Berkshire County boys basketball previews, 2016-17
Coach: Jack Racette (12th year)
Last Season: 12-10, lost in Western Mass. quarterfinals
Key Returnees: Hayden Bird, Connor Meehan, Reece Racette
Outlook: Drury returns a high-powered offense, looking to build on last year's Western Mass. quarterfinal appearance. Hayden Bird is a versatile scorer, capable of producing from the post, mid-range and three-point range. He's about 360 points away from 1,000 for his carer and benefits from the open looks created by the strong driving ability of Reece Racette. Racette took over point-guard duties as a freshman last season and played well beyond his years. His ability to get to the rim opens up the offense tremendously. While his ball-handling and quickness is a strength, coach Jack Racette said Reece's improving jump shot will help spread the floor even more. Connor Meehan is another strong perimeter threat. Connor Clark, Bryce Webb, J.J. Middleton and Ryan Dubie will provide depth. Freshmen Scott McGuire and Javoun Woodson could see playing time, as well. A tough non-league schedule featuring Mohawk, Frontier and Pioneer Valley provide early tests, so the Blue Devils will need to start the season playing at a high level.
Coach: Mike Larabee (First year)
Last Season: 15-10, Western Mass. Division III champion
Key Returnees: Keegan McGrath, J.P. Levesque, Colin Rousseau
Outlook: For the first time in 25 years, longtime Hoosac coach Bill Robinson will not be on the sidelines for the Hurricanes. Former assistant coach Mike Larabee takes over as the head man, inheriting a team with plenty of varsity experience. Colin Rousseau, J.P. Levesque and Keegan McGrath have all been key role players throughout their time in the program. The trio, along with Tyler Lancia and Austin Mendel will take on bigger roles, but they'll need to replace the production of Jameson Coughlan and Matt Koperniak, two of the most productive and winningest players in program history. The 'Canes are inexperienced off the bench, but the core is battle-tested. Larabee said he's keeping a lot of Robinson's concepts and principles in place. He added that he expects full effort from his players at all times.
Coach: Steve Ray (Sixth year)
Last Season: 15-8, lost in Western Mass. Division II final
Key Returnees: Tyrell Boire, Quinn Matthews, Edwin Rodriguez
Outlook: Last season, Pittsfield used its length and skill to propel it to the Western Mass. final. After having a starting lineup of players 6-foot and taller, those players are gone due to graduation and Josh Moore's transfer, and this year the Generals will rely on their quickness to defeat teams. Edwin Rodriguez returns at one guard position. After playing with the ball at times last season, Rodriguez will move off the ball more, in an effort to utilize his scoring ability. Quinn Matthews will man the point. Tyrell Boire and Terrick Boire will also see time in the backcourt. Tyrell's athleticism makes him is a strong defensive player. Collin Frinks and Grady Pederson provide strength inside. Sam Higuera and Carter Matthews will have roles, as well. While the team may suffer on the boards, a guard-heavy lineup could perform well in transition. The style may differ from last year, but coach Steve Ray said the goal is still to qualify for the tournament and compete for a North Division title.
Coach: Bill Heaphy (17th year)
Last Season: 17-4, lost in Western Mass. Division quarterfinals
Key Returnees: Deonte Sandifer, Izaiya Mestre, Matt Stracuzzi
Outlook: Taconic's senior-heavy team has one last chance at making a deep postseason run. The Braves lost only two league games en route to a North Division title last season, but an early round loss to Pittsfield in the Western Mass. tournament should provide more motivation for the players. Many members of the team have been playing together since their freshmen year, so chemistry will be a strength. Deonte Sandifer and Izaiya Mestre lead the Braves in the backcourt. Both players can handle the ball and distribute. Mestre's strong shooting ability makes him just as dangerous off the ball. Matt Stracuzzi is another high-level shooter at guard off the bench. Jack Cooney is the third starting guard. Brett Murphy brings rebounding and three-point range to the front court. Devon Walker, Anthony Whiteley and Tyrell Council provide strength and rebounding inside. They must replace post player Treyvon Ringgold, an athletic shot blocker and rebounder. The Braves lack height, but a high-pressure defense and a team rebounding approach could offset their lack of size.
Coach: Dustin Belcher (Fourth year)
Last Season: 8-12
Key Returnees: Luke Steinman, Connor Washburn, Brandon Roughley
Outlook: Not many teams could can lose a stout post presence such as 6-foot-4 forward Cole Morrison and still have considerable length on the inside. Wahconah returns a lengthy, but young team, looking to return to the Western Mass tournament after failing to qualify last season.
Luke Steinman and Brandon Roughley lead the front-court options for the Warriors. Both players are strong inside-outside threats. For the second year in a row, the Warriors will be breaking in a new point guard. This year it's Jeremy Girard's turn to be the lead guard. Connor Washburn joins him in the backcourt and Connor Noyes brings physicality to the position, as well. Will Genaway returns after missing last season with a knee injury. Tom Burris (6-foot-2) and Tommy O'Connor (6-foot-3) provide more length for the Warriors. The school's run to the state football championship pushed back the team's ability to practice at full strength, but coach Dustin Belcher said the team will work on progressing throughout the season and finishing games without late-game breakdowns.
Coach: Tom Finnegan (Third year)
Last Season: 9-11
Key Returnees: Ben Harding, Patrick Finnegan, Lukas Loehr
Outlook: The Lee basketball team was one win away from a postseason berth last season. Now the Wildcats must fight for a Western Mass bid with a mostly new roster of players. Ben Harding and Patrick Finnegan return, bringing strength and athleticism to the front court. The duo should stabilize the forward positions, but the backcourt spots are still up for grabs. Lukas Loehr and Julian Nejaime will have the first crack at replacing the big shoes of Josh Sampson and Matt Reynolds. Coach Tom Finnegan said they've shown progress, but he's still trying to figure out the team's identity. Will Wellspeak and Riley Thomas will see playing time as well. A later start to the season (December 15) gives the 'Cats added time to come together. Finnegan said he expects his group to be ready to play once the season starts.
Coach: Scott Sibley (Sixth year)
Last Season: 12-10, lost in Western Mass. Division IV semifinal
Key Returnees: Tyler Shepard, Shane Steinman, Michael Hurley
Outlook: The Lenox boys were hit hard by graduation, losing a majority of last year's team. Patrick Colvin, the team's top scorer and primary ballhandler is gone, leaving a huge hole for the Millionaires to fill. Senior Tyler Shepard will take on an increased role in the backcourt. He's one of the more experienced players on the team. Shane Steinman and Michael Hurley bring varsity experience, as well. After those four players, however, Lenox will be playing a lot of new faces. They lack a lot of size, but sophomores Dylan Crea and John Illingworth will spend time down low. Coach Scott Sibley is hoping his new players show progress and improvement throughout the season.
Coach: Mike Saporito (Sixth year)
Last Season: 8-12
Key Returnees: Joe Aberdale, Conor Prince, Jordan Piepho
Outlook: Monument Mountain returns a solid core to a team looking to make it back to the Western Mass. tournament after consecutive 8-12 seasons.
Coach Mike Saporito said he wants his players to play as a team, with an emphasis on moving the ball around.
Solid ball movement will create plenty of open looks for sharpshooters Joe Aberdale and Conor Prince. Jordan Piepho returns as well, bringing athleticism and improved strength the post. After Piepho, however, the Spartans do not have many other big bodies. Graham Herrick, Noel Powell and Caleb Carlson will all add depth to the guard/forward positions. The Spartans must avoid late lapses in order to make the postseason. They finished 3-7 over their last 10 games a year ago.
Coach: Bob Thistle (Sixth year)
Last Season: 16-7, lost in Western Mass. Division III semifinal
Key Returnees: Sean McCormack, Sam Dils, Pat Storie
Outlook: Reigning South Division champion Mount Greylock look poised to make a run at another league title. The Mounties field a balanced team with several players capable of high-level play on any given night. Sean McCormack is a physical player that will man the post for the Mounties. Sam Dils runs the show at the point guard, setting up teammates while taking scoring opportunities when available. Pat Storie is the team's leading returning scorer. He's working his way back from an injury suffered during football season. Cam Hadley and Max Joy will also see time in the front court. Toby Foehl, Cole Wojtkowski and Alex Backiel will provide depth as well. The Mounties controlled the South last season, but their non-league schedule will challenge them early. After starting the season with Taconic, they face Division III runner-up Easthampton and Mount Anthony, a team that beat them 85-60 last season.
Coach: Joe Bennett (Second year)
Last Season: 3-15
Key Returnees: Jamal Beda, Michael Gingras
Outlook: The 2016-17 season represents the final time Saint Joseph will field a basketball team. Second-year coach Joe Bennett said the players are embracing the challenge of sending a program with such a storied history out on a high note. Quick guard Jamal Beda and sharpshooter Michael Gingras return, and the Crusaders have several new faces ready to contribute as well. Two Taconic transfers — Myles Nason and Elton Wilkins — bring athleticism to the forward positions. The team's biggest new addition is freshman Kekoa McArdle. The 6-foot-7 post player is a true threat with shooting touch out to the mid-range. St. Joe is light on experience, but if the team progresses well and plays together, they may surprise teams in the South Division.
Coach: Jowe Warren (Fifth year)
Last Season: 4-14
Key Returnees: Cavan Brady, Cassius Conaway, Dan Litchfield
Outlook: Mount Everett is looking to progress from last year's challenging season. The Eagles were inexperienced last year, and they'll remain somewhat young after losing leading scorer Damontti Conaway to graduation. Cavan Brady and Cassius Conaway return at the guard positions. Brady is a strong shooter, while Conaway is a quick guard capable of taking defenders off the dribble. Dan Litchfield is another knock-down shooter for the Eagles. Patrick Silk, Christian Behne and Tim Robitaille add depth, as well. Coach Jowe Warren said qualifying for the tournament is always the team's main goal, but early on, he's focusing on building team chemistry and improving fundamentals. The Eagles typically play an uptempo offense, but Warren said he'll try to find the their identity as the season goes on.
Coach: Chris Bullett (First year)
Last Season: 10-11, lost in Western Mass. Division IV first round
Key Returnees: Ethan Sheldon, Jake Tower, Billy Galipeau
Outlook: First-year coach Chris Bullett inherits a team with a mix of experience and newcomers. The Hornets have capable shooters in Jake Tower and Ethan Sheldon on the perimeter. In the post, the Hornets lost considerable size inside with Nick Lincoln and Adam Rodriguez graduating. Billy Galipeau and Steven LeMire have varsity experience, but several newcomers will have roles off the bench. Mason Field is a physically strong player. Logan Tower could be the best shooter on the team. Last season, the team wore down late, losing five of its last six game. Maybe the team's youth will be a positive, allowing them to have fresh legs down the stretch.
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