Basketball Preview: Falcons willing to work for repeat of last season
Given the circumstances, the success Frontier enjoyed last season is more of an anomaly than the norm. While all high school programs must rebuild and reload after losing players to graduation, the Falcons were dealt a hand that included having to replace just about the entire offensive output from the year prior.
But as it turned out, Frontier would have a group of dedicated basketball players waiting in the wings to break out and lead the team to a 16-4 mark and a first trip in three seasons back to the semifinals at Buffalo State College.
Although this year’s group resembles last year’s in that its hungry to prove itself and enjoys the game, Frontier head coach Gary Domzalski is confident that the team is not just expecting to follow suit; it’s working hard to accomplish it.
“There’s a fine line between expecting to do well again without the same kind of effort and acknowledging the fact of how hard we worked to get where we were,” said Frontier’s 27th-year head coach who earned his 400th win last year as a head coach. “They learned from the example of last year’s team and I don’t think they’re just expecting it.”
Like last year, the chemistry is solid, the coach seems to have a quiet confidence and the team includes a plethora of players whose offseason was busy spent playing basketball. Many of the varsity players compete in a league in a community center in Buffalo, as a team in a Hamburg Recreation League and are generally known as “gym rats” at a local facility.
“I want them to just relax, have fun and enjoy the game,” Domzalski said. “You’re always lucky when you’ve got guys who don’t leave the gym. That’s a big plus, as opposed to the guys who put the ball away and just pick it back up in November. These guys love to play.”
Still, there is no getting around having to replace ECIC Division I First-Team all-star forwards Matt Taylor and Alex Warren, who each averaged over 16 points and eight and six rebounds, respectively. Also in last year’s senior class of four was starting point guard Remington Heil, who was the group’s court leader.
The only starter back is senior guard Kevin Marcinkowski, who will move from shooting guard to the point. Marcinkowski hit a number of clutch shots last season, including late-game winners in both victories over Class AA final four team Williamsville North.
Part-time players from last season who return with the potential to have breakout years include senior guards Brandon Jewett and Tyger German and 6-foot-3 junior forward David Rajski.
“Similar to last year, we have some guys this season who have to have great senior years; most of those guys are going to have to lead us,” Domzalski said. “Kevin is our only proven guy. He’s been in tight games and made big shots for us. We’ll see how the other guys react to being the star of the show as opposed to the understudy.”
Juniors AJ Licata and Eric Hatten, who began last season on the varsity squad, will be back this season looking to make contributions, both as versatile 6-foot-1 players who could play forward or guard. Also returning in bigger roles will be seniors Shawn Fisher at forward and Spencer Avery at guard.
Players from the junior varsity who should make an immediate impact include Pat Quinlivan, a 6-foot-3 junior forward, and sophomore guard Jay Bergmann. Junior forward Nick Shaul is up from the junior varsity, while senior Mark Antonik worked hard to make the team after being cut last year.
Also like last season, Frontier will not have a lot of size. “We’re going to have to shoot the ball well,” Domzalski noted. “If we do that, we should be pretty good.
Domzalski acknowledged the challenges that will continue to come from playing a 12-game schedule in the difficult ECIC Division I. Defending Section VI champion Jamestown should be a force again, while North brings back one of WNY’s best players in Sterling Taplin.
“I think it’s a testament to this division that three of its teams played at Buffalo State,” said Domzalski, who’s also weary of rival Orchard Park, Lancaster, Clarence and West Seneca West.
Frontier Boys 2012-13 Schedule
Tues., Dec. 4 Lions Club Tourney
vs. Hamburg at Frontier 7:30 pm
Friday, Dec. 7 Lions Club Tourney
consolation/championship 6, 7:30 pm
Tues, Dec. 11 vs Dunkirk 7:30 pm
Fri., Dec. 14 at W.S. West 6:30 pm
Fri, Dec. 18 vs Orchard Park 7:30 pm
Thur., Dec. 20 at Clarence 7:30 pm
Thur., Jan. 3 vs. W.S. West 7:30 pm
Tues., Jan. 8 vs. Will. North 7:30 pm
Fri., Jan, 11 at Jamestown 7:30 pm
Tues., Jan. 15 at Lancaster 7:30 pm
Fri., Jan. 18 vs. Nichols 7:30 pm
Sat., Jan. 26 at Orchard Park noon
Tues., Jan. 29 vs. Clarence 7:30 pm
Fri., Feb. 1 at Will. North 7:30 pm
Tues., Feb. 5 vs. Jamestown 7:30 pm
Fri., Feb. 8 vs. Lancaster 7:30 pm
Tues., Feb. 12 vs. St. Joe’s 7:30 pm
Fri., Feb. 15 at Starpoint 7 pm