Belmont Hill Varsity Basketball enters the 2017 season with two consecutive second-place finishes in the ISL. Success during these past two 2015 and 2016 campaigns has redefined the identity of a program that once struggled to post winning records. It was a mere three years ago that the team finished a disappointing 7-17. Having lost only three graduated seniors, this year’s squad will again be led by the impressive quadruple of Jake Haase ‘18, Jake Bobo ‘18, co-captain Jovan Jones ‘18, and co-captain David Mitchell ‘18. Together, along with returners TJ Agnihotri ’17, Pat Shea ’17, John Sommers ’17, Quentin Harris ’18, Spenser Smith ’18, Justin O’Neil-Riley ’18, and Kevin-Michael O’Boy ’18 and new faces Luke Jordan ‘18, Sean Mannion ‘18, Eric Taitano ‘18, and Jack Daley ‘17, they will work to cement Belmont Hill’s new reputation as a perennial ISL power. David Mitchell ’18 believes this year’s goals are clear: “win the ISL and advance past the first round of the NEPSAC Class A tournament.” Experience in the NEPSAC tournament will be key to the potential completion of the program’s ultimate goal: winning a 2018 Class A New England championship. Junior Jovan Jones stands by a quote from a February 2016 article in The Panel: “Senior year, the varsity team will be the best basketball team Belmont Hill has ever seen.”
An electrifying energy encircles this year’s team. When asked to describe the group in one word, Mitchell used excited. Plus, the return of Mr. Cofield, now on the faculty, has provided even more vitality. Cofield joins Martellini and Head Coach Murphy, finalizing a trio of very capable coaches. Benefitting from two years of success and eleven returning players, this year’s team is one that clearly has fun playing basketball. Although always serious about their work ethic and performance, players laugh in layup lines and joke around on water breaks. Winning is fun and enjoyment often leads to more success, a positive feedback loop captains Mitchell and Jones hope to take advantage of this winter. Already very athletic, the team will excel on defense, with 2016 ISL Defensive Player of the Year David Mitchell planning to set the tone.
Like any team, Belmont Hill has weaknesses, primarily a lack of size. Since the graduation of Jesse Wims ‘15, Belmont Hill has been without a true center. Mitchell, usually an SG or SF with his AAU team Mass Rivals, is often forced to play as the biggest on the team. Controlling the pace of the game and emphasizing a stringent defense will help to alleviate this issue. Mitchell also stresses the importance of focus for all thirty-two minutes of the game. With experience, the team avoids turnovers and silly mistakes even as fatigue increases.
Belmont Hill’s path to an ISL championship will certainly be filled with obstacles. Brooks, having finished either 1st or 2nd in the ISL since 2011, hopes to take 1st place after going undefeated in ISL play last year. Rivers, boasting Yale-commit Azar Swain and Villanova-commit Jermaine Samuels, also poses a large threat.
On December 7, playing in a packed gym with an impressive showing from The Loop™, the varsity basketball team defeated Rivers, a juggernaut of basketball talent. Playing perhaps one of the most impressive games in Belmont Hill’s basketball history, play from team leaders David and Jovan, as well as from sharpshooter Kevin-Michael O’Boy ‘19, set an admirable tone to start the game. Up 23-9 to start the game and pulsing with energy, Belmont Hill, who then led 41-33 at the half, held on to win 73-67. If last week’s win against Rivers is any indication, this season should be a fun one. With Brooks also winning their first game against Lawrence Academy (another strong ISL team), February 15th’s matchup between Belmont Hill and Brooks will be epic.