By KEN MORSE
Plainville boys basketball head coach Jim DiNello had the Blue Devils within one game of securing a spot in the state tournament three years ago and then the bottom fell out.
The last two seasons have been lean years as coach DiNello and assistant coach Jeff Smedick have been putting the pieces back in place rebuilding a young squad. Two years ago with just two seniors to lead the way Plainville went winless.
Last year, the skid ended with a win over Haddam-Killingworth in the Rybzcyk Holiday Tournament. Led by just one senior, the growing pains continued as the 1-19 Blue Devils dropped seven games by less than 10 points including an overtime set back and a one point and a three point loss.
The lack of experienced leadership has gone away as this year’s squad boasts eight seniors who are looking to leave their mark and turn the program around. Plainville was knocking at the door several times last year and this year’s squad is looking to take it off the hinges.
“We are going to be in a similar position as last year,” said DiNello. “We will be in the game in the fourth quarter with a chance to win. I think our senior leadership will be able to take us down the stretch of games.”
“We are looking to turn all those close losses last year into wins this year and I feel it’s the experience gained by these seniors that will put us over the top. We are going to have to get out in transition, attack the rim and get to the free throw line.”
The Blue Devils come into this season with a solid core of seniors who can put the ball in the basket. Ben Dougherty had multiple games in the 20 point range with a season high of 25 points scored.
Brady Callahan had several double digit games with a season high of 19 points scored. Dane Stephens uses his speed and athleticism to get the most out of his chances putting up several double figure games with a season high of 19 points scored.
The Blue Devils are not big inside but Sam Lestini has the determination to turn the outcome in his favor as he knocked down a season high 17 points a couple of times last season.
A threat out on the wing is Pierre Ramirez who was also a double digit scorer last year. Ryan Snyder is another outside scorer with Jason Mills making his presence felt under the basket.
Plainville will also have Peyton Warnat to complete the eight man senior rotation that has experience and leadership qualities to bring the Blue Devils back to prominence.
“Hopefully, we have some balance in our scoring,” said DiNello. “We are not really big inside. So we are going to have to push the tempo. For us to be successful offensively we are going to need to share the ball and have multiple guys scoring in order for us to put enough points on the board to be competitive.”
Defense will play a key role in the Blue Devils game plan. Last year, Plainville held five of its last six opponents in the 50’s and will need that trend to continue in order to remain competitive.
That will require a pressing defense and an up-and-down the court style of play. In order to do that, coach DiNello will need valuable minutes out of a deep bench that consists of sophomores Alec Couture, Tanner Callahan, Javan Paradis, and A.J. Lestini.
“Defensively, we are going to have to be stellar,” said DiNello. “We have quickness, athleticism and some flexibility size wise to play different schemes. When push comes to shove it will be our defense that will carry us.”
“The most important part and the key to success is someone is going to have to at some point drop in a 20 footer from the outside. If we get a couple of guys who can do that we can be pretty good.”
Plainville will get the season underway on Thursday at Wolcott Tech for a 6:45 p.m. start followed by a 2:30 Saturday tilt at Enfield. The Blue Devils will host Maloney at 6:45 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 17 for their first home game at the Ivan Wood Gymnasium.