Behind a strong second half of the 2010-11 season, the Oliver Ames boys’ basketball team did something that hasn’t been done since 1999 –
Now entering his third season at the helm, head coach Don Byron will look to lead his team to the next step in 2011-12.
“I’m excited about it,” Byron said about the upcoming season. “We have a different look then what we had last year. We were a little bigger last year, but our top three guards are all back, so it will change the way we go about it a little bit.”
Although things are looking positive, the Tigers will have to adjust without all-league forwards Mason Pires and Eric MacKinnon as well as center Jimmy Fitzgerald. The frontcourt trio provided a healthy mix of scoring, defense and rebounding for last year's co-Davenport Division champions.
“We graduated three kids in the frontline two of them good size kids at about 6-4 and about 200 pounds each,” Byron said, “and, our third front court kid MacKinnon was an all-league player, So we graduated some size out of the frontline.”
While the Tigers will have to adjust without Pires, MacKinnon and Fitzgerald, they do return senior captain Alex Tepper who missed all of last year due to injury and welcome newcomers Ryan Evans and Jeff Babbit up front.
OA returns an experienced backcourt, which will arguably be the team’s strength.
Behind senior captain and all-league point guard Nick Bruha, junior captain Andrew Reardon, and junior St. Claire Ryan – the team’s other returning starter from last year – the Tigers will look to spread the floor and use a quick tempo against their opponents.
“Guard play in high school is so important that if you had your way you want to be secure in the backcourt," Byron said. “Nick [Bruha] returns as our catalyst, while St. Claire [Ryan] returns and Andrew Reardon has really improved. He had a terrific off-season in preparation for this and he’ll be stepping up.”
With the deep backcourt that also includes small forwards Duane Johnson, Denzel Bennett, Nick Cidado and Kyle Gomes, Byron will look for his unit to play a quicker tempo.
“We’ll be small at times and use three guards on the floor,” he said. “It will look a little different. We’ll be a little more up and down on the floor than we were last year where we were more half court oriented because of the size advantage that we had. We’re excited about what we have and I think we’re going to be OK.
“At times, we’ll also have Denzel Bennett, Duane Johnson, Nick Cidado and Kyle Gomes handle duty at small forward. They are all the three forward type – in basketball terms – that can handle the ball in the middle of the floor and do some things that way.”
OA will have its hands full against the Hockomock League that had eight teams qualify for the state tournament last year. Mansfield (last year's Division 1 South champions), King Philip (finalists in the Division 2 South Sectionals) and Franklin stand out as the teams to beat in the Kelley-Rex Division, while Stoughton comes in as OA's biggest challenge in the Davenport and an up and coming Sharon squad will also provide a tough challenge.
Byron and company open the season Friday night at the Nixon Gymnasium when they host Attleboro for an inter-division matchup.
“They graduated four kids off that team, but they return J.J. Jolaoso who is very good,” Byron said about the first matchup of the year. “On all the stuff I’ve seen from them in the off-season, they are going to be very competitive on that side [the Large Hock] and will be right in the hunt I think.
“It will be a tough night,” added Byron. “They play a little small so it will be small on small so it should be an interesting matchup Friday night.”
Boys’ basketball quick facts
Head coach: Don Byron
2010-11 record: 15-8 (9-7 Hock, 8-2 Davenport)
Captains: Nick Bruha, Alex Tepper, Andrew Reardon
Key returnees: Bruah, Tepper, Reardon, St. Claire Ryan, Duane Johnson, Denzel Bennett
Key losses: Mason Pires, Eric MacKinnon, Jimmy Fitzgerald, MJ DeDonato
- Dec. 16 vs. Attleboro
- Dec. 21 at Sharon
- Dec. 23 vs. Southeastern Regional
- Dec. 27 vs. Dartmouth (Val Muscato Holiday Tournament)
- Dec. 30 Muscato Tournament finals
- Jan. 6 at Stoughton
- Jan. 10 vs. Franklin
- Jan. 13 at Mansfield
- Jan. 17 vs. Canton
- Jan. 20 vs. Foxborough
- Jan. 24 at North Attleboro
- Jan. 27 vs. King Philip
- Jan. 31 at Southeastern Regional
- Feb. 3 vs. Sharon
- Feb. 7 vs. Stoughton
- Feb. 10 at Canton
- Feb. 14 at Foxborough
- Feb. 17 Hockomock Crossover
- Feb. 19 Bridgwater-Raynham