Saturday, March 22, 2014

Huskers Hoping To Change Culture Following Late Tear

The 2013-14 Yorktown boys basketball campaign was a truthful tale of two teams.

Two vastly different teams, that is.

One team floundered, struggling to sustain four quarters of focus.

The callow Huskers which began the season folded under mental lapses, frequently withering under the opponents' spurts.

 They would piece together 16-20 minutes of efficiency and active defense, only to appear disengaged during the other 16 and 12.

 These bouts of inconsistency snowballed during a dismal 0-9 freefall.

The other team?

They cured ills of the past, ripping off four of their last five during a mad dash to a playoff berth.

Engineering an uptempo attack, spreading the rock around, contesting every shot and battling for 50-50 balls, a spanking new identity surfaced.

No longer caving under droughts and prolonged periods of stagnancy, the Huskers suddenly weathered runs with poise.

The energy was sustained. All four quarters.

This revived Huskers team embodied the urgency of a team dying to prove it belongs.

Refreshing the basketball brand, the Huskers picked up steam during the season's tail end.

Buoyed by a 31-point, 10-rebound eruption from guard Luis Cartagena, the Huskers defeated Peekskill for the first time in recent history.

With the signature 59-56 win over the Red Devils, the Huskers avenged a deflating 30-point loss from earlier in the season.

Then, the Huskers pushed eventual Section 1 champion Walter Panas for 31 minutes. The upset bid faltered, however, when Panas guard Tim McCauley buried a pair of clutch free throws and simultaneously buried the frenzied rally.

For the first time since the Jordan Moody, Donta Dixon and Chris Schmidtz team of 2010-11, a basketball buzz permeated the hallways of Yorktown.

 It ended as the Huskers were trounced by North Rockland, 73-56, in the Section 1/Class AA playoffs outbracket game.

While the loss dampened spirits, the now coach-less Huskers' seismic shift pumps promise into 2014-15. The Huskers will move from Class AA to A.

"We've got a hard-working group with a bunch of spots up for grabs," said Ricky Corrado, a bullish senior forward.

"The program is going to need some guys to step up and get hot, and hopefully win a bunch of games."

The vacant Yorktown head coaching position suddenly has appeal. The right man for thr job will inherit an electrifying young guard in the 5-foot-10 Cartagena.

 The sophomore averaged 25.3 points during a three-game win streak, earning the Section-wide visibility for which Yorktown has strived.

He bagged All-League honors. He averaged a team-best 18 points on the season.

Cartagena entered the season as strictly a slasher.

 Leaning more on a refined 18-foot jumper and a steady left-handed sling shot from the elbows, his game blossomed. He incorporated a stepback jumper as well.

 Cartagena's scoring pace was matched by his athleticism.

 The sophomore's hops and sheer quickness gives him the freedom to carve through seams and take defenders to the rack.

"Luis proved he can light it up at any time and it's difficult to guard him because of his athleticism," Corrado explained.

"He still has a lot to learn. It's important that they play their specific roles and play together as unit."

Corrado will cross the graduation stage in June. His departure saps luster out of Yorktown, which finally escaped the pitch-dark tunnels of obscurity.

Corrado was critical for his presence on the boards, ability to finish, and deft touch from short range.

Anthony Coutsourous, a 6-foot-5 senior who spreads the floor with his shooting, will also leave a gap.

Also graduating will be 3-point trigger man Conor Colgan.

 Colgan authored a 3-point assault against Nanuet on senior night, as Yorktown's transformation heightened.

 The Huskers will additionally bid adieu to Luke Palmadesso, a physical and athletic guard who led by action.

"The senior class is going to be a big loss on and off the court," explained sophomore point guard Nick DeGennaro.

"We have a lot of up-and-coming options from the JV, which had a very good year. We're going to look to have a big season next year. But it's definitely tough losing the seniors. They led every day and are great people, they really are."

What seperated the lackluster team that started the season from the polished, playoff-thirsting one which finished it?

"I think we got out and pushed the ball more," DeGennaro said.

"We're most effective when we're out in transition. We have the guards to play that style."

DeGennaro is the main source of alignment for the club's go-to options.

The 6-foot-1 Corrado, who doubles as a tight end, was a beneficiary of DeGennaro's pocket passes in the post.

 Mason Dyslin, he of the 6-foot-6 frame and stretch four type, flourished when fed by DeGennaro's lob passes.

Cartagena, now adept off the dribble, is able to roll of screens and picks ready to score when DeGennaro is wrapping him dishes.

Guard Michael Nardone was a key piece during the late-season ascension. Nardone is a bigger guard who can score the ball inside and pull up for the mid-ranger.

Nardone is bordered by another 3-point shooter in Matt Broder, whose range should come into immediate use next season.

Dyslin, who exploded with a six-game stretch during which he averaged 19.6 PPG as a sophomore, reeks of potential. He may not be done growing.

If he develops a killer instinct as a senior, a season as one of the County's top-shelf forwards is waiting in the wings.

 Especially with several foes losing significant pieces in a watered down Class A.

Seldom-used junior Luke Shkreli, buried on the depth chart for much of the season, exploded for four timely 3-pointers during the outbracket loss to North Rockland.

The shooter will look to put in the necessary off-season work, firing a fusillade of 3-pointers and jumpers to prove the North Rockland game was a harbinger of what's next.

 Forward Nick Delbene, another multi-sport athlete, could also play a more meaningful role next year.

 Delbene erupted for three straight 3-pointers at Walter Panas and displayed a good grasp of the transition game, notably against Lakeland.

Former Husker coach Chris Caputi resigned at the end of the regular season. Since then, there's been a mass exodus of head coaches in Section 1.

Coaches are packing their bags and revving the engine, hitting the first exit out of town without even scouring the rearview mirror.

Peekskill, Mahopac, Fox Lane, and Sleepy Hollow's athletic departments will likely be inundated with countless coaching resumes.

A 2014 coaching carousal is imminent.

The general perception is that Yorktown will come decked with athletes, many of whom may favor their beloved lacrosse sticks and prefer dodging over taking the ball to the rim.

 Don't be so sure of that.

The Huskers' frenetic finish in 2014 proves that a basketball pulse is pumping through Commerce Street.

If the 12-month program that Caputi implemented is sustained, the Huskers could turn the corner.

The Crop, one of the Section's most vibrant and relentless fan bases, renders Yorktown High a tough road game.

 The Crop will pack the bleachers, get into opponents' ear drums, and let anyone who tosses an airball hear it throughout.

The Yorktown job could potentially become as sought after as the rest.

"To be honest, I think Yorktown all together is a great community and we do have some talent here," opined Corrado.

"Not only do we work hard but we have fun doing it. I can't imagine a coach who wouldn't want that."

 For a program which mustered just one win three seasons ago, the times are a changing.