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Senior captain Jimmy McGoey and the H-K boys’ basketball team will tip off the winter season by playing a road game versus Cromwell on Wednesday, Feb. 10. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Captain Alec Erskine is one of five seniors who will lead the Cougars into battle during the 2021 winter season. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Head Coach Jim Abbott has confidence in the club that’s hitting the court at Haddam-Killingworth this winter. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
After losing 8 of its first 11 games last year, the Haddam- Killingworth boys’ basketball team stormed back to earn berths in both the Shoreline Conference Tournament and Division V State Tournament. As he enters his fourth season at the helm, Head Coach Jim Abbott said that the 2021 edition of the Cougars has all the tools to keep the program headed in the right direction and notch its fair share of victories.
“In terms of this season, I have the best team I have had in my four years,” said Abbott. “I have five seniors who have been with me from the start and have become solid high school players. That, coupled with a talented sophomore class, should allow us to compete and hopefully win a lot of games.”
H-K finished with an overall record of 9-14 on its way to making Shorelines and states last winter. The Cougars took a first-round loss to Valley Regional in the Shoreline Tournament and then lost to Watertown in the opening round of states.
H-K graduated five athletes from last year’s team. This season, the Cougars will once again feature five seniors on their roster in captains Jimmy McGoey, Alec Erskine, Tony Giambanis, and Chase O’Linn, along with fellow senior Ronnie Scarpa.
McGoey, a center, returns to the Cougars after earning All-Shoreline Conference Second Team honors in a junior campaign that saw him average 12.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Giambanis is a combo guard/forward, Erskine and O’Linn are both guards, and Scarpa is a center for Coach Abbott’s club.
H-K also features a solid cast of sophomores who are slated to make an impact on the court this year. The Cougars’ sophomore corps includes guard Mason Gorham, who averaged double figures while starting as a freshman, along with forward Callen Powers and point guard Tate Callender.
The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the start of the winter season by two months in Connecticut. Coach Abbott and his athletes feel eager to hit the court and are on the road to face Cromwell for their first game on Wednesday, Feb. 10. H-K’s home opener is against North Branford on Friday, Feb. 12. Both games tip off at 5:30 p.m.
Like all basketball teams across the state, the Cougars will have to wear masks while competing throughout the season. The team’s athletes have been wearing masks during practices the past few weeks.
“COVID has been a major pain, but we are just happy to be in the gym. The guys seem to be getting used to the masks, and we have to have frequent mask breaks throughout practice,” Abbott said. “We try to keep the three teams—varsity, junior varsity, and freshman—in pods so that we mitigate the risks of transmission. It is a pain, but I feel we are adjusting OK.”
On top of dealing with the challenges of COVID-19, there will be no fans allowed to attend any of H-K’s games this year. Coach Abbott sees that difference playing a major role in the way that games unfold.
“I think not having fans will impact the intensity of the games,” said Abbott. “We hope to livestream our home games so people can watch at home, but trying to get the team fired up will be a challenge. But both teams will be dealing with the same thing.”
H-K’s roster also includes juniors Adam Alonzo, Declan Christopher, and Jaydan Zaitoun; sophomores Joe Giaccone, Tyler Perry, Benjamin DeCrosta, Dylan Coon, Kevin Harrison, and Jason Maziarz; and freshmen Ryan Erskine, Ben Mercier, Bryce O’Linn, Cooper Savoy, Blake Kamoen, Luke Hedges, Luke Mauri, Alex Battistoni, Cole Bruno, Jake DePino, Andres Montes, and Jonah Keithan.
Coach Abbott feels confident that Cougars have the pieces in place to produce a solid season in 2021. More than anything, Abbott really wants to send out his seniors on an upbeat note.
“This is just a great group of kids,” Abbott said. “We are doing everything possible to keep the season going forward for our seniors.”