Rocco DeMaio has seen a lot of boys basketball teams play at Hopkins: as a young kid, as a player at the school and as the current coach of the team.
His 23rd team at Hopkins was pretty special. The Hilltoppers finished 19-6, tying the school record for wins. They also tied for the Fairchester League regular-season championship and reached the tournament final for only the second time.
So even though he may be a little biased coming off the run to the tournament final Saturday night, his comparisons do bear merit.
“These guys are right up there at the top,” DeMaio said. “The team I coached in 2007-08 (that reached the final) was good and tough but what we did this year I think we can play with all those teams.”
It started with senior guard Kofi Adjepong, who led the Hilltoppers at 15.5 ppg. Fellow guards, juniors Drew Nolan (12.2 ppg) and Charlie Zane 10.2). Another junior, Edens Fleurizard (13.7 ppg), a 6-foot-6 specimen, will be a force in the middle next season for Hopkins.
Five other juniors return, which means Hopkins will be a Fairchester contender again. But this year’s team did better than expected.
“The league was very competitive this year. Going in, I was realistically hoping to be in the top half n( of the league) and get a home playoff game (for the quarterfinals),” DeMaio said.
Hopkins beat Masters (N.Y.) twice during the regular season. That earned Hopkins the top seed when the two tied for the regular-season championship. Then Hopkins beat rival Hamden Hall for the fourth time in the quarterfinals, then St. Luke’s in the semifinals before facing Masters (NY) again Saturday on its home floor.
Hopkins jumped out to a 10-0 lead but was not able to sustain it. Masters defended its tournament title 60-49.
The biggest question when dealing with Hopkins and Hamden Hall is always: How competitive would the team be against the CIAC schools? Jay Karlins, the Hamden Hall coach, has no doubts.
“They would compete in the top half of the SCC (Southern Connecticut Conference),” said Karlins, who also coached at both Foran and Guilford. “Our league with the (35-second shot) clock makes it a completely different game to watch. Masters (NY) would beat any team in the SCC this year. Hopkins had guys make threes all year and they guard on every possession.”