Arlington previews: New coach pilots promising Eagles
ARLINGTON -- Eight of the 10 players on the Arlington Memorial High School boys basketball team are seniors.
It's the coach who has to get up to speed.
Chris Taft, an assistant on the Arlington girls team last season, is in his first year leading the boys. He takes over for longtime coach Jim Corey.
"It's a change of pace for the kids but we have a veteran group, which makes for an easier transition," Taft said.
For only the second time since 1986, none of the Coreys will be leading an Arlington basketball team. Taft was chosen as the coach in September, giving him just a few months to get ready for the season.
"I'm putting in a new offense," Taft said. "It's about getting the kids accustomed to what I do as a coach."
Last season, Arlington finished the year 15-7, reaching the Division IV quarterfinals as a No. 7 seed. The team's lone junior, center DJ Jennings, will be the focus of the Arlington offense. Jennings, listed at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, will be bigger than most defenders he'll face this season.
Jennings led Arlington in scoring last year at 13 points per game and tallied more than 20 four times.
"We'll have strong post play, some of the best in Division IV," Taft said. "He's a big load for anyone. We want to work it inside-out and give him a chance to work underneath the basket."
Senior Alex Hawley will run the offense for a second year in a row. Hawley averaged nearly 12 points per game, but it will be his leadership that's the main key for the Eagles.
"He's improved from last year, he's a solid asset to our team," Taft said. "He's a good leader and handles the ball well. We'll have leaders all over the floor."
Two of those leaders will be seniors Olden Dwyer and Alex Trayah. Dwyer, the third leading scorer a year ago, averaged more than 8 points per game. Trayah will be strong near the basket but will have to step up if teams pack the lane against Jennings.
Other returning players for Arlington include seniors Josh Brace, Troy Sweet, Chris Manfredi, Kyle Tamburro.
"I've tried to emphasize how good it is for us to have [veteran players]," Taft said. "They can't take it for granted."
Freshman Austin Hawley could surprise as well. The 5-foot-9 guard, who played soccer in the fall, would be the sixth or seventh man off the bench.
"He really attacks the basket and comes to play every day," Taft said.
The veteran team needs to come together quickly as the Eagles open the season against Mount St. Joseph, the defending Division II champions.
"I'd rather go 12-8 and play a tough schedule than go 16-4 against a weak one," Taft said. "We have a good schedule. I want us to be battle-tested going into the playoffs." GIRLS BASKETBALL
* Coach: Larry Andrews (second season)
* Last year: 9-12, lost to Canaan in Division IV playdowns
* The team: Although the Eagles graduated its top two scorers in Sylvia Pike and Micah Andrews, nine of 10 players return. After sitting out last season with a torn ACL, senior Rayleen Sherman will be one of the difference-makers this year. "Rayleen is going to be our go-to person. Jennah's (Lacoste) going to try to run our offense," Andrews said. "And we have Molly Elwell and Julia Lacoste. They have a little bit of varsity experience." There are only three seniors on this year's squad, which include Sherman, Jennah Lacoste and newcomer Becca Bushee. The rest of the team is composed of five sophomores -- Julia Lacoste, Elwell, Brooke Hawley, Becca Solari, and Hannah Andrew -- and freshmen Avery Bucchieri and Shelby Baker. According to Andrews, defense will be the key to success this winter.
* Next game: Dec. 15 at West Rutland, 2:30 p.m.
-- Brandon Canevari
* Coach: Bianca Hoose (2nd season)
* Last year: No score at state meet
* The team: The most important thing for the Eagles is numbers -- 19 runners will compete for the Eagles, nearly double last year's total. "It makes me happy there is interest, it's definitely going up in Arlington," Hoose said. On the boys side, three seniors are the team captains and the leaders -- Aden Fischer, Peter Macksey and Duncan Gamble. Fischer, a year-round runner, tackles the 300 meters, 600 and a relay. Macksey runs the hurdles and sprints, while Gamble is the long-distance specialist. "They are the ones leading the team on [practice] runs, and showing the younger kids how to perform in certain events," Hoose said. On the girls side, senior Mazie Holton leads the Eagles. Holton is part of the relays, the shotput and the 55-meter dash. Junior Amber Welch, sophomore Anna Fischer and junior Savannah Pike are also in the mix.
* First meet: Saturday at Williams College, 10 a.m.
-- Adam Samrov
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