Winter Preview: New Britain area boys basketball teams dealing with changes entering season

Published on Friday, 15 December 2017 22:56
Written by SHELBY IAVA


NEW BRITAIN - Last season was a bit of a struggle for many of the local high school boys basketball teams.

Newington was the only team to have a season above .500, finishing 14-6. This season, though, the Indians will be led by new head coach Eddie Quick.

New Britain, Berlin and Southington all finished near .500, but have different expectations this year. Like Newington, New Britain has a new head coach in Kurt Reis. Berlin, meanwhile, has to replace a lot of veteran talent, similar to the Indians’ situation. The Blue Knights, meanwhile, are looking to continue to positive upwards trajectory as a program.

Plainville struggled last season and failed to win a single game, finishing 0-20. But after losing just two main contributors, the Blue Devils have plenty of players returning.

Goodwin Tech rebounded from a rough 2015-16 season to once again make the playoffs and expects to do the same yet again, while Innovation is out to continue to build its program and have it take the next step forward.

Here is a closer look at each of the local boys basketball teams:

New Britain

Head Coach: Kurt Reis (1st season)

Last Year: 7-13

Key Losses: Jordan Williams (G)

Key Returnees: Maurice Turner (jr., G), Daniel Kownacki (sr., F), Isaiah Jenkins (jr., G) and David Rybcyzk (sr., G)

Possible Newcomers to Watch: Gerald Wright and Tahmeen Dupree

Outlook: Kurt Reis will be taking over as the New Britain boys basketball program that has struggled over the past few seasons. The Hurricanes lost all-conference guard Jordan Williams to graduation, but the team still has plenty of talent returning. Junior guard Maurice Turner, senior forward Daniel Kownacki, junior guard Isaiah Jenkins and senior guard David Rybcyzk are all expected to have big roles in Reis’ system.

It will, of course, just be how quickly the players adjust and buy into having a new coach. Overall, it should be an interesting year for New Britain.


Head Coach: Mike Veneziano (9th season)

Last Year: 8-12

Key Losses: Spencer Duke (F), Jack Lynch (C), Kyle Mogelnecki (G)

Key Returnees: N/A

Possible Newcomers to Watch: Ryan Hyde (jr., G)

Outlook: This looks like this could be a rebuilding year for the Redcoats, who return few varsity players with experience.

Berlin graduated three key seniors from last year including All-State forward Spencer Duke, center Jack Lynch and guard Kyle Mogelnecki. But head coach Mike Veneziano is expecting his team to play more up tempo than in previous seasons.

Junior point guard Ryan Hyde will be a player to keep an eye on this season as he will head a roster that should be 10 deep, according to the head coach.

How this season plays out remains to be seen.


Head Coach: Eddie Quick (1st season)

Last Year: 14-6

Key Losses: Jared Simmons (G), Matt McKinnon (F), Andre Ithier-Vicenty (G)

Key Returnees: JP DeCastro (sr., G), James Holley (sr., F), Colin Freeman (sr., F), Ted Fravel (jr., C), Julian Ortiz (jr., F), Louis Egbama (jr., F), Mason Romano (so., F)

Outlook: Newington will have a new look on the sideline with Eddie Quick taking over for long-time coach Scot Wenzel.

At the same time, the Indians will have to replace some top-tier talent, namely All-State guard Jared Simmons and All-CCC forward Matt McKinnon. Simmons was the school’s all-time leading scorer, while McKinnon left holding the single-season record for rebounds.

This could be Newington’s first rebuilding season in a while, but at the same time, there is some talent returning. Seniors JP DeCastro, James Holley and Colin Freeman; juniors Ted Fravel, Julian Ortiz and Louis Egbama; and sophomore forward Mason Romano are all expected to contribute in some way shape of form.

Quicks likes his team’s dedication, it will just be a matter of how it translates to the court during meaningful games.


Head Coach: John Cessario (4th season)

Last Year: 9-12

Key Losses: Brendan Taylor (G), Mike Defeo (G) and Mike Mauro (F)

Key Returnees: Andrew Lohneiss (sr., G), Jeremy Mercier (sr., F)

Tim O’Shea (sr., C), Cameron Clynes (sr., F), Ryan Middendorf (sr., G) and Colin Burdette (jr., G)

Newcomers to Watch: Ryan Gesnaldo (jr.), Adam Hunter (jr.), Jacob Flynn (jr.), Zack Zembrzuski (soph.), Jared Kelly (soph.), Billy Wadolowski (soph.), Jake Napoli (soph.) and Joe Gaudio (soph.)

Outlook: The Blue Knights finished off their 2016-2017 season just 9-12, but head coach John Cessario’s players experienced the postseason for the first time in their high school careers.

This year, Southington is looking to build off that success and get back to the playoffs. The Blue Knights graduated three important seniors from last year including shooting guard Brendan Taylor, point guard Mike Defeo and power forward Mike Mauro. At the same time, they have plenty of talent returning to the court including senior guard Andrew Lohneiss, senior power forward Jeremy Mercier, senior center Tim O’Shea, senior power forward Cameron Clynes, senior shooting guard Ryan Middendorf and junior point guard Colin Burdette.

Southington certainly has the ability to pose some problems for opposing teams this season.


Head Coach: Jim DiNello (4th season)

Last Year: 0-20

Key Losses: Jared Demmons, Camden Clifford

Key Returnees: Brady Callahan (jr., G), Sam Lestini (jr., C), Jailen Lindsey (sr., F), Jason Mills (jr., F/C), Pierre Ramirez (jr., G/F), Will Cross (so., G)

Outlook: There is nowhere for the Blue Devils go other than up.

It was a tough 2016-17 campaign for Plainville in which the team failed to win a single game and finished 0-20.

“We were an inexperienced team last year and played that way,” head coach Jim DiNello said.

But after losing just two players to graduation in Jared Demmons and Camden Clifford, DiNello is optimistic and is expecting a better turnout this season, especially with many of the young players from last season getting invaluable experience.

In other words, the players now know what to expect.

“We should be a scrappy team who is not afraid to battle with the great competition we face,” DiNello said. “I am optimistic about how our team will develop leaders from within their own locker room. It is very important to be a good team. We will need to get good production from all positions and defensively we need to be great. We need to be extremely aggressive. Pace of play needs to quick but controlled. A difficult concept for a young team.”


Head Coach: Matt Lance (3rd season)

Last Year: 6-14

Key Losses: Jonel Dominique (G/F) and Dereck Torres (F)

Key Returnees: Lenny Okonya (jr., F), Ramiesh Bogle (jr., G), Carlos Gonzalez (jr., G)

Outlook: Innovation continued its trend of improving each season. The Ravens picked up four more wins last year than they did in 2015-16 and are looking for even bigger things this season.

It will help that Innovation has combined with Two Rivers which will help strengthen the team.

And as it happens to be, the Raven’s strength this year, according to head coach Matt Lance, will be the depth of its team as they are extremely deep across multiple positions.

Innovation only graduated two seniors from last year’s roster, guard and forward Jonel Dominique and forward Dereck Torres. In addition to the former Two Rivers the team will be acquiring, the Ravens will be returning junior forward Lenny Okonya, junior guard Ramiesh Bogle and junior guard Carlos Gonzalez.

This should be a positive season for Innovation.

Goodwin Tech

Head Coach: Reuben Charles (19th season)

Last year: 11-11

Key Losses: Damion Martin (C), Devon White (G), Josh Masterson (C), Anthony Cruz (F)

Key Returnees: Francisco Santiago (sr., G), Tom Hughes (sr., G), Josh Peeples (sr., G), Sam Lopez (sr., C) and Andres Vazquez (sr., C)

Newcomers to Watch: Xavier Cartegena, Delijah Laronde

Outlook: After a down year in 2015-16, Goodwin Tech rebounded nicely last season, finishing at 11-11 and reaching the Class S tournament once again.

The Gladiators will have to deal with the losses of center Damion Martin guard Devon White, center Josh Masterson and forward Anthony Cruz, but overall, they should be alright with the amount of talent returning.

Francisco Santiago is back and is expected to lead the offense and will be helped by fellow guards Tommy Hughes and Josh Peeples. In the paint, Goodwin Tech will have two centers in Sam Lopez and Andre Vazquez.

The Gladiators should be able to reach the playoffs yet again. They should be an interesting team to watch.

Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or

Posted in New Britain Herald, Berlin, Goodwin Tech, Innovation, New Britain, Newington, Plainville, Southington on Friday, 15 December 2017 22:56. Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017 22:58.