SOMERS, N.Y.-At the beginning of the season, Somers’ boys basketball team set three regular season goals: capture the league title, win their own tournament and help coach Chris DiCintio attain his 200th career win.
The Tuskers can now check two out of the three off their lists.
Somers cruised past league rival John Jay-Cross River 74-42 to help DiCintio get his milestone win on Jan. 25 at home.
“It’s certainly extra special because my son is obviously on the team, he’s a senior and he means the world to me,” DiCintio said. “But I also have several other kids on this team that I’ve been coaching since the fourth or fifth grade with Lorenzo Bicknese, Gio Tradito, Kevin Halper and Jack Gilroy. It was great to see some of the other guys that have played for me for many years like Justin Lancaster and Vinny DiFilippo, come and support the kids and myself. John Decker and Pat Melly, who were on my original team when I started with, to see them come out…Those were the guys that really put Somers on the map. It’s been nothing short of marvelous to come into your town and coach the kids that you see in the town all the time and help them get to this point.”
DiCintio, who is aided by associate head coach Darryl Atkinson and assistant coach Moshe Toledano, said he got into coaching because he loves basketball and mentoring kids.
“I love teaching the game,” DiCintio said. “Early on in my career, I didn’t know if I would get 10 wins, let alone a hundred wins. To think about 200 wins and the longevity that it takes to get there, is something that I never really thought about. However, the relationships that I made with my kids over the years is really what kept me in the game this long. This is really just an extra special group that gives me more energy to want to keep going.
“Darryl started with me at Rye and he’s been a big part of helping me establish both programs. Moshe has played a big part in establishing the Somers program. I can’t do it without these guys. They’re tremendous. We truly are a team.”
DiCintio, who started his career as an assistant with Somers in 1997, coached at Rye for 11 seasons before coming back to Somers in 2012.
A balanced attack led the Tuskers with Lorenzo Bicknese (14 points), Max Germaine (13 points, career-high) and Gio Tradito (11 points) leading the way. DiCintio Jr. (nine points), Drew Lasher (eight) and Lucas Fecci (five) also chipped in.
“Congratulations to coach Chris—it’s a great moment seeing him get this 200th win with us,” Tradito said. “He’s a player’s coach and he handles situations well. He comes into every game confident and with the same demeanor. He’s persistent in everything that he does.”
DiCintio Jr., Chris’ son, was proud to see his father reach the milestone. He’s coached many of the Tusker seniors since they were young with his East Coach Panthers AAU program.
“He’s given us so much. Every day in practice he’s so intense,” said DiCintio Jr., a senior captain. “Obviously, everyone’s going to think it’s bias, but he is the best basketball coach I’ve ever had. Just the way he presents himself and puts so much effort into everything, it’s unbelievable. I’m so happy for him…Everybody looks at him as a friend. It’s a family atmosphere.”
Germaine, a junior, had a breakout performance and his two-handed jam extended the lead to 62-36 midway through the final quarter and put the icing on DiCintio’s cake.
“If Max can play like that we’re a different team,” Tradito said. “I don’t think we’re 32 points better than [John Jay] and that’s no disrespect to our team, but they’re a good team. The way Max played tonight really showed on the scoreboard.”
Somers is normally in-your-face and intense on defense and that was on full display. The Tuskers forced the Indians into a plethora of turnovers with their matchup 3-2 zone.
The Tuskers led 33-10 in the second quarter after a DiCintio three and Fecci three-point play. John Jay climbed back in it to cut the deficit to 34-21 but Somers put its foot back on the gas pedal in the third.
“We’re a second half team. When we come out hot like that we know it’s only going to get better,” DiCintio Jr. said. “Basketball is a game of runs. You’ll get punched, you’ve got to eat it. We ate their punch and just gave it right back to them and never looked back.”
Two days later, they continued their surge when they routed North Salem 68-31 in the championship game of the 22nd annual Michael DePaoli Memorial Tournament. It was the first time the Tuskers won the tourney since 2015.
Somers stormed out of the gates, leading 24-8 after one quarter and 42-13 at halftime.
“All season it’s been chemistry,” Bicknese said of the success on offense. “The last couple games our shots have just been falling. We’ve been practicing well together, pushing the floor and practicing running a lot. Honestly, we’re just listening to coach. We’re just following the game plan and doing what he tells us. Without him, we couldn’t do it.”
Bicknese and his fellow senior captains have been on the varsity since sophomore year and it’s their first time winning the tourney in their final chance.
Bicknese, who scored a game-high 24 points, was named the tournament MVP. Fellow senior captains Jack Gilroy and Chris DiCintio Jr. (four points) were named to the all-tournament team.
Germaine and Tradito netted 10 and nine points, respectively. Two straight Germaine three-point plays gave the Tuskers a 60-23 lead late in the third.
Kevin Halper added five points while Charlie Weissman had four in the win.
Tradito suffered a broken ankle in the second quarter and the Tusker point guard will miss the remainder of the season, DiCintio confirmed.
The Tuskers cruised past visiting Lakeland 76-52 on Jan. 23, behind 27 points from Bicknese and 21 points from DiCintio Jr. Gilroy added seven points.
Somers grinded out a 59-55 win over host Brewster on Jan. 29. Fecci (24 points) and Bicknese (21 points) led the way.
“It was gut check time,” coach DiCintio said. “Not sure how we pulled it out. Good teams find a way to win but it wasn’t pretty.”
Somers has won 10 out of its last 12 games, with its only losses coming to Class A favorite Saunders and Class AA Section 9 power Pine Bush.
The Tuskers, who are 5-0 in league play, will look to earn their first league title since 1989 this week. They were scheduled to travel to John Jay-Cross River on Jan. 31 and host Walter Panas at 6:45 p.m. two days later.