Coming up on the crowning moments of their 2012-13 season, Thunderbirds boys basketball varsity coach Mike Branagh says the team should be proud of what they’ve accomplished so far, and says they are ready for tournaments coming up at the end of the month.
Just qualifying for the county and state tournaments this season was a big deal, Branagh said. Last year, the team won only four of its games, and was not eligible to play in either. With five games left in the regular season this year, the team is 12-9, and even beat Dwight-Englewood 51-48 in the first round of the Bergen County Jamboree tournament last week.
Despite a reported loss to top-seeded Teaneck in the tournament’s Round of 16 this weekend, Branagh says the team is on track to do well in the upcoming tournaments.
“This was my first year with the team,” the coach, who had previously been with the girls’ basketball team, said. “And, they’ve been playing really well – focusing on defense and on having fun playing the game of basketball. So far, it’s been a really fun year for us.”
The team is senior-heavy, he said, with eight starting seniors and one sophomore. One of its strengths, Branagh said, is the make-up of kids.
“Most of them play other sports, and I coach other sports. So, I knew a lot of them, they knew each other and are familiar with competitive atmospheres, so it made the transition much easier.”
Branagh pointed out team members who have made big strides this season – seniors Mike LeNiw, “a great leader and our top-scorer,” Greg Rozar, who he said shoots the ball “really well,” Chris Baldi, a baseball player and team leader who “is a great, smart kid who has really contributed,” Jack Giudezzi, who is “very committed and wants to win,” Zach Herrmann, the QB of the football team, and “a good defensive player,” Matt Bush, who “really is like having a coach on the floor; he is relentless on defense,” Mike Hogan, “a real team-first guy who helps anyway he can,” Cole Fabio, a baseball player who “is a great all around athlete,” sophomore Kevin Trembley, who is “calm under pressure and only gets better with each game,” and Junior Brad Stiles, who, “does anything you ask of him. He’s a great kid.”
When all of the ingredients work together, Branagh said the team could definitely be a force to be reckoned with.
“One of our best traits is that the kids all get along, and they root for each other,” he explained. And, the team members all share the same goal – winning the state tournament at the end of the month.
“If we continue to work hard and stick together, I think it could happen for us this year.”