New Milford boys basketball aims at deep postseason run
Senior guard Cam Cunningham leads the way for the New Milford High boys basketball team looking to make a deep postseason run this season.
Here’s a look at how the South-West Conference is shaping up for 2015-16:
5 TEAMS TO WATCH
BUNNELL — Any discussion about SWC boys basketball has to start with coach Pat Yerina’s Bulldogs, the three-time defending conference champions and the reigning Class L state champions. The Bulldogs have posted a 47-3 record against their SWC rivals the last three seasons. With the graduation of first-team All-SWC and first-team Class L All-State guard Ryan Pittman (Albertus Magnus), first-team All-SWC forward Aaron Samuel (Western Connecticut State) and second-team All-SWC forward Donte Peeler, it’s time for players like senior second-team All-SWC guard Rashaad Spain (7 ppg.) and senior honorable mention All-SWC forward Nick Giannoni (5 ppg., 6 rpg.) to step forward and grab the reins.
NOTRE DAME-FAIRFIELD — Coach Vin Laczkoski welcomes back a strong contingent from last year’s team, which claimed the SWC and state Class M runner-up trophies. The Lancers have posted a combined record of 99-30 the last five seasons. Leading the way this year will be senior first-team All-SWC and second-team Class M All-State guard Jordan Pettway and senior second-team All-SWC guard Jesse McIntosh. Lost to graduation last year were first-team All-SWC and first-team Class M All-State guard C.J. Davidson (Albertus Magnus) and second-team All-SWC forward Jake Heaton (Roger Williams).
IMMACULATE — The Mustangs have a solid core of players who have been together for a couple years now, led by second-team Class M All-State and first-team All-SWC guard Darius Smith, who has been a starter since he was a sophomore. Junior forward Will Hatcher was a second-team All-SWC selection last year, as was senior guard Darius Hunter. Coach Nelson Mingachos will have to compensate for the graduation of All-SWC second-team forward Jaden Martin. With many of the key pieces still in place from last year’s SWC semifinalist, the Mustangs could be ready to make deep runs in the SWC and state Class S tournaments.
STRATFORD — Coach Paul Dudzinski’s Red Devils have a lot of familiar faces back from last year’s team, which lost a close one to Immaculate in the SWC quarterfinals and to Wilbur Cross — a tough first-round matchup with Wilbur Cross as the 20th seed — in the Class L state tournament. Rest assured, the Devils are hungry to go further in both tournaments, and they may have the firepower to do it. Leading the way will be senior second-team All-SWC forward Mar’Quess Daniels (6 ppg., 7 rpg.) and senior forward Devon Davidson (6.5 ppg., 5.2 rpg.). Graduation losses included second-team All-SWC pick Myles Bailey and honorable mention All-SWC selection Sam Breiner.
WESTON — The Trojans were a .500 team last year, they missed the SWC tournament and they graduated their top player in first-team Class M All-State and first-team All-SWC forward Matt Folger (19.8 ppg., 15.3 rpg., 4.2 bpg.). All that being said, however, the Trojans do have many of the other key parts from last year coming back, and they include junior second-team All-SWC guard Nikholas Parker (14.5 ppg., 7.5 rpg.), junior honorable mention All-SWC guard Zach Clevenger (9.8 ppg.), and 6-6 junior forward Hamilton Forsythe (6.9 ppg., 5.2 rpg.) along with several others who saw significant action as sophomores last year. That group now has two more years to build upon what it did last year — it’ll just have to do it without the 6-foot-8 Folger in the post.
TEAM BY TEAM KEY PLAYERS
(Coaches in parentheses)
BARLOW (Matt Whelan) — Jr. G Tommy Rossini (5-7); Jr. G/F Matt McGannon (6-2); Jr. G Darian Cook (6-0); Sr. G Andrew Hamill (6-2). Key kosses: Chatham Studer (Drew University); Will Menapace.
BETHEL (Dennis Morsey) — Sr. F Will Daniels; Jr. PG Matt Marx; Sr. SG Jacob Hernandez; Sr. F Mike Walters; Sr. C Abe Defeo; Sr. F Cooper Teed; Jr. C Michael Hogan. Key losses: Jon Jerolimo; Joe Liquori; Dylan Olson; Dylan Nyborg; Hayden Duffy.
BROOKFIELD (John Fleming) — Jr. PG Austin DaSilva (5-10); Sr. C Nick Lopez (6-4). Key losses: Tommy Burkhart; Muhammad Sakhi; Brock Boullianne.
BUNNELL (Pat Yerina) — Sr. G Rashaad Spain (6-0); Sr. F Nick Giannoni (6-2); Jr. G Zhyaire Fernandes (6-0); Sr. G Nick Nolting (5-9); Sr. G Jaylon Eggleston (5-8); Jr. G Brett Bogdwicz (6-0). Key losses: Ryan Pittman (Albertus Magnus); Aaron Samuel (Western Connecticut); Donte Peeler.
IMMACULATE (Nelson Mingachos) — Sr. G Darius Smith (5-10); Jr. F Will Hatcher (6-4); Sr. G Darius Hunter (6-0); Soph. Ronan Doherty (5-10). Key losses: Jaden Martin.
KOLBE CATHEDRAL (Greg Thomas) — Jr. G/F Tahj Brown (6-3); Soph. G Anthony Senior (6-2); Sr. G Charles Mitchell (6-0); Sr. F Marvens Francois (6-4); Jr. G Victor Billups (6-2); Sr. G Amari Courtney (6-1); Jr. G Kevin Carbett (6-2). Key losses: Lommandrez Lee; Quintan Campbell; Edwin Centeno.
MASUK (Pete Szklarz) — Sr. C Cameron Kovachik (6-5); Sr. F Joe Capodagli (6-3); Sr. F Brian Lilly (6-1); Sr. G Mike Zazuri (5-10). Key losses: Matt Hornak (Clarkson); David Clarke (Rhode Island College); Bryan Acevedo; Matt Simmeth; R.J. Ramos.
NEW FAIRFIELD (Joel Pardalis) — Sr. F Jenner Stunkard (6-5); Sr. F Joe Valenti (6-0); Jr. F Brian Magee (6-0). Key losses: Jose Garcia; Jeff Nabozna.
NEW MILFORD (Wayne Thrall) — Sr. G Cam Cunningham (6-0); Sr. F Nick Peixoto (6-4); Jr. G Jhovaughn Denton (6-2); Sr. F Tyler Hansen (6-1); Jr. G Max Vaughey (5-10); Sr. F Reese Zimmerman (6-4). Key losses: None.
NEWTOWN (Tim Tallcouch) — Sr. F Joe Duero (6-3); Sr. F Mason Melillo (6-0); Sr. F Dillon Palumbo (6-3); Sr. C Sam Duffy (6-4); Jr. G Tom Cotton (5-10); Jr. G Sam Grossano (5-8); Jr. C Nevin Zink (6-4); Soph. G Nick Weiland (5-10); Soph. G Evan Eggleston (5-10); Soph. G Ryan Escoda (5-7). Key losses: Jacob Burden; Will Dalton; Jeremy Doski; Harry Depuy; Charlie Huegi.
NOTRE DAME-FAIRFIELD (Vin Laczkoski) — Sr. G Jordan Pettway (5-10); Sr. G/F Jesse McIntosh (6-4); Jr. F Colin Burke (6-5); Soph. G/F Noreaga Davis (6-3); Soph. G Woodley Monnexant (6-1); Sr. G Giovanni Cagnazzo (6-3); Sr. F Thomas Gerling (6-7). Key losses: Jake Heaton (Roger Williams); C.J. Davidson (Albertus Magnus).
POMPERAUG (Dave Yachtis) — Sr. F Grant Wallace; Sr. G Rich Pugliese (6-0); Sr. G Steve Walsh; Sr. G Noah Miree (6-5); Jr. G Chase Belden; Jr. F Joshua McGettigan; Jr. G Jake Mendicino (6-0); Jr. C Matt Wynne; Jr. C Thomas Satkowski (6-1); Soph. F Will McDonald; Soph. G Jason Hirschauer (5-10). Key losses: Jon Bedard; Drew Gabelman.
STRATFORD (Paul Dudzinski) — Sr. F Devon Davidson (6-3); Sr. F Mar’Quess Daniels (6-4); Jr. G Nate Shields (6-1); Sr. G Mike Petillo (5-11); Jr. G T.J. Green (5-5); Sr. G/F Trenice McBroom (6-1); Soph. G Mikey August (5-3); Fr. G Jack Ryan (6-1); Fr. G John Bike (5-6); Sr. G Joe Rankin (5-10); Sr. G Gino Dina (5-11); Jr. F Cam Peters (6-4); Jr. F Prince Carter (6-4). Key losses: Myles Bailey; Mike McClean; Evan Velleca; Ian Oliver; Kareem Robinson; Sam Breiner.
WESTON (Mike Hvizdo) — Jr. G Nikholas Parker (6-3); Jr. G Zachary Clevenger (5-11); Jr. F Hamilton Forsythe (6-6). Key losses: Matt Folger; Julian Bombart.
— RICH GREGORY
5 PLAYERS TO WATCH
Rashaad Spain, Bunnell, senior, guard, 6-0 — Second-team All-SWC selection averaged 7.0 points last year. He’ll be called upon to step to the forefront and lead the Bulldogs as they defend their Class L state title and their three straight SWC crowns.
Jordan Pettway, Notre Dame-Fairfield, senior, guard, 5-10 — First-team All-SWC and second-team Class M All-State pick will look to lead the Lancers back to the conference and state title games with the hopes of winning them this time.
Darius Smith, Immaculate, senior, guard, 5-10 — First-team All-SWC and second-team Class M All-State will look to drive the Mustangs deep into the SWC and state tournaments.
Cam Cunningham, New Milford, senior, guard, 6-0 — First-team All-SWC pick averaged 18.6 points last season. He’s a key piece of an experienced Green Wave team looking to go deeper in the SWC and state Class LL tournaments.
Cameron Kovachik, Masuk, senior, center, 6-5 — Honorable mention All-SWC pick last year averaged a double-double in points and rebounds for a much-improved Panthers team. He’ll be called upon to lead the way this year after Masuk graduated four starters.
5 GAMES TO WATCH
Bethel vs. Immaculate, Dec. 21, Danbury High School, 6 p.m. — Expect a spirited crowd for this first-round game in the Greater Danbury Tip-Off Classic. In last year’s tournament final, MVP Will Daniels led Bethel to a thrilling come-from-behind win over Immaculate.
Bunnell at Stratford, Jan. 5, 7 p.m. — It’s a non-league contest, but the atmosphere will be electric nonetheless when these rival contenders clash.
Immaculate at Stratford, Jan. 15, 7 p.m. — A rematch of last year’s SWC quarterfinal battle, which Immaculate won by four.
Notre Dame-Fairfield at Barlow, Jan. 20, 7 p.m. — Rematch of last year’s SWC semifinal in which Notre Dame held off a determined Barlow team.
Bunnell at Notre Dame-Fairfield, Feb. 12, 7 p.m. — This rematch of last year’s SWC final is sure to have major playoff implications as the teams head down the final stretch of the regular season.