Work, learn and improve.
That’s the Christian Brothers Academy way, and in each of the last seven basketball seasons, that philosophy has taken hold and propelled coach Dave Doemel’s team to a Section II championship game.
“We look at it as how good can you get as you go through it,” Doemel said. “If there’s a deficiency, let’s go at it. Let’s try to fix it.”
Doemel has already begun the process in a quest to mesh his veteran cast led by all-state senior Kameron Ritter and a talented group of newcomers into another coheesive, title-winning edition. CBA captured its fourth Class AA championship in six years last March, with each of those teams securing 20 victories or more.
“We have to grow and get a little better,” Doemel said. “I like what I see. The guys are making the kind of effort I like, but we need to get better at more things. That’s the challenge, right now. How good can we become?”
The area boys’ high school basketball season opens for several leagues tonight, although CBA and its Big 10 brethren will wait until Friday to tip off.
CBA enters the season for the first time this decade without an established big man, with 6-foot-8 Andrew Stire, last season’s Class AA most valuable player, among its graduated players. Doemel hinted that his Brothers — who he described as long but not tall — may press and trap a little more on defense, and rely a great deal on their perimeter players for offensive production.
Among CBA’s frontcourt players will be Jack Reilly, a 6-3 Johns Hopkins-bound lacrosse standout who hasn’t played scholastic hoop in three years.
“I’ve given them so many different things. I’ve injected some things into our game plan that we haven’t done in the past,” said Doemel. “If and when we need them, we can call upon them.”
Doemel will be calling on Ritter, Galal Cancer, Max Weaver and Joe Krong often, being the main holdovers from his 2008-09 edition that went 14-2 in the Big 10 and 21-4 overall after a regional loss to CBA of Syracuse. The Brothers beat Albany Academy, Shenendehowa and Schenectady before that in their run to the Section II title.
“Some of our kids up from the [20-0] junior varsity will have to get involved,” said Doemel. “Guys like [Brendan] Dufort and [Christian] Signor will have to contribute right away.”
Bishop Maginn won the Class AA title against CBA in 2007 and 2008, and reached the sectional semifinals last season behind Taran Buie and Trahson Burrell, who have since left the area.
“They have enough talent to sustain the blow,” Doemel said of Bishop Maginn, which is under new coach Orlando DiBacco and has Chris Jeffers, Shaval Fields and Jerel Scott among its lettermen. “They were so deep last year. Their eight, nine and 10 were pretty good players.”
Schenectady, Bishop Maginn and Albany are expected to battle CBA for Big 10 supremacy, while Shenendehowa could be the class of the Suburban Council once again after its 15-1 league showing. Each of these teams has sectional final four hopes, too.
“Schenectady has almost everyone back. They lost one big guy. They’re going to challenge,” Doemel said.
Schenectady features the brother combination of Derrick, Devonte and Shadell Millinghaus, and veteran sharpshooter Reece Jackson. The Patriots lost in the sectional quarterfinals to Shenendehowa, which then lost to CBA in an overtime semifinal.
“Shenendehowa has great guard play,” said Doemel. “In a way, they’re a lot like us. They have to see if they can find people who can step up and bang and rebound and stop people inside.”
The Plainsmen lost 6-6 Ryan Murphy to graduation, yet bring back all-state senior Matt Miner, Jose Reyes, Dan Lee and Manny Hernandez from a 21-2 team. They’ll try to lead a Suburban Council school to its first Section II large-school championship since Colonie won back-to-back in 1999 and 2000.
Defending Class A champion Scotia-Glenville and each of the other Section II final four teams of last season — Gloversville, Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons and Mohonasen — lost their top player to graduation.
“People think Gloversville is going to be down. They’re a winning program,” said coach Jim Giammattei, who, with 6-10 Jim Janson leading the effort, guided Scotia-Glenville to its first sectional crown since 1975. “And Bishop Gibbons, come sectional time, they’re a different animal. I expect those teams to be very, very tough.”
And what about the Tartans, who not only lost Janson to Le Moyne, but also significant contributors Joe Ferrari, Nick Alescio and Andy Bissonette?
“I know we’re retooling. I know we’re starting over, but I think our program will compete,” Giammattei said. “I think in late February and March, barring injuries, we should find a way to Glens Falls. We are going to fight. We’re going to be better than people think.”
Scotia-Glenville returns one of the top juniors in the Foothills Council in Terell Winney along with Tyler Ackley, Connor Shapiro and Mike Davenport. Gloversville lost Matt Baldwin from its Section II runner-up team, but brings back Chad McCloskey, Chris LeFever and Class A all-star Malcolm Mathias to play for new coach Mark LeFever.
Bishop Gibbons also has a new coach in Jay Mahoney, who expressed optimism despite the loss of Gazette first-team all-star Brian Hamor, who factored greatly into the Knights’ Class A title run in 2008 and led the area in scoring (25.8 ppg) last season. Bishop Gibbons’ lettermen include rising sophomores James Vice and Jon Villanueva.
“My goal is just like theirs, to get to Glens Falls,” said Mahoney.
South Glens Falls saw its final four hopes dashed by a late Bishop Gibbons comeback in last year’s sectionals. The Bulldogs, led by Nate Uline, Kevin Donahue and Jordan Greene, should factor into both the Foothills Council and Class A races.
“Anyone with three legitimate college players is going to be good,” Giammattei said of the Bulldogs.
Fonda-Fultonville has been to the Glens Falls Civic Center for sectional semifinal play three of the last four seasons, but lost each time, twice to the eventual champion. This season, the Braves may go the distance in Class B with a cast of seven lettermen led by Brandon Mercado, Seth Hidde, Tyler Hall, Luke Nethaway and Kyle Hanson.
“They remember what it was like last year. That could have been us,” said coach Eric Wilson, whose Braves went 12-0 in the Western Athletic Conference Northern Division and 19-3 overall before a sectional semifinal loss to eventual champion Broadalbin-Perth. “I’m confident with this team. If the kids stay healthy and hungry and keep improving, we could be in for a big year.”
Schuylerville could, too, with Brad Lyon, Austin Bateman and Steve Backus returning for a team that charged to the Class B title game after winning only nine times in the regular season.
The Section II Class B field also includes Schenectady Christian this season. The Falcons, who for the last several years have been a WAC Southern Division power, won the Class CC title in 2007.
“It’s going to be as challenging a year as we’ve had in a decade,” said Falcons coach Chad Bowman, who has only two seniors in Chris McCarty and Tom McClain. “What we’ll have to do is rely on defense and rebounding more than ever. We don’t have the offensive firepower we’ve had.”
Johnstown, led by Ian Yost, and Watervliet, sparked by promising underclassmen Devonte Gleason and Griffin Kelly, should be heard from in this class.
CLASS C & D
Section II has gone back to one Class C group, rather than splitting into Class CC and Class C, for sectional play.
“I was looking at it, and there’s not too many weak sisters,” said Canajoharie coach Rick Palumbo. “I counted 22 teams, and I see 16 of them being very competitive.”
Western Athletic Conference teams won two of Section II’s five championships last season, as Canajoharie prevailed in Class C and Sharon Springs took top honors in Class D. The MVPs of those classes return in the Cougars’ Payton Stahler and the Spartans’ Doug Ullman.
Stahler, a 6-4 St. Lawrence-bound swingman who is nearing 1,000 career points, will be coupled with returning starters Dane O’Neil and Anthony Taylor, and letterman Nate Rockwell and Zach Fleischer, among others.
“You want to come out of your league with a good record so you can get a decent sectional seed,” said Palumbo, whose Cougars are joined by Sharon Springs, Schoharie, Berne-Knox-Westerlo, Duanesburg, Middleburg and Schenectady Christian in the rugged WAC South. “It’s going to be tough. There’s a lot of veteran teams.”
Maple Hill of the Patroon Conference is another battle-tested team, with several key parts of its Class CC title-winning contingent returning in Chris Despart, Dom Prinzo, Adrian Donnelly, David Briggs and Sean Danaher, though the Wildcats lost leaders Trent Tibbits and Jaime Schultz. The Wildcats beat Canajoharie in the Class CC-C playoff as a stepping stone toward the state title game, and piled up 26 victories.
Voorheesville and Hoosick Falls feature two of the area’s premier Class C post players in 6-6 Ethan Mackey and 6-5 Kevin McMahon, respectively, and their presence alone makes them teams to watch in league and sectional play.
Sharon Springs took its lumps in the WAC (going 6-6) last season before winning its second Class D title in seven years with a triumph over No. 1 seed Heatly. The Spartans beat Northville and Canajoharie at Canajoharie’s tournament over the weekend, topping the Cougars on Doug Ullman’s tip-in with seconds to go.
Ullman will have plenty of support, as Zach Bartlett, Kris Kelly, Matt Larkin, Brad Baker and Brett Simpson also return for coach Chris Smith.
Loudonville Christian features one of the top players in Class D in all-state pick Cullen Overholt, while Heatly has Section II tournament all-star Alex Heffern among its returning cast.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kameron Ritter, senior, CBA.
Galal Cancer, junior, CBA.
Derrick Millinghaus, senior, Schenectady.
Reece Jackson, senior, Schenectady.
Jeremic Bennett, senior, Albany.
Matt Miner, senior, Shenendehowa.
Nolan Hart, senior, Albany Academy.
Ian Yost, senior, Johnstown.
Malcolm Mathias, senior, Gloversville.
Terell Winney, junior, Scotia-Glenville.
Ethan Mackey, senior, Voorheesville.
Brandon Mercado, senior, Fonda-Fultonville.
Payton Stahler, senior, Canajoharie.
Kevin McMahon, senior, Hoosick Falls.
Cullen Overholt, senior, Loudonville Christian.