MERIDEN — It was a season worth the wait.
Lyman Hall won the SCC Division II regular-season title and its first-ever SCC postseason tournament.
Maloney ran the table in CCC Region D and advanced to the CCC Championship Bracket tournament.
Wilcox Tech won 11 games and reached the CTC Nutmeg Division finals.
Two players — Sheehan’s Jack McDonnell and Maloney’s Vincent Martinez — went over 1,000 points for their career. A third, Lyman Hall’s Ty Voisine, was named Most Outstanding Player of the SCC Division II Tournament.
When it comes to 2021 boys basketball, there’s no need to overwrite. Just say it.
Delayed two months and shortened to 12 regular-season games and one postseason week that did not extend beyond the conference level, the area boys basketball season was health amid the plague.
It was mostly dominated by seniors, though also featured underclassmen who enjoyed breakout seasons. They’re all represented here on the All-Record-Journal Team.
We’ve got scorers. McDonnell averaged 21.23 points a game and Martinez 20.5 in reaching the 1,000 milestone.
We’ve got grinders. Voisine snagged 4½ steals and Lyman Hall teammate Luke O’Reardon grabbed 8.0 rebounds en route to that SCC Division II crown.
Voisine, O’Reardon and the Trojans allowed just 38.26 points a game. It’s said defense wins championships. This winter, it most certainly did.Lyman Hall
LH basketball hadn’t seen much success since the 19-6 Class L semifinal season of 2011. About that time, a group of Wallingford boys who would come of age in 2021 were just learning the game.
A decade later, they reached maturity. A year removed from 5-15, this year’s squad beat all foes save for Xavier and East Haven, and the Trojans (13-2) wound up getting revenge on the Easties in the SCC Division II championship game, 32-26.
Ty Voisine and Luke O’Reardon, close friends off the court and senior captains on it, led the way.
“Both of them took pride in that leadership role,” remarked Lyman Hall coach Rob Ruys, who was named SCC Division II Coach of the Year. “They set the example in practice as well as on the court, and the team followed their lead. They and this team deserve everything they earned. They did it right.”
Voisine and O’Reardon were both named All-SCC East Division. Voisine, the point guard, averaged a team-high 16 points and 3½ assists while also snagging those 4½ steals. O’Reardon, a forward, was good for eight points and eight rebounds a game.
“Even though both these guys play different positions, they are alike in many ways. Both are extremely hard workers who have been committed to offseason development,” Ruys noted.
Voisine is going on to play at Curry College. O’Reardon, a football standout whose his career in that sport was derailed by a neck injury, is heading to the University of New England, where he’ll be a student assistant for the football program.Maloney
It’s a pity the pandemic forced attendance to be limited this winter, because that old Spartan magic was back at Benjamin Nessing Gymnasium.
Led by the All-Conference senior trio of Vincent Martinez, Garrison Kunst and Jeremiah Williams, Maloney reeled off win after win.
Finally, as the state eased COVID restrictions in mid-March, Maloney did allow a limited number of students to see the Spartans cap a perfect 12-0 regular season with a 50-41 win at home over Berlin on March 19.
A quarterfinal loss in the waning seconds to East Hartford bounced Maloney from the CCC Championshp Bracket Tournament, but the Spartans (13-1) did go out winners by defeating Middletown in a consolation game.
That night, early in the second quarter, Martinez popped a 3-pointer from the top of the key to go over 1,000 points for his Maloney career.
He was the 11th player in program history to do so.
“A great scorer who really set the tone for us offensively and put us in a position where teams had to change their defense accordingly to know where he was at all times,” noted Maloney coach Dave Parness. “He really allowed other players to be freed up as teams played Vincent box-and-1 multiple times throughout the season.”
Martinez knew how to get other people the ball. Kunst averaged 12.1 points a game, Williams 10.1.
The three seniors were also big on defense, averaging roughly three steals apiece. Martinez and Williams, as the backcourt tandem, spearheaded the press and guarded opposition shooters at the top of the zone.
The 6-foot-4 Kunst held down the lane, averaging a team-high 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks.
“He caused a lot of opposing players to alter shots around the rim and was able to help get our fast break going from back there,” Parness remarked.
There was another key element to Kunst’s game. The big man had range.
“He was a second scorer who could shoot from the outside, which helped to run an offense that brought the other team’s big to the perimeter so our guards had more of an opportunity to get to the rim,” Parness explained.
Kunst tormented rival Platt, in particular, torching the Panthers for 22 and 21 points in Maloney’s season sweep.
Martinez lit up everyone. He put up 20 points or more in Maloney’s final nine games.
As for Williams, he had some of his biggest games against Middletown, Maloney’s principal rival for the CCC Region D title. Williams scored 17 points in the win in Middletown and 16 in the clinching victory in Meriden.
“Jeremiah Williams was the energy guy for us,” said Parness. “He was a player that could bring the ball up the floor, get to the rim, distribute the ball and hit big shots when needed.
“Jeremiah grew to be one of our team leaders on both ends of the floor in addition to being a guy who set the tone at practice.”Wilcox Tech
While the Spartans were forging their unbeaten regular season on the East Side of Meriden, the Indians of Wilcox Tech were having a good go of it on the West Side. They dropped their season opener, then reeled off six straight wins.
It led to a 9-3 regular season and the No. 2 seed in the CTC Nutmeg Division Tournament. The Indians defeated Whitney Tech and Platt Tech to gain the finals, where they fell in Ansonia to undefeated O’Brien Tech.
All-Conference seniors Isaiah Thomas and Carlos Cintron fueled the run.
Thomas, the point guard, was the area’s third leading scorer, averaging 18 points a game. The 34 he scored against Wolcott Tech on Feb. 27 stand as the area’s single-game high of the year.
“The last two seasons Isaiah has been our go-to guy,” said Wilcox coach Randy Farkas. “He is so fast in the open court, he is hard to contain. He just has the ability to always get to the hoop and finishes pretty well.”
Thomas was the Wilcox team MVP last year as a junior and was so again this year as a senior.
Cintron gave him a pretty good run. The forward was a double-double machine in 2021. Against Whitney Tech on Feb. 23, he put up 20 rebounds and 19 points.
In the final reckoning, Cintron averaged 13.9 rebounds and 13.3 points for the year.
“Carlos really started to emerge at the end of last season, so we were pretty excited for what he could do this year,” Farkas said. “He was just amazing on the boards all season. He also had the ability to score down low and off the dribble.”
Case in point: Senior Night against Vinal Tech on March 9. Cintron went off for a career-high 26 points.
In the Tribe’s three postseason games, Cintron averaged 11.3 points and Thomas an even 20. Said Farkas, “Carlos and Isaiah were our 1-2 punch.”The kids
This year’s All-RJ Boys Basketball Team is an all-senior troupe save for two All-Conference underclassmen: Cheshire junior Luke Nieman and Platt sophomore Anthony Nimani.
Nieman was the true breakout player of the season. A sweet-shooting guard who didn’t see any varsity time last year, Nieman blossomed as Cheshire’s leading scorer in 2021 with a 13.6 average and was the area’s most lethal 3-point shooter.
At first, it was a case of, “Who is this guy?” Nieman opened with four treys and 12 points against North Haven and five and 19 against Guilford.
After awhile, opponents knew who the rookie was and defended accordingly. The junior adapted and, by season’s end, had hit 36 times from 3-point range.
“Luke worked tremendously hard in the offseason; he worked on his shot and pretty much every facet of his game,” said Cheshire coach Dan Lee. “To go from no varsity to our leading scorer in a year is a testament to him. He’s got a high basketball IQ.”
As for Nimani, he wasn’t quite the new hotshot on the block. Though only a sophomore, he had already established himself with an excellent freshman season in 2020.
This year, however, Nimani ratcheted up to star level.
He was the undisputed leader of his team, and not just because he averaged 16.85 points a game, often in the face of double teams. Nimani did a whole of everything for the Panthers (5-9). He averaged seven rebounds, six assists and 2½ steals.
By the end of the season, as Platt advanced to the CCC Bracket 3 semifinals despite being riddled by injuries, Nimani was running the point.
“We ask him to pretty much do A-to-Z for us and he steps up for us in a big way,” said Platt coach Shawon Moncrief. “He’s only a sophomore, so it’s only up from here. He’s a gym rat and he loves it, and he’ll continue to get better.”Jack
Jack McDonnell was the first name mentioned in this story and it will be the last. Fitting: He’s a terrific first option and the sort of guy you want taking the last shot with the game on the line.
McDonnell, who is going on to play at Suffolk University in Boston, wrapped up an exceptional four-year career this winter, one of the best in Sheehan basketball history.
In fact, head coach Joe Gaetano muses that if McDonnell had had a full senior season, he might have become Sheehan’s leading scorer of all-time.
Who is that leading scorer? Gaetano’s son Joe Jr., who put up 1,320 points in the 1990s. McDonnell signed off with 1,181.
Coach Gaetano does the math: “If Jack played 20 games, maintaining his 21-points-per-game average, he would have had 420 points, plus 905 (from his freshman-junior years) equals 1,325.”
No point dwelling on what might have been, though, because what was will suffice. McDonnell averaged a double-double for his All-Conference senior year, coupling 11 rebounds with his area-best 21.23 points.
He returns to the All-Record-Journal Team for a third straight year. Truth be told, he should have made it his rookie year, too, but at the time we were limiting the number of selections to five and were leery about picking a freshman, even though we knew he belonged.
“Jack is one of the hardest working individuals I’ve ever coached,” said Gaetano. “He has a tremendous basketball mind with great instincts for the game. He is a driven person who has no limit when it comes to pushing himself to be the best he can be. He is extremely well-rounded and motivated on or off the basketball court.”
With a 4.2 GPA, McDonnell was his team’s Scholar-Athlete as well as its second-year captain. He’s a drum major and a trumpet player. On more than one occasion, in his basketball uniform, he led the band in the National Anthem.
We’ll just say it. Jack McDonnell, like all of our All-RJ boys hoop selections, had game in more ways than one.