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Boys basketball preview: Team capsules

  • Smith Academy's Seaver Rickert, Derek McMahon, Mat Sulda, Ketih Natale, and David Longstreeth.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Smith Academy coach Matt Zerneri pulls aside Derek McMahon (L) and Mat Sulda (R) during practice Thursday at Smith Academy in Hatfield<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Smith Academy's Seaver Rickert during practice Thursday at Smith Academy in Hatfield<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Smith Academy's Seaver Rickert, Derek McMahon, Mat Sulda, Ketih Natale, and David Longstreeth.<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Smith Academy's Mat Sulda during practice Thursday at Smith Academy in Hatfield<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Smith Academy's Seaver Rickert during practice Thursday at Smith Academy in Hatfield<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Smith Academy's Mat Sulda during practice Thursday at Smith Academy in Hatfield<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Smith Academy stretches before practice Thursday at Smith Academy in Hatfield<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Smith Academy runs sprints to start off practice Thursday at Smith Academy in Hatfield<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Smith Academy coach Matt Zerneri blows the whistle during practice Thursday at Smith Academy in Hatfield<br/>JOSH KUCKENS
  • Smith Academy's Derek McMahon during practice Thursday at Smith Academy in Hatfield<br/>JOSH KUCKENS

Boys basketball

Amherst Regional

COACH: Jim Matuszko, 15th year

LEAGUE: Suburban

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 10-11, 5-3

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2012, lost 69-58 to Chicopee in WMass Division 1 first round

RETURNING STARTERS:

Player Year Pos. PPG

Tyler Peake Sr. G 4.4

Good Farah Sr. G 5.6

Noris Cuevas-Nova Sr. G 14.4

James Sowers Sr. G 7.0

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Sam Hird, F; Reed Bixby, C; Juniors — Tom Cook, F/C

NEWCOMERS: Seniors — Nick Johnson, G; Justin Carey, G; Juniors — Alex Snyder-Fair, G/F; Tyrell Jackson, G; Malik Ford, F; Sophomores — Isaac Siegel, G; Will Cuffee, F

OUTLOOK: The Hurricanes have their deepest team since winning the state championship in 2003. The group is experienced with eight seniors and four juniors. Cuevas-Nova was cleared a week before tryouts started following an injury in football. When healthy, he is one of the better guards in D-1. Johnson and Jackson return to the program. Jackson played as a freshman before moving to California for a year. Johnson took a season off. The 6-foot-4 Ford transferred from Michigan. The inside-outside threat has good footwork and hands. The 6-4 Cook missed all but one game with a fractured foot last year. Bixby is 6-6. The Hurricanes ranked 14th (56.4 ppg) on offense and 10th (59.6 ppg) on defense among 18 Division 1 teams last season.

Belchertown

COACH: Bill Beauregard, first year

LEAGUE: Bi-County North

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 17-5, 6-2

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2012, lost 63-43 to South Hadley in WMass Division 2 semifinal

RETURNING STARTERS:

Player Year Pos. PPG

Eric Adzima Sr. G 10.0

Tyler Verville Jr. G 8.7

Zach Parsons Sr. F 18.4

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Tony Pellerin, F; Carter Sokolowski, C; James Ryan, F; Jake LaFleche, F; Sophomores — Jake Bradway, F; Brandon Chaisson, G

NEWCOMERS: Juniors — Liam O’Brien, F; Erik Levigne, C; Sophomore — Corey Henson, G; Freshman — Noah Lussier, G

OUTLOOK: The Orioles have one of the best post players in western Mass. in Parsons. The 6-foot-4 forward can play inside or outside. He is getting consistent with his 15-foot jumper and is great around the basket. The O’s lost 6-5 Mike Tommila to Avon Old Farms (Conn.). Adzima and Verville are experienced guards and will handle the ball most of the time. Beauregard takes over for Claude Humphrey, who left after three years and is now an assistant at MacDuffie School in Granby. The Orioles ranked second on offense (61.2 ppg) and third on defense (48.0) among 15 Division 2 teams last season.

Easthampton

COACH: Brian Miller, 14th year

LEAGUE: Hampshire East

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 13-10, 9-9

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2012, lost 70-54 to Mahar in WMass Division 2 quarterfinal

RETURNING STARTERS:

Player Year Pos. PPG

Chris Starcun Sr. C 13.6

Sam Garcia Jr. F 3.5

RETURNING PLAYERS: Senior — Jeremy Hughes, G; Juniors — Tom Palaschek, F; Dan Brandt, F/C;

NEWCOMERS: Junior — Matt Rood, C; Sophomores — Erik Fickett, G; Kevin VanOudenhove, G; Freshmen — Dakota Wheeler, G/F; Shaheim Torres, G

OUTLOOK: The Eagles lost nearly 40 percent of their offense with the graduation of Casey White. The team also lost Kenny Lumpkin and Mike Palaschek to injuries. Starcun (6-foot-3) returns to the paint and will look to increase his production. Garcia gained experience during AAU and has improved finishing. Miller has freshmen on the team for the first time since 1999. Torres is 5-7, fast, athletic and could potentially start. Wheeler is a 6-3 shooting guard. The Eagles ranked fourth on offense (56.5 ppg) and fifth on defense (51.3) among 15 Division 2 teams last season.

Frontier Regional

COACH: Ben Barshefsky, third year

LEAGUE: Hampshire West

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 16-6, 14-4

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2012, lost 73-61 to Lee in WMass Division 3 quarterfinal

RETURNING STARTERS:

Player Year Pos. PPG

Ryan Hoar Sr. F 6.6

Paul Decker Sr. G 10.3

Peter Watroba Sr. G 6.0

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Josh Kennedy, F; Quinn Hickey, F; Tyler Pickunka, G

NEWCOMERS: Senior — Sam Tillona, C; Juniors — Niko Ames, G; Ben Ruddock, G/F; Adam Kellogg, G; Tyler Miller, F; Torsten Nelson, F; Sophomore — Tim Hoar, F

OUTLOOK: The Red Hawks ranked 13th on offense (56.1 ppg) and third on defense (48.4) among 26 Division 3 teams last year. Ryan Hoar tore his ACL for a second time in July, but has since recovered and was cleared for full participation a week before the season started. He brings defense and rebounding to the table. Hoar’s offense should improve. Decker and Watroba bring experience and leadership to the guard position. Tillona returns to the team and brings size to the paint. He missed last year with a broken foot.

Gateway Regional

COACH: Mike O’Connell, sixth year

LEAGUE: Bi-County South

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 5-14, 2-6

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2003, lost 54-44 to Granby in WMass Division 3 semifinal

RETURNING STARTERS:

Player Year Pos. PPG

Zach Mackechnie Sr. F 4.1

Curtis Dowers Jr. G 9.1

Calvin Dowers Jr. G 8.5

RETURNING PLAYERS: Senior — Ryan Fisk, F; Juniors — Mike Arel, C; Justin Edinger, G; Jake Merritt, G

NEWCOMERS: Juniors — Chris Hanechak, F; Alex Myers, G; Willis Pollard, F; Freshman — Josh Haskell, G

OUTLOOK: The Gators return a solid group of players who have hopes of qualifying for the postseason for the first time in 10 years. Fisk, Arel and Edinger also earned starting time. Gateway has a lot of team speed but little size as Austin Cook took his size and 12.6 ppg with him to graduation. Arel is the tallest player at 6-2. Depth is inexperienced. Merritt saw limited minutes as a backup point guard. Pollard returns after taking a year off. The Gators ranked 21st on offense (46.0 ppg) and 22nd on defense (60.8) among 26 Division 3 teams last year.

Granby

COACH: Tim Sheehan, 14th year

LEAGUE: Bi-County North

LAST YEAR??S RECORD: 14-7, 6-2

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2012, lost 58-44 to Mount Greylock in WMass Division 3 first round

RETURNING STARTERS:

Player Year Pos. PPG

Andy Gifford Sr. G 8.5

Corey Baker Jr. G 17.2

Jesse Molin So. G 9.3

RETURNING PLAYERS: Senior — Brandon Cloutier, C; Juniors — Liam Galloway, F; Colton Duxbury, F; Sophomores — Connor O’Shea, G; Lucas Monaco, F

NEWCOMERS: Senior — Andrew Williams, F; Sophomores — Ryan Mikalchus, F; Tim Sheehan Jr., G; Freshmen — Nick Walas, G; D.J. Menard, G

OUTLOOK: With a solid returning group and the improvement of the underclassmen, the Rams are knocking on the door to the Division 3 contenders list. Baker, who is pushing 6-foot-3, matured more and gained experience over the summer playing at the AAU national tournament. Cloutier is healthy after fighting through a broken nose and ankle sprain last season. At 6-3 he is the Rams’ biggest player. Starting point guard Molin broke his foot over the summer and is working his way back. He could miss some early season games. The Rams ranked ninth on offense (62.3) and tied for 13th on defense (55.7) among 26 Division 3 teams last year.

Hampshire Regional

COACH: Claud Salomao, 14th year

LEAGUE: Bi-County North

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 8-13, 2-6

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2011, lost 62-48 to Sabis in WMass Division 2 quarterfinal

RETURNING STARTERS:

Player Year Pos. PPG

Shane Andrews Sr. PG 12.3

Adam Laroche Sr. F 5.6

RETURNING PLAYERS: Junior — Matt Labrie, G; Sophomores — Nick Batchelder, G; Lucius Burrell, G/F; Brendan Bzdel, G; Conor Cronin, F; Blake Harpole, F; Freshmen — Kyle Marek, G; Mitch Ouimette, G

NEWCOMERS: Sophomore — Nick Malo, G; Freshman — Kamil Bak, F

OUTLOOK: While the Raiders look young, they are very experienced. Ten players return who saw action last season. Andrews and Laroche have the task of leading the underclassmen. Andrews is a strong-willed, tough point guard. Among the returning players, Bzdel has shown his athleticism. Cronin is 6-4 and a little bigger from last season. At 6-2, 240-pounds, Bak should find minutes in the post. Ouemette, Batchelder, Burrell and Marek are interchangeable guards who give the Raiders a lot of flexibility. The Raiders ranked 11th on offense (51.1 ppg) and seventh on defense (53.5) among 15 Division 2 teams last season.

Holyoke Catholic

COACH: Domenic Battista, first year

LEAGUE: Bi-County South

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 6-14, 2-6

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2011, lost 76-45 to Smith Academy in WMass Division 3 first round

RETURNING STARTERS:

Player Year Pos. PPG

Jeff Laprade Sr. F 7.4

Aidan Sullivan Sr. G 4.0

Akhil Patel Jr. G 5.4

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Joe McCoy, F; Blake McConnell, G; Junior — Nick Limoges, C

NEWCOMERS: Juniors — John Hannoush, G; Ryan Lukomski, C; Kushal Patel, G; Sophomores — Nathan Golob, G; Dorian Guidi, F

OUTLOOK: Battista takes over for Bob Prattico, who guided the team for 23 years, won 248 games and the 2006 Western Massachusetts Division 2 title. The new coach starts with a mix of veterans and newcomers. He will run the motion offense, but look to run and shoot. Battista, who is the director of operations for the St. Thomas CYO program in West Springfield, prefers a balanced offense. Defense of choice is man to man. The Gaels ranked 18th on offense (50.3 ppg) and 16th on defense (56.8) among 26 Division 3 teams last year.

Hopkins Academy

COACH: Tom Bell, second year

LEAGUE: Hampshire West

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 0-20, 0-18

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2004, lost 70-60 to Ware in WMass Division 3 first round

RETURNING STARTER:

Player Year Pos. PPG

Jake Kosakowski Jr. G/F 3.6

RETURNING PLAYER: Junior — Andrew Omer, F

NEWCOMERS: Junior — Jose Molina, G; Sophomores — Zach Kelley, G/F; Matt Pipczynski, F; Freshmen — Greg Pipczynski, F; Brett Morrison, G; Spencer Butterfield, G

OUTLOOK: The Golden Hawks are very young this season, but the future looks bright. The freshman class is the first to reach high school since Hadley started its CYO program. Greg Pipczynski is 6-foot-2. His grandfather John starred at Hopkins then at UConn from 1957-60 and was later the school’s principal. His father Jim was a member of the Golden Hawks’ team that lost to Smith Academy in the 1985 postseason. Morrison can play small forward or shooting guard at 5-11. Kosakowski and Omer will be looked at to lead the team with their experience. The Golden Hawks ranked 26th on offense (37.3 ppg) and 17th on defense (58.1) among 26 Division 3 teams last year.

Northampton

COACH: Rey Harp, ninth year

LEAGUE: Suburban

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 13-9, 6-2

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2012, lost 47-33 to Central in WMass Division 1 quarterfinal

RETURNING STARTERS:

Player Year Pos. PPG

Ben Christopher Sr. G 3.6

Stevie Roach Jr. C 1.4

Jake Ross So. G 9.9

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Justin Burgos, G; David Konowitch, F; Danny Mam, G; Mack Hale, G; Connor Roach, F; Junior — Tyler Hannigan-Page, G

NEWCOMERS: Senior — Ricardo Rodriguez, G; Juniors — Isaiah Feldman-Schwartz, F; Joe Warner, F; Sophomore — Aidan Hirsch, G

OUTLOOK: While the Blue Devils might not be a favorite to reach the Curry Hicks Cage, they shouldn’t be counted out. The team is deep, long and athletic. Ross is looking to have a breakout year. At 6-foot-2 he has gotten stronger and better at attacking the basket. The 6-6 Stevie Roach is healthy after hurting his hand last year and missing the final eight games. Warner is pushing 6-4 and came into tryouts ready after not making varsity as a sophomore. The Blue Devils ranked 12th on offense (58.4 ppg) and fifth on defense (55.1) among 18 Division 1 teams last season.

Smith Academy

COACH: Matt Zerneri, sixth year

LEAGUE: Hampshire West

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 16-4, 15-3

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE 2012, lost 75-42 to St. Joseph in WMass Division 3 semifinal

RETURNING STARTERS:

Player Year Pos. PPG

Mat Sulda Sr. G 20.4

Seaver Rickert Sr. F 8.5

Keith Natale Jr. F 14.6

Derek McMahon Jr. PG 10.9

David Longstreeth So. F 7.3

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Mike Molloy, G; Nat Hanson, G/F; Sophomore — Zach Liebenow, F

NEWCOMERS: Junior — Will Halloran, G; Sophomores — Christian Smiarowski, F; Austin Rogers, F

OUTLOOK: The Falcons return their starting five and have visions of competing for a sectional title. Sulda can shoot from 3-point range or drive to the basket. Rickert and Longstreeth are stong post players. Natale is coming off an injury from soccer season but should be ready to spark the offense. McMahon was a steady point guard last year and enters the season more confident after a strong AAU season. Depth shouldn’t be an issue as Zerneri can go five deep on his bench. The Falcons ranked fifth on offense (65.2) and fourth on defense (50.0) among 26 Division 3 teams last year.

Smith Vocational

COACH: Akara Holder, third year

LEAGUE: Tri-County

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 16-3, 12-2

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2012, lost 80-42 to Lenox in WMass Division 3 first round

RETURNING STARTERS:

Player Year Pos. PPG

Sam Sharpe Sr. F 16.4

Jordan Castillo Sr. G 14.8

Dan McCarthy Jr. C 3.8

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Jovan Ruiz, G; Miguel Lugo, G; Sophomores — Ben Rivera, G; Nicholas Adair, F; Kaleb Trombley, F

NEWCOMERS: Juniors — Anthony Karch, G; Robert O’Brien, F; Sophomores — Damon Soto, G; Elijah Salaam, C

OUTLOOK: With Allan Rivera (21.7 ppg) last year, the Vikings had three players average over 14 points a game. It led them to an undefeated season at home and a postseason berth. Rivera, who led GazetteLand in scoring the last two year’s, graduated, but Sharpe and Castillo are ready to pick up the slack. Holder is looking for McCarthy to step up this season. The team lost Shawn Wackerbarth for the season with an injury he suffered during football season. The Vikings ranked second on offense (66.4 ppg) and seventh on defense (52.1) among 26 Division 3 teams last year.

South Hadley

COACH: Jeff Guiel, 15th year

LEAGUE: Central

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 13-10, 6-2

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2012, lost 47-31 to Mahar in WMass Division 2 final

RETURNING STARTERS:

Player Year Pos. PPG

TJ Fitzell Jr. G 7.3

Anthony Bullough Sr. F/C 6.6

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Kevin Garbacik, C; Evan Marcus, G; George Fiore, F; Juniors — Avon White, G; Patrick Sears, C;

NEWCOMERS: Junior — Nate Flachs, G/F; Sophomores — Ben Reed, F/C; Cam Earle, G/F; Freshman — Griffin Fitzell, G

OUTLOOK: The Tigers had a late start due to the football team’s run to the Division 2 Super Bowl. Garbacik and Bullough are injured and could miss some time. TJ Fitzell was a spark on both ends of the floor last year and excelled in the postseason. White improved and will look to take the next step. Marcus is stronger this year. The Tigers ranked third on offense (58.8 ppg) and 10th on defense (54.8) among 15 Division 2 teams last season.

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