Despite the crushing loss at last years state semi-final against Hackensack, the varsity boys basketball team started the season with strategic goals to keep improving, ready to pursue another impressive record. Eight seniors returned to uphold the high standard established by the graduating class in hopes to surpass last years achievements, joined by nine new players.
Now in their final year, most of the seniors learned the fundamentals of basketball in the presence of one another. Senior Pat Mannion emphasized how this quality has strengthened trust among players. Mannion shared that the “team is a very close, tight-knit group. There’s now eleven of us seniors, and most of us have been playing with one another since third grade, so we know each other pretty well on and off the court.”
Nonetheless, the start of the season did not come without its challenges. Senior Jared Powers stated that this year, “all the seniors have more of a leadership role since this is the first time most of us have had to lead the team, so it was an adjustment early on.” Senior John Kearney agreed with his teammate: “we should have learned how to play as a team earlier on rather than hitting our stride midway through.”
This weakness is not uncommon during the first few weeks. Many athletes have observed from other high school sports that the team chemistry at the beginning is not nearly as strong as it ultimately is during a final game. Senior Luke Notaro took note of the same struggle, but also identified how much the team has grown in comparison: “the team got off to a slow start this season as we couldn’t find our rhythm offensively. We were forcing shots or rushing possessions.” After a recent team-bonding activity, Notaro recognized, “we have been playing well together offensively, and we are finding ways to give up good shots for great shots by looking for each other and playing unselfishly.” Aside from teamwork, senior Triston Wennersten emphasized the critical nature of maintaining a strong mindset and level-head on the court: “I would say everyones gotta have passion and play one possession at a time.”
Each member of the team embodies determination and focus, and have set the pace of the game with 110% effort. Even senior captain James Miller has noted how the teams spirited mindset has contributed to their current 10-4 record. Although his injury has unfortunately prevented him from taking part in game play action, it has not limited him by any means from participating in the highs and lows of the season: “it has been tough not being able to play, but I try to help out in other ways in order to keep the energy up.”
Such an attitude has enabled players to stand out against competitors. Even in one of their toughest defeats against Wayne Valley, players stepped up during crucial points of the game on both sides of the court exemplifying a high level of aggression, precision, and tenacity. The boys are scheduled to play almost each team twice, so they will have the opportunity to review film and past plays in order to have victorious comebacks.
With Head Coach Mike Troy’s powerful court awareness and years-long commitment, along with the boys’ dedication to the sport, rewarding scoreboards are certainly in the teams future. As Notaro expressed, “Whether your job is to score, rebound, bring energy, or be a supportive teammate, we all embrace our roles and value the roles of one another because we know it takes all of us to win and do something special.”
Graphic: Mark Kossick