Boys basketball: New faces called upon this winter

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 01-02-2023 11:25 AM

No area boys basketball teams reached the state semifinal round last season, and the three quarterfinalists Granby, Holyoke and Hopkins Academy will need new galvanizing forces after graduating large and impactful senior classes.

The Purple Knights fell at Burlington and graduated seven seniors, including leading scorer Jael Cabrera. Two potential impact players also transferred to prep schools, leaving Holyoke coach Juan Maldonado with a fresh group.

“A lot of teaching so far,” he said. “When we have years like this we try not to miss a beat and still play hard.”

The Purple Knights (1-3) will rely on young guards, particularly junior Shawn Rivera and sophomore Davian Diaz. Senior guard Joseph Bruno and junior forward Dylan Rohan have led the Knights in scoring early on.

“Traditional Holyoke basketball guys who are not afraid of the big moment,” Maldonado said. “We don’t fear anybody.”

Holyoke won’t feel the powerful embrace of its home crowd much early on. The Purple Knights played their first three games on the road and will be away from home seven of their first 10 contests.

Hopkins Academy is out to prove it isn’t a one-man program as 1,000-point scorer Andrew Ciaglo graduated and is now at Division II Cameron. The Golden Hawks lost their two leading scorers, including Colin Earle, but haven’t missed a beat so far. They’re 2-0 with wins over Easthampton and Mahar. Both senior Cody West and freshman Teddy Cyr have each put up a 20-point night, and Cyr dropped 30 on the Senators.

“We knew losing Andrew and Colin, everyone thought it was gonna be a struggle,” West said. “We knew we were capable of coming back with the group we had.”

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The Golden Hawks are short on specialized basketball players but have a wealth of athletes that have played sports together their entire lives.

“We’re trying to utilize their strengths,” Hopkins Academy coach Jim Hart said.

Granby graduated a golden generation of seniors there’s no replacing. The class of six accounted for 75.4 percent of the Rams’ scoring last season led by Nate Breault and Brandon Wishart.

“We’ve got a lot of shoes to fill and some guys that need to get some experience and get their feet wet and learn to play varsity basketball,” Granby coach Dylan Dubuc said. “We’re getting there.”

Seniors Robert L’Abbee and Carter White have helped Granby win three of its first four games and start 2-0 in Bi-County West play.

“It’s definitely different when you’ve got a team that’s as inexperienced as we are. There’s a lot of implementing plays and teaching exactly what we’re trying to do strategically,” Dubuc said. “Small things in basketball equal big things. We’re working on all the small things and paying attention to detail. At this point of the season, that’s really our focus.”

TOTAL BASKETBALL? Versatility will define most lineups Amherst Regional trots out. Many of their players from guard Ryder Rietkerk, forward Brandon Stewart and center Christian Martin can both bring the ball up and initiate the offense and play down low in the post.

“We don’t have a legit big guy center, but we have a bunch of guys who can play multiple positions. They can guard multiple guys on D, they can do multiple things on offense,” Amherst coach Jamahl Jackson said. “I believe man for man we’re a better shooting team than we were last year. We have more guys that are capable of shooting from the outside.”

Six Hurricanes have already hit multiple 3s over Amherst’s first four games (2-2). That’s allowed the Hurricanes to spread the scoring around and not rely on one go-to guy.

“That’s the best thing possible,” Jackson said.

GENEROUS BLUE DEVILS — Northampton likes to pass the ball. Almost to a fault. The Blue Devils (2-1) have built chemistry playing together so long. No one is racking up double digit assists, but a few players will have three or four, indicating good ball movement across the lineup.

“We’re a creative team. We’ve got guys who like to create,” Northampton coach Rey Harp said. “This senior class is one of the best passing groups we’ve ever seen come through.”

NEW KIDS ON THE BENCH — Three new coaches will stalk area boys hoops sidelines: Joshua Morse (Frontier), Dylan Rickles (Hampshire) and John Gingras (PVCICS).

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