SHRUB OAK, N.Y. – Last year, Lakeland gave perennial Class A powerhouse, Tappan Zee, all they could handle in the first round of the Section 1 tournament, falling to the No. 2 seed, 80-70.

That experience of hanging tough against Tappan Zee, along with the knowledge they gained throughout the season, should bode well for the Hornets this winter, as they return plenty of talent from last year’s squad.

Lakeland, in fact, returns seven players from last year’s team that finished 11-11. They are seniors: guard/forward Jack Kruse (6 feet, 1 inch), guard Augie Karaqi (5 feet, 10 inches), point guard Jeff Owusu (5 feet, 9 inches), point guard Mike Arcure (5 feet, 8 inches) and forward James Barefoot (5 feet, 10 inches), along with juniors: guard Rob Nardelli (6 feet, 1 inch) and forward Bryan Cummins (5 feet, 10 inches).

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“All of them have been in our program the last several seasons and we will need their leadership and experience to be successful,” said Lakeland coach Steve Fallo, who is in his fifth year of being the head coach for the team after being an assistant for Henry Weltman for one season.

Kruse and Arcure will provide the leadership as captains.

“Jack Kruse and Mike Arcure have worked very hard in the offseason to prepare for the season,” Fallo said. “Their experience, work ethic and competitiveness will lead this team to attaining our team goals.”

Those goals are pretty straight forward.

“Hopefully we can compete for a league title and be competitive every game,” said Fallo, who before coaching the Lakeland boys, was a long-time coach of the Hornets’ girls squad, which included winning the 2007 Class A state title and reaching the state finals in 2010.

In addition to the seven veterans, the Hornets also have plenty of talented newcomers. They are juniors: center Kevin Keegan (6 feet, 2 inches), forward Aidan Welcome (6 feet), forward Reed Thompson (6 feet, 2 inches), guard James Apostolou (5 feet, 10 inches) and senior forward Landon Ruggieri (6 feet, 1 inch).

Ruggieri brings with him the experience of being a standout wide receiver from the Hornets’ football squad, where he earned the right to play for the North squad in the 2019 Exceptional Seniors Game.

“All of these players fill a need for our team,” Fallo said of his newcomers. “Each one can step on the court and contribute when needed.”

Lakeland will look to get what they need by running up and down the court.

“We play a fast paced game and can shoot the ball,” Fallo said. “Everybody on the team has a green light to shoot.”

The Hornets will open the season at Our Lady of Lourdes at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3. Lourdes went to the Class A state finals in 2017.

“We have spent a lot of time in the gym since last year and hopefully with all our returning players we can get off to a fast start against Lourdes,” Fallo said.

Lakeland will play its home opener at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, against Arlington in the opening round of the Relay for Life Tournament, with Tappan Zee playing Suffern in the first game at 4:30 p.m.

As of now, the consolation and finals of the tournament are scheduled for noon and 5:15 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7.

Another scheduling highlight is the annual Giglio Games at sister school Walter Panas, at 6 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 1.