By Ishmael Arrington ('19)
The boys varsity basketball team had a season to remember.
Though they lost the GMC playoff game by five points and ultimately, lost the state tournament on February 22 against South River, they had quite a turnaround since the beginning of the season.
Compared to last season where they went 1-18, they started with a slow 0-6 record but finished with an 11-11 going into the playoffs. Lead by their star junior forward Devin Strickland, the Vikings played the Monroe Knights on February 15 in the second round of GMC playoffs after beating South Plainfield in the first round.
Strickland led the way in points this season with an average of 13.9. Compared to last season where he averaged 14.8, things are better for the team now that more players have stepped up with chemistry and ball movement on the court.
With junior Justin Carbone averaging 10.1 points a game and sophomore Tyrell Murchison averaging 9.4 points a game, they along with the rest of the players continued to help Strickland bring success to the team.
“Being the vocal leader on the court [and] making sure everybody [was] in the right offense and defense,” Strickland said, helped him “to change [his] game for the better of the team.”
Despite the team’s overall struggles last season they were able to bounce back this year with fantastic defense, unselfish offense, and a solid starting five. Strickland, Carbone, Murchison and seniors Darrin Seavers and Akhil Edekar led the charge with tremendous energy, hustle and a strong defensive strategy; however the five starters can’t do it all alone. When the bench comes in they made a huge impact on the games.
They were lead by senior Ron Qavolli who has improved significantly over the years. The flashiness of sophomore point guard Christian Mangrum combined with the dedication of players like Qavolli, senior Kamal Patibandla, and sophomore Damian Downes, allowed the Vikings to be a team with an arsenal of weapons.
Strickland said the team has “improved this year from the summer workouts and everybody just coming together as one playing together. Nobody [was] being selfish, and everybody [was] looking out for each other.”
Coach Joe Hoehman said the team's chemistry was, “much better than last year because they have guys with varsity experience and they play to win not for individual stats.”
The coaches have put in a lot of effort to turn the team around from their struggles last season. They have stressed the idea of playing as a team instead of playing as individuals.
“There isn’t one, it’s the team as a whole, there’s always a different leading scorer for different games. The guys who impact the game are the ones who do little things like rebounding [and] deflections taking charges... not really look at just points,” said Hoehman.
Based on the evidence shown throughout the year the Vikings have improved tremendously from last year. With only five seniors leaving it looks like the young talent will be returning next year to have an even better season.