coach: Steve Fall (7th year, 57-65)
Key Departures: Rob Nardelli (All-Section), Aidan Welcome, Reed Thompson Mark Cummins (All-League )
Key Returning Players: David Mula, Sr. 5’10 G; Jason Portella, Sr. 6’0 G; Tyler Ronk, Sr. 5’10 F; David Pinkowski, 6’ G/F; Logan Shiland, Jr. 6’3 F; Andrew Mendel 6’2 C
League Favorites: Poughkeepsie, Lourdes and Panas
Section Favorite: Poughkeepsie
By the Numbers: Shiland (7.4 PPG), Mendel (6.2 RPG)
Team Goals: To be prepared, focused and excited to play each and every game.We play in a very competitive league and we have to be ready every night.
Coach’s Comments: We are excited for the start of the season. This team wants to be in the gym and has put the work in, to be ready for the season.
Out of the Gate: At 3-2 through the first five games, Lakeland has posted an impressive win over Mahopac to win the Lakeland tourney title, but setbacks to John Jay (3-1) and Yorktown (3-1) would indicate the Hornets’ have plenty of work ahead of them.


2021 Record & playoff result: 8-5, 1st Round Playoff Loss
Coach: Jordan Hirsch, 81-79 (League Champions 2018, 2021)
Key Departures: Nick Hiltsley, Jack Kapfer, Jeremy Rench, Josh Gillison
Key Returning Players: Dean Hiltsley, G, Jr., All-League; Rocco Capicotti, C, Sr.; Xavier Juarez, F, Jr.; Stephen Raguso, F, Jr.; Tyler Robinson, G, Sr.; Thomas Popolizio, G, Jr; Anthony Settembre Jr., G, Sr.; Alex Peske, G, Sr.
Key Newcomers: Eugene Wamack, G, So.; Michael Gagliardi, G, Jr.; Christian Lent, F, Sr.; Chris Parkes, G, Jr.;Matthew Pena, C, Jr.; Conor Prokopiak, G, So.
League Favorite: You could pick a number of teams to be the favorite in our league as it is so strong. Poughkeepsie is always top of mind and Walter Panas will be a dynamic veteran team and I would put them at the top of the list for our section as well.
Team Goals: Our only goal is to compete every day in practice so that we are playing our best basketball we are capable of by the end of the season.
Coach’s Comments: Our coaches are very excited to develop with our guys and see who will take advantage of the opportunities presented from the attrition of losing a lot of experience and scoring to graduation. It’s been exciting to be in the gym with this group already. I think if we continue to have the kind of effort and enthusiasm that we’ve had so far in the pre-season, we will put ourselves in a position to be successful.
Out of the Gate: At 2-2, the Sailors have blown out two teams (Saunders and Roosevelt) and been blown away twice (John Jay CR, Pearl River) to open the season.


2021 Record & Playoff Result: Lost in the first round to Briarcliff HS
Coach: Tony Turner
Key Departures: Brennan Heaven & Jason Tinsley
Key Returning Players: Travis Brown Guard, Soph, and Joshua Jones PG, Jr.
Key Newcomers: Isaiah Crawford G, F, Amir Thames Fwd, Soph, & Jayden Chavis Fwd, F
League Favorite: Walter Panas
Section Favorite: Unsure
By the Numbers: Travis Brown 10 PPG
Team Goals: To improve every game and consistently play hard.
Coach’s Comments: I’m looking forward to the upcoming season and providing an opportunity for these young men to obtain their goals on and off the court.
Out of the Gate: Red Devils (1-1) were crushed in their first big test of the season, a 72-42 loss to Yorktown, which indicates Peekskill needs some improvement.



2021 Record & Playoff Result: 8-5 Lost to Somers in 1st round
Coach: Mark Pavella 26-30 (4th season overall)
Key Departures: Anthony Granitto, Jared Faivre
Key Returning Players: Eddie Brucaj Center Sr. 6’7” (All-Section as a junior); Antoine Coles Guard Jr. 5’10”; Justin Price Guard So. 6’; William Schietinger Guard Sr. 5’11”; Marco Jovicevic Forward Sr. 6’1”; Mark Shkreli Small Forward Sr. 6’1”; Jack Murphy Guard Sr. 5’11”; Jack Prybylski Guard Sr. 6’2”; Captain Charlie DeGennaro Jr. 5’9”
Key Newcomers: Thomas Costello, G, So, 5’10”; Billy Feeks G, So 5’11”; Joshua Barton C, Jr. 6’2”; Rocco Conciatori F, Jr. 6’3”; John Romero G/F Jr. 6’2”
League Favorite: The league is well balanced, and any team can win on any given night.
Section Favorite: Class A has a lot of talented teams. Poughkeepsie and Tappan Zee are always strong programs in Class A.
By the Numbers: Brucaj (13 PPG, 8 RPG).
Team Goals: Right now we are focused on having the right attitude at each practice and getting better each day.
Coach’s Comments: We are looking forward to having a normal hoops season this year.
Out of the Gate: Aside from the season-opening loss to a surprisingly strong RCK (3-0) club, the Huskers have steamrolled their way to a 3-1 start, including wins over Lakeland (54-48) and double-digit whippings of Peekskill and Fox Lane, which was an eye-opening triumph.


2021 Record & Playoff Result: 6-8, lost in regional semis to Mahopac
Coach: Chris Dicinto (10th year Somers, 11 previously at Rye)
Key Returning Players: 5’9” All-Section Sr. G Bennet Leitner; 6’5” Jr. G Matt Fitzsimons; 6’5” Sr. C Christian McGrane; 5’9” Sr. G TJ Olifers; 6’3” Jr. F Dylan Ingraham
Key Newcomers: Four talented sophomores who are vying for playing time, along with a handful of seasoned seniors.
League Favorite: Wide open but we fully expect to contend.
Team Goals: Win our first league title since 1989 and make a deep run in sectionals.
Coach’s Comments: We’ll continue to build off of last year on the offensive side. We will continue to run the floor and attack the rim. We have shooters as well, so our perimeter game should be solid. On the defensive end, we will continue to press and play a physical in-your-face match-up zone. We are long so the zone should be the primary defense for us. The key for our success will depend on the health of the players and how long they take to gel once we get started. We will have to play catch up with all the football and soccer guys having deep playoff runs, but I’m used to doing so.
Out of the Gate: Somers will deep its feet in the pool for the first time Wednesday when it hosts Lakeland and then get ready for Putnam Valley in Friday’s opening round of the Somers Tournament. Carmel and Ossining are also in the tourney mix.

Mahopac’s Michael Callahan and Put Valley defenders Sean Holzman, Cole Durocher and Nate Shillingford will be relied upon for big seasons.


2021 Record & Playoff Result: 12-2, Lost Regional Final to Fox Lane
Coach: Tom McMahon
Key Departures: John Cosentino, Vin Bastone, Luke Syku, Chris Clark, Miles Buckley
Key Returning Players: Michael Callahan, Patrick McMahon (All-League), Colum Ranaghan, Ryan Reilly, Max Gomes, Anthony DeMatteo, Jack, Moore, Craig Perri, Sean Massett
Key Newcomers: Potent-scoring Jake Couzens, Liam Dodd, Joey Grassia, Joey Koch, Leury Reyes Ramos, Phil Salmon
League Favorite: Very competitive league, anyone can win it.
Section Favorite: Poughkeepsie, Tappan Zee, Byram Hills, Rye, Lakeland, Somers, Pearl River
Team Goals: To compete for a league title and section title.
Coach’s Comments: We are fortunate to return nine players this season, including three starters and six of our top ten. We have strong senior leadership and will rely on their experience. We also have a talented junior class to add into the mix. The schedule is tough. There is a lot of talent in Class A and it is very deep. We will also see many teams we have never seen before.
Out of the Gate: It hasn’t been the start the Indians (1-3) were hoping for after three-straight losses to Lakeland, Byram Hills and Poughkeepsie.


2021 Record & Playoff result: 2-6 (did not enter postseason)
Coach: Tom Nelligan (274-198), 2004 Class B State & Federation Champ at Kennedy, Section 1 Class B Champion 2000, 2004-2006
Key Returning Players: Connor Griffin 6’4 Jr. F Steve Swisher 6’1 Jr. G; Shane McLaughlin 6’3 Sr. F; Cooper Rookwood 5’9 Sr. G; Brice Washington 6’0 Sr. G
Key Newcomers: Nick Sayegh 5’11 Sr. F; Evan Knorr 5’11 Sr. G; Christian Alvear 5’10 Jr. G; Pat Ford 5’8 Jr. G; Julius Walters 5’10 Jr. F; Tyler Sherman 6’1 Jr. F; Matthew Thompson 6’4 So. F; William Dignan 5’9 Fr. G
Team Goals: To use everyday as an opportunity to improve and become closer as a team.
Coach’s Comments: The Bears have worked hard this preseason to improve their skills and develop team chemistry. Committed team defense and rebounding will be a key to a successful season. The Bears have only five seniors on the roster and newcomers will be given an opportunity to contribute early on. Consistency and ball security will be important factors in Brewster’s overall success as well.
Out of the Gate: After starting out 3-0, the Bears were humbled in Saturday’s 78-43 loss to host Lakeland.


Ossining’s Jaeden Carr is a dynamite senior point guard, who hopes to make the Pride relevant as they attempt to battle with down-county powers like Mount Vernon, Fox Lane and White Plains. Meanwhile, Carmel, which is behind the 8-ball due to its prolonged football campaign hopes to get up to speed, not to mention contend with vastly improved Dutchess league rivals RCK and Arlington.


2021 Record & Playoff Result:
Coach: Brandon Johnson (1st year)
Key Departures: None
Key Returning Players: Kevin Dall, Sr. G; Andrew Fiore, Sr. G; Nick Dileo, Sr. F; Trevor Cayea, Sr. G; Randy Aboagye, Sr. F; Ben Antoniuk, Sr. G/F; Vin Mazzamutto, Sr. G/F; Michael Guiney, Sr. G; Dan Monahan, Sr. G; Dylan Shields, Sr. G; Jake Storen, Jr. F
Key Newcomers: Trevor Spinelli, Sr. 6’2’; Jade Gutierrez, Jr. 6’0’’
League Favorite: We only have one favorite team, Carmel.
Section Favorite: We only root for one team, Carmel.
Team Goals: To learn from our past, improve everyday through practice and strive toward future success.
Coach’s Comments: We have an extremely competitive schedule, and we play in a very tough league (Arlington, John Jay EF, and Ketcham), but we are looking for our veterans to lead us every night, and compete with every team we face this year.
Out of the Gate: The Rams were set to be tested big time this week at Fox Lane in today’s season opener before facing Ossining in Thursday’s first round of the Somers tourney.


2021 Record & Playoff result: 4-6, lost to John Jay CR 1st Round
Coach: Mike Casey (7th year)
Key Returning Players: Jaeden Carr, PG, Sr. 5 ‘10 (All Section); Vincent Bernardo, F, Sr. 5’10; Justin Santos, F, Jr.; 6’3 Isaiah Ahlers, G, Soph. 6’3; Dominique Bautista, F, Jr. 6’3; AJ Caparelli, G, Jr, 5’11; Terrell Francis, G, Sr. 6’1
Key Newcomers: Darien Blalock, F, Jr. 6’2; Isaiah Haye, G, Jr, 5’7; Gavin Thomas, G, So. 6’0
Team Goals: To improve a little each day and work harder than the previous day.
Coach’s Comments: We are led by our two senior captains Jaeden Carr and Vinny Bernardo. They both do a tremendous job leading our team on and off the court. We have several key returners who are competing each day and making one another better. We are excited to get to work and embrace the challenges and opportunities ahead of us.
Out of the Gate: The Pride (2-1) have come out hot, even their 52-49 loss to North Rockland shows promise. Ossining will play Carmel in the opening round of the Somers tourney this week.


Putnam Valley has stumbled out of the gate with three-straight losses to open the season, but they are on the road to relevance. It was only a few years ago when the Tigers were in the mix of serious title contenders for some seven years, going 70 games over 500% in six years under former Coach Mike McDonnell, who won five league titles and made four Final 4 appearances and a pair of finals. It’s unlikely the Tigers feature that kind of success in 2021, but help is on the way on the levels below. The league is loaded with talent, including North Salem and Haldane, who look like the early favorites.


2021 Record & Playoff Result: 4-8
Coach: Al Morales 3rd season with the Tigers and 19th overall
Key Returning Players: Sr. F Arthur Holzman; Sr. PG Tommy Calicchio; Sr. G Cole Durocher (All-League); Jr. G/F Sean Holzman; Sr. G Doug Brown
Key Newcomers: Jr. F John Cekaj; So. G Julian Garcia; So. G/F Christian Garcia; Fr. G James Apostolico; Fr. G/F Nate Shillingford
League Favorite: Haldane
Team Goals: Win our league championship and go as far as we can in the playoffs.
Coach’s Comments: This season we are somewhat of a veteran team with three main players who have played varsity for three years. With the added young additions, it could make for a very good season. We have much more depth than that of the past. We just need to continue to work and grow as a group.
Out of the Gate: PV (0-3) showed flashes of promise by taking Mahopac to overtime before losing, 48-43, then followed that up with a two-point loss to perennial Class C power Hamilton. Finding a win in either round of the Somers tourney would be a necessary feather in PV’s cap.


Hamilton was rumored to be that junk-yard dog keeping watch over the rest of the pack, but Haldane is surely set to challenge for supremacy after its strong 2021 showing. The Blue Devils are a feisty bunch that get up and down the court in a hurry and can also dazzle in half-court sets. Word on the street is they are the team to beat for league supremacy before making a run at the sectional title.


2021 Record & Playoff Result: 11-1, lost to Lakeland on buzzer beater in Putnam/Northern Westchester Regional Semifinal
Coach: Joe Virgadamo, 16th season, 164-146 (3 sectional titles)
Key Departures: Daniel Santos, Darrin Santos
Key Returning Players: Ryan Irwin, G, Sr., 6’2; Soren Holmbo, G, Sr. 6’2; Matteo Cervone, G, Jr. 6’4; Julian Forcello, G, Sr. 6’; Giancarlo Carone, G, Sr. 5’11; Stefano Hammond, F, Sr. 6’1
Key Newcomers: Robert Viggiano, G, Sr., 6’1; Tristen Reid, G, Jr., 5’10; Julian Ambrose, G, Jr. 6’1; Will Bradley, Jr. 5’11; Ben Boszik, G, Jr. 5’10; Jessie Hagen, F, 5’10; Ryan Eng-Wong, G, Jr. 5’10
League Favorite: Haldane, North Salem
Section Favorite: Hamilton
By the Numbers: Cervone (20 PPG), Holmbo (9 PPG), Irwin (8 PPG)
Team Goals: To compete and improve every game and to be the Class C Champions.
Coach’s Comments: We have an extremely competitive schedule, which is going to help us get better every game. We have a balanced team with a deep bench. Ball movement, rebounding and defensive intensity is going to win us games.
Out of the Gate: Blue Devils (2-1) struck a big, eye-popping blow in their 67-64 season-opening win over Hamilton.

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