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Housatonic boys basketball team has bounce back season. A story by John Torsiello.

POSTED February 12, 2011
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney


By, JOHN TORSIELLO

What a difference a year makes.

Last season at this time the Housatonic High School boys basketball team was wallowing through an 0-14 start. A year later, the Mountaineers were 9-6 and coming off three straight victories heading into a big showdown with Gilbert on the road.

So why the turnaround?

“It took us a long while to get things sorted out last year,” said head coach Dave Battistoni, who is in his third year on the job. “I don’t really know why that happened. We went to the state tournament the year before but last year things didn’t come together.”

However, the Mountaineers did win four of their last six games of the 2009-2010 campaign, which was perhaps a harbinger of things to come.

“We have more of a team this season, better chemistry,” offered senior point guard Andrew Hoffman, who was averaging 7.6 points and 3.8 assists a game in his team’s first 15 contests. “There really are no issues on this team and everybody contributes.”

Said Battistoni, “You look at the stats and they are really spread out. We have nice mix of kids in the program with some strong senior leadership, a few juniors and good underclassmen.”

Ray Mohring, a sophomore, is leading the team in scoring with 11.7 points a game. Senior Corey Christensen, who missed the first 10 games of the season with a hand injury suffered during soccer season, is scoring 9.3 points a game, and junior Donyell Williams is scoring 9.1 points a game. Williams leads the team in rebounds with 8.1 a game, while Christensen is hauling down 6 boards a game and Mohring 5.9 caroms a contest.

“We don’t have any really big guys,” said senior Reilly Lynch, who averages 4.3 points and 3.2 rebounds a game, “but we can all rebound and we have pretty good height across the board.”

Christensen, who said his hand injury is improving, is becoming more of an offensive threat.

“It took a while,” he said of the injury to his shooting hand, “but it feels much better know.”

Battistoni said Christensen’s absence from the starting lineup actually was a blessing in disguise.

“It gave guys a chance to play who might not otherwise have gotten a lot of time. Wilson Terrell (5 points and 1.6 rebounds a game), a junior, started those 10 games in place of Corey and did a great job. I can go eight or nine guys deep and that is a big plus for our team.”

Others who see time for the Mountaineers include 6-4 junior center Tyler Dean (2.6 points, 2.4 rebounds game), junior Berkay Alpagut, a transfer student from Turkey, and sophomore Justin Fortsmann.

“Tyler helped us beat Wamogo by scoring 10 points,” said Battistoni, “Berkay had six points against Shepaug, and Justin is a rugged kid who helps on defense.”

A number of Housy’s wins have been nail biters. The Mountaineers beat Shepaug by a point to open the season and then topped Wamogo by three points in their next game.

“Last year, we lost our first two games by close scores and this year we won the first two by only a few points,” said Battistoni. “Who knows what would have happened had we lost those first two like we did last year.”

Housatonic beat Lewis Mills by a point, 45-44, Shepaug again by two points, 54-52, and Litchfield by a point, 37-36. The Mountaineers also lost to Northwestern by a point, 53-52, on a controversial call late in the game, and by six points each to Litchfield (46-40) and Wamogo (42-36).

“We play tough defense but we have trouble scoring at times,” said Battistoni. “Sometimes when you work so hard on one end of the floor it’s difficult to get into an offensive flow.”

Housatonic goes with basically a two forward/three guard attack, with Reilly serving as sort of a swingman at times.

Hoffman said the recent win over Litchfield was his team’s biggest of the season.

“That one felt good because they are a tough team and we had quite a few people in the gym that night.”

Building a winning program at Housatonic, a regional high school, is never an easy task. Students come from several towns and play against rather than with one another through the eighth grade.

Said Battistoni, “There are six grammar schools that are K through 8 in the towns of the region and they play one another, so the kids don’t have a chance to play together a lot until they get to high school, which makes it kind of a challenge. There are actually town rivalries that build up through the grammar school teams.”

Christensen said it all works out once the kids hit high school.

“Andrew and I have played together since fifth grade and a number of the guys on the team played on travel teams that are made up of kids from the various towns. So, we do know each other a little before we get to high school.”

With nine wins under its belt with two weeks to go in the regular season, Housy was looking to finish strong. After Gilbert, the Falls Village club has home games against Northwestern (Monday) and Lewis Mills (Wednesday), visit Terryville Feb. 21, and then wind up at home against Berkshire League leader Nonnewaug Feb. 23.

“I would like to get at least two wins in the final five games and that would get us to 11 wins,” said Battistoni.

“We definitely would like to win as many games as possible and get a home game in the state tournament,” offered Lynch.

However this season turns out it’s been a marked improvement over last year. Battistoni feels good about the future.

“I think the program is in good shape because we have some really talented freshmen coming up and some good sophomores who are getting playing time this year. I believe we will be competitive for some years to come.”

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