MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Without a starter returning from a team that went 10-10 last season, the Mahopac varsity boys basketball team will rely largely on defense, athleticism and basketball smarts this winter on the hardwood.
And the Indians have the kind of athletes who can cause problems for opponents.

Seven players return from last year‘s squad that lost to Spring Valley in the first round of the playoffs. Major losses to graduation include All-Section and All-State Honorable Mention point guard and league MVP Justin Parker and All-Section center Ryan Dugan.

This year’s team will be led by a trio of senior guards who will serve as captains: Mike Argila, Drew Riolo and Tim Cegielski. Also returning are seniors Zach Puckhaber, Reahl Allen, Nick Burtt and Simon Shkoza.

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“The seven seniors we lost were the top seven players in our rotation,” Mahopac coach Matt Simone said. “Tim probably saw the most time, but none of them played a lot. Our three captains will set the tone on the defensive end. They’re great competitors and all multi-sport athletes. All three have done a phenomenal job on the defensive end.”

In fact, the coach thinks defense could be this team’s trademark.

“This team could be the best defensive team I’ve had in the four years I’ve been here,” Simone added. “We’ll press teams, try to force turnovers, run and gun.”

The Indians will look to a junior and three sophomore newcomers to energize the offense. 

Matt McMahon (junior), Vin Bastone, Luke Syku and John Cosentino join the team this winter. 

“Matt has really stood out on the offensive and defensive end,” Simone said. “And the three sophomores bring a different level of offense for us. We’re hoping they’ll help us on the offensive the end of the floor.”

Mahopac plays in a league with Arlington (Lagrangeville), Carmel, Roy C. Ketcham (Wappinger Falls) and John Jay (East Fishkill). Arlington’s Admirals edged Mahopac for last year‘s league title, which the Indians would love to reclaim.

“Last year we lost a close, tough game against Arlington late in the season with the league title on the line,” the coach said. “Arlington has won the last two years, so I think they’ll probably be the favorite. But I think we have a chance in every game, and one goal for us is to get the league title back at Mahopac.”

Simone believes if the team continues to improve, it can make a playoff run.

“A key for us will be how we defend in the paint, how we score and rebound,” he said. “How we defend against good teams with an interior presence… But I think we could be one of the toughest overall teams. We have a high basketball IQ, and this is an unselfish group. They really want to win. They’re not looking at the box score; they want to compete and win.”

Mahopac is scheduled to open the season Dec. 4 at 4:15 p.m. at Mount Vernon. The Indians play in the Panas tournament Dec. 7 and 8 at Walter Panas High School (Cortlandt Manor).