Guilford Boys’ Hoops Preparing to Storm the Court
Senior captain Jake Ciocca and his teammates on the Guilford boys’ basketball squad are ready to hit the court running for the winter season. The Grizzlies begin their campaign with a road game versus Sheehan on Thursday, Feb. 11. (Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier)
Senior guard Evan Ghoreyeb and the Grizzlies are scheduled to play 12 games against fellow SCC teams during the 2021 season. (Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier)
Cal Bucci is a key member of the junior class for the Guilford boys’ basketball team this year. (Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier)
Junior Theo Freeman and the Grizzlies played an intrasquad game last week to help themselves tune up for the upcoming season. (Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier)
The Guilford boys’ basketball squad finished last year with a record of 9-12 on its way to qualifying for the Southern Connecticut Conference Tournament and the Division II State Tournament. Guilford’s record was symbolic of the progress that the team had made from the previous season, in which it went 7-13 and missed out on the playoffs.
Entering the 2021 campaign, Head Coach Jeff DeMaio is hoping that the Grizzlies can continue their upward trajectory and be competitive on a night-in, night-out basis. Guilford is scheduled to tip off the winter season by playing an away game against Sheehan on Thursday, Feb. 11, after which the Grizzlies are slated to face Hand on the road the following night. Both games begin at 7 p.m.
“We are hopeful to put a very competitive team out there on the court each night,” said DeMaio. “It will take us some time to get back in basketball mode, but we hope to be ready by the first game. We were only able to start on [Jan. 25], so we are really just getting started.”
Guilford lost five of its first six games last season, but then started to turn things around by winning five of its next six on its way to qualifying for the playoffs. After losing in the first round of the SCC Tournament, Guilford was scheduled to play Kolbe Cathedral in the opening round of states, but the tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Guilford graduated four seniors from last year’s team in captain John Petonito, along with Chris Cahill, Brayden SantaBarbara, and Cade Yerkes. The Grizzlies will miss having those four players in the rotation, but Coach DeMaio feels confident that his program has plenty of athletes who are ready to make their mark on the varsity court.
“Every year is a new year in so many ways,” DeMaio said. “It’s always hard to replace what you have graduated, but we feel that we have guys that are ready to step in and do the job.”
Senior guards Jake Ciocca and Jack Stanton are serving as the Grizzlies’ captains in 2021, and Coach DeMaio sees both players making key contributions to the squad. Guilford’s other seniors are center Jackson Tandler, guards Evan Ghoreyeb and Tristan Anderson, and forward Aidan Buchanan. The team’s junior class features guards Theo Freeman and Cal Bucci.
“We have two captains: senior guard Jake Ciocca and senior guard Jack Stanton. Both saw significant varsity minutes last year,” said DeMaio. “Other impact guys should be senior center Jackson Tandler. He also played considerable time last year. Juniors Theo Freeman and Cal Bucci are also expected to have an impact.”
Guilford has 12 games on its regular-season schedule—all against fellow SCC opponents. The Grizzlies will play two games against Wilbur Cross to go with single contests versus Sheehan, Hand, Cheshire, Branford, Lyman Hall, North Haven, Xavier, East Haven, and Hamden.
While there are plans to hold conference tournaments this winter, there won’t be any state tournaments. There also won’t be any fans in the stands when the Grizzlies take the floor. While that is going to be a difficult adjustment, Coach DeMaio understands that it’s important to stay safe in order to ensure everyone’s welfare and complete the season as scheduled.
“Dealing with COVID will not be easy, but we have all the protocols in place, and we are hoping to have as normal a season as possible,” DeMaio said. “I know that no fans will be tough, especially for the parents of senior players. But I also know that the players want to play and we need to do what is necessary to stay on the court. Having fans is just not a feasible option right now.”
Guilford’s roster is also expected to include junior forward Cal Stephens, junior center Brady Lynch, sophomore guard Ryan Alviti, sophomore forward Kevin Goldberg, sophomore guard Justin Hess, sophomore guard Brenden Skoglund, sophomore guard Luke Ste. Marie, sophomore forward Riley Swan, sophomore forward Tyler Yerkes, and sophomore Isaac Ott Hill.