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Article Published March 20, 2020

Petonito’s Perseverance Pays Dividends

By By Dean Bibens

John Petonito fits the true definition of a hard worker. As a senior captain on the Guilford boys’ basketball team, John exemplifies the kind of player that any program needs to succeed.

John averaged eight points per game in his junior year, but really turned it up a notch as a senior, leading the Indians with a clip of 15 points per night. With John’s improvement, the Indians also saw more success and wound up qualifying for the Division II State Tournament this winter. The senior captain feels proud that his hard work helped both himself and the Indians get better.

“I think my greatest strides came this offseason. I put in a lot of work in the weight room and focused on perfecting my shot, and it’s showed in my game this year,” says John. “I’ve doubled my points output from last year, and I feel like I really stepped up as a leader for these guys this year.”

John plays point guard for Guilford and views himself as the engine that helps the team run. John takes pride in his role at the helm of the Indians’ offense.

“I see myself as a vocal leader in the locker room, and I always want to pump the guys up whenever we are struggling,” John says. “I say it’s always good to spark a little fire in my teammates, and it makes us better.”

A perfect example of that spark came during Guilford’s Senior Night contest against Amity on Feb. 24. John scored a career-high 30 points to help the team rally back from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Guilford ultimately took a 63-62 defeat, but John says it was the best game the Indians played all season.

“I know we didn’t come out on top like we would have liked, but it was a great game, all in all,” says John. “We never quit until that final whistle sounded, and it was just a game of effort. I happened to have the hot hand that night, too, which made it more fun.”

While that loss displayed the Indians’ grit, John’s favorite moment of the campaign came when Guilford earned a 58-54 home win over Career on Feb. 7. The Indians secured their place in the State Tournament with that victory.

“That was a crazy game and an awesome moment for the team, because we clinched our spot at states,” says John. “There’s no better feeling than getting a win and having that win get us into the tournament.”

Head Coach Jeff DeMaio describes John as relentless worker who has no off-switch. DeMaio believes that John’s energy, leadership, and ability to perform in the clutch will be difficult for the Indians to replace.

“I think John really gained a lot of confidence this season, and that’s why we saw the spike in points. He’s a true leader and, in order to be that, you need to exude confidence,” DeMaio says. “John was as tough of a competitor as you’ll ever find. He made big plays and big shots all year for us. The program will miss him immensely.”

John credits his positive attitude for his constant improvement. By keeping an optimistic outlook, John turns apparent negatives into opportunities to grow.

“I’m a very positive person and player,” says John. “I enjoy making mistakes, because I learn a lot from them. I’m always looking for ways to improve my game, and you do that from making mistakes. The mental part of my game has improved a lot since my freshman year.”

Beyond the basketball court, John also plays third base for the Guilford baseball team. John nearly batted .300 as a junior last spring.

“Baseball and basketball are my two favorite sports for sure,” John says. “I couldn’t pick between the two as to which I like more, but I think I’ve seen my greatest improvements come in basketball for sure.”

In terms of academics, John ranks near the top of his class with a 4.20 grade-point average and was recently accepted to UConn’s biomedical engineering program. Once John graduates from Guilford, he plans to play sports in some form in college.

“That was huge for me. That’s a great program, and I was thrilled to get accepted there. School is a big part of my life, and I would say my dedication to the sport of basketball is similar to my academic mentality. I’m always striving to do my best,” says John. “Basketball and baseball have been such a big part of my life. I can’t just leave the sports that I gave my whole life to. I’m definitely going to play for fun in college, no matter what level it’s at.”