MAHOPAC, N.Y.— There is a light at the end of the tunnel for Mahopac boys basketball’s future after its freshman squad pieced together an undefeated 2016-2017 campaign, finishing 18-0.
“I never had a group like this,” second-year freshman coach Anthony Nappi said. “Not even speaking to their talent, they were truly a family. This is the best group I ever coached for any sport.”
Although it was an extremely talented bunch, the base ingredient for the great success was the determined effort put forth each game.
“The common theme throughout the entire year was that we owned every 50-50 ball,” Nappi said. “We outhustled you, no matter what. When the shots weren’t falling, we still outhustled you.”
The young Indians were tested on several occasions throughout the season, but unselfishly prevailed every time to remain unbeaten.
“My favorite stat about this team is that not one time during the season did a player ask me how many points they scored,” Nappi said. “That’s very rare to find. All they cared about was winning the basketball game and that desire to win made us so successful. They wanted to win more than anybody and that’s why they did it.”
Playing without its starting point guard and captain John Cosentino against rival Somers, Mahopac trailed by two points at halftime.
Its defense woke with a vengeance to steal the ball a number of times for over 20 points during the third quarter in the highlight victory of the year.
“That shows that we had the ‘next man up’ mentality,” Nappi said. “This team was very strong and did not necessarily rely on one person.”
Shooting guard Zach Esteves, a captain, exploded for 20 of his 26 total points in the second half of a win over Peekskill where the Indians trailed at halftime.
Another consistent element that the historic team featured was a knack for relying on teammates and staying close off the court.
“Everyone played their own role,” Esteves said. “They knew what they had to do and did it well. It was heart and hustle. Our team bonded really well, especially on the bus rides.”
Power forward Mike Kertelits, a team captain, definitely enjoyed his first taste of playing at the high school level with his peers.
“The best part is not only the basketball team, but the family we created,” Kertelits said. “Feeling the hype and enjoying the opportunity was great.”
Mahopac’s main cog of operation was an overwhelmingly aggressive defense. Only five teams on its schedule managed to tally over 30 points against it.
“Our most efficient thing was our defense this year,” eighth-grader Cosentino said.
The program’s future appears as bright as it has been in years. This freshman group believes they can change the varsity team’s fate in the future after a dismal 3-17 season this year.
“We have more heart and hustle than any team in the state,” Esteves said. “We play really well as a team with all five on the court, no matter who it is.”
Mahopac varsity boys basketball coach Matt Simone was impressed with the amount of passion the freshman squad played with.
“No matter who they played or what the score was in the game, they gave their best effort,” Simone said. “They also were an extremely tough and unselfish team. A big credit of that goes to coach Nappi, who preached those standards all season.”
Before any games of the incredible season, Nappi’s team set its goal right in place.
“The goal was that we wanted to bring Mahopac basketball back,” Nappi said. “It starts here and they know they have a lot of work to do. Hopefully we achieve it and bring back a lot of excitement around the program.”