Tamarac has been pointing to this season for five years.
For Hoosick Falls, the wait hasn’t been as long, but the desired result is the same.
The Bengals and Panthers are expected to battle for the Wasaren League title this season.
“There’s no breathers,” said Tamarac coach Eric Medved, whose varsity group has been playing together since modified, with this season as the focal point. “You can’t look past any team, any night.”
“We always seem to have a very competitive league,” said Hoosick Falls coach Mike Lilac, who returns 11 players from last year’s 5-9 club. “Everyone has gotten better, which makes us a stronger overall league.”
Tamarac finished fourth a year ago, and brings back the player who could be the most dominant in the league in 6-51⁄2 senior Steve Hunt.
“He’s special,” said Medved of Hunt, the fourth-leading scorer, and top returning league scorer, from a year ago. “He plays both ends of the floor.”
Brett Matazinsky, a tough, 6-3 forward, and point guard Tyler Shaw are other key components of a Bengals’ team composed of 11 seniors that is primed for its first Wasaren title.
“We’ve built this program with this class of kids,” said Medved. “Most of them have played together since modified, some of them go back to a YMCA team when they played 6-and-under.”
Lilac was also surrounded by familiar faces when the Panthers began practice.
“We took our lumps last year, but we’ve got 11 of those kids back,” said Lilac. “Our goal is to win the league championship.”
Not only did Lilac get back junior Kevin McMahon, Tanner Finney, Zack Hall and Robert Shiland, he also has a healthy Kevin Woods. Woods missed most of last season after suffering a knee injury late in the football season.
“McMahon and Finney are going to score, but Kevin is a bonus,” said Lilac. “He’s a leader.”
Lilac hopes the return of Woods, and the team’s maturation, will eliminate the two phases of the game that hurt Hoosick Falls a year ago.
“We had shaky ball handling, and we didn’t handle the press well,” said Lilac. “Hopefully, we’ve cured those.”
Hoosic Valley rattled off 12 straight league wins after an 0-2 start last season, winning not just the league title, but the Class B crown as well.
Though leading scorer Pat Lanoue has graduated, coach Dan Calhoun has three strong players back in Alex Kugler, Kyle Pallozzi and Alex McNeice.
“You hope the seniors play like seniors,” said Calhoun. “We’re still waiting for a leader to emerge from the group. When the kids voted for captains, six of the 10 kids got votes.”
Defense has also been a strength of the Indians.
“Last year, with Pat, it was like we were up, 23-0, before the game started,” said Calhoun. “But we also pride ourselves on playing good defense, too. We held the other teams to 42 or 43 points a game last year.”
Stillwater has an impact player of its own in Nick D’Alberto, as the Warriors try to erase the memory of last year’s one-win Wasaren League season.
D’Alberto averaged nearly 14 points per game a year ago, and the Warriors also bring back a good deal of last year’s team, including Zach Warriner, Andrew Smith and Justin Duell.
Mechanicville transfer Chris Grayson gives the Warriors another player with experience.
Dean Slocum, Jake Izzo and
Andrew Bolton will also be key contributors.
“We want to be able to play at a fast tempo,” said Stillwater coach Dave Cook.
Bill Lanchantin’s Cambridge team will feature a good frontcourt player in Luca D’Aiuta.
“He’s much improved, and poised to have a good year,” said Lanchantin, who will be relying on a pair of underclassmen — freshman Will Bromirski and 11th-grader Kyle Parmenter — to run the offense from the backcourt.
Coach: Bill Lanchantin.
Last year’s record: 11-3 league, 18-4 overall.
Top returning players: Luca D’Aiuta, Quentin Herrington, John Iseman
Coach: Matt Usher.
Last year’s record: 4-11, 6-15.
Top returning players: Andrew Dirga, Josh Lyons.
Coach: Duke Beck.
Last year’s record: 4-10, 6-15.
Top returning players: Colby Stout, Jared Kirk.
Coach: Dan Calhoun.
Last year’s record: 12-2, 21-3.
Top returning players: Alex McNeece, Kyle Pallozzi, Alex Kugler.
Coach: Mike Lilac.
Last year’s record: 5-9, 9-11.
Top returning players: Kevin McMahon, Tanner Finney, Robert Shiland.
Coach: Matt Sgambatti.
Last year’s record: 11-3, 14-4.
Top returning players: Austin Bateman, Josh McLenithan, Brad Lyon.
Coach: Dave Cook.
Last year’s record: 1-13, 4-16.
Top returning players: Nick D’Alberto, Justin Duell, Zach Warriner, Andrew Smith.
Coach: Eric Medved.
Last year’s record: 10-5, 13-7.
Top returning players: Steve Hunt, Brett Matazinsky, Tyler Shaw.