Hand Boys’ Hoops Produces Solid Season Amidst Challenges
Senior captain Nick Donofrio and the Hand boys’ basketball team persevered through adversity to win eight games and advance to the semifinals of the SCC Division II Tournament this winter. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Junior transfer Tyler Favre made an instant impact for the Tigers by averaging 15 points per game on his way to earning a spot on the All-SCC East Division Team. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Center Michael Travisano led the Hand boys’ basketball squad as a senior captain alongside Nick Donofrio and Scott Testori throughout the 2021 campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Scott Testori and the Hand boys’ basketball team returned from a two-week quarantine and had a strong finish to their season this year. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Freshman Kyle Hoffman (left) garnered All-SCC East Division accolades on behalf of Hand boys’ hoops during the recent season. Pictured on the right is junior Trey Adams. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
The Hand boys’ basketball team put together one of its strongest years in recent memory during the 2021 campaign, but it wasn’t without its fair share of challenges. In the end, the Tigers were able to persevere through the setbacks to finish with an overall record of 8-6 to go with an appearance in the SCC Division II semifinals.
Hand had to deal with a two-week hiatus due to potential exposure to COVID-19 and was then forced to play six games in six days when the team returned to action. While it was a difficult situation, Head Coach Jimmy Economopoulos felt that all of adversity brought the Tigers closer together during the home stretch of their season.
“It was never normal. It was a major challenge from start to finish. We had a two-week quarantine and then came back to play six games in six days. So, we essentially did not have a practice for three weeks in the middle of our season,” said Economopoulos. “I was extremely proud of how our team handled themselves despite these challenges. Everyone on the team made sacrifices in order to ensure the safety of the people around them. The six-game stretch was grueling, yet they stuck it out, stayed together, and grinded away four wins in those six days.”
Even with the quarantine, Hand was able to play all 12 of its scheduled regular-season games, finishing at 7-5. The Tigers then opened up the playoffs by earning a 69-54 victory versus Cheshire in the quarterfinal round of the SCC Division II Tournament. Although his squad took a 44-41 overtime loss to East Haven in the semifinals, Coach Economopoulos was pleased with the sum total of his team’s campaign.
“As a team, I think everyone was disappointed with the way it ended, losing in OT at East Haven in the league semis. But as the sting from that loss wore off and I was able to look at the season as a whole, I think about how incredible it was that we were able to play 14 games,” Economopoulos said. “Especially for our senior group that gave so much to the program, it would have been devastating not to have had a season at all. You always want to win, but this season was much more than wins and losses. We took on a major challenge as a team, a school, and a community, and everyone stayed safe, healthy, and the kids got to experience a season.”
One of Economopoulos’s favorite moments of the year came when Hand faced Cheshire in the SCC quarterfinals. The Tigers had recently taken a double-overtime loss to the Rams in their first game back from quarantine, but gained a measure of revenge by defeating Cheshire in the postseason rematch.
“The postseason win against Cheshire was a great moment. We lost to them in double OT previously in the year, and it was good to get a chance at them again and come out on top,” said Economopoulos. “It was a total team performance with multiple guys contributing. It was also most guys on the team’s first postseason win.”
Senior captain guard Nick Donofrio had a solid season for Hand by averaging 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. Center Mike Travisano and guard Scott Testori also served as captains for the Tigers, whose other seniors were guards Chris Porte, Ryan Collins, and Jason Wallack.
“Nick Donofrio had a phenomenal run to end the season. He hit big shots for us in big situations and was critical in our strong finish to the season,” Coach Economopoulos said. “Nick, Scott, and Mike Travisano were critical in keeping us together as a team all year, especially when we went out on quarantine. We also had a number of young guys contribute in big ways. It was critical to get this shortened season in, so those guys could get experience. I think it will help us hit the ground running come next year.”
The Tigers were bolstered by the impact of junior forward Tyler Favre, who transferred to Hand at the beginning of the school year. Favre averaged 15 points with 9 rebounds and 2 blocks per game on his way to making the All-SCC East Division Team.
“Tyler Favre was an impact player all year. His consistency inside was something we took advantage of each game,” said Economopoulos. “He would draw multiple defenders, which gave us an advantage on the offensive end, and he was our leading rebounder in every game this season.”
Freshman guard Kyle Hoffman also earned All-SCC East Division honors after averaging 10 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the field. Junior guard Danny Hilmer led the team in 3-point percentage by shooting at a 47-percent clip from beyond the arc.
Hand’s roster for the 2021 campaign also included junior guards Jack Balletto, Morgan Veth, Trey Adams, and Jack Kayal. The Tigers’ sophomores class featured Sam Sisk, Reece Scott, Andrew Onubogu, Jacob Rachler, and Hudson Geremia, who are all guards; along with forward David Howe.