GREENWICH — From 4-16, to 12-9 and an appearance in the CIAC Division II Tournament. Indeed, the Greenwich boys basketball team showed significant improvement during its 2018-2019 season, after struggling the previous season.
Now the Cardinals are intent on continuing to climb the ladder of success, though their roster has changed from their previous season of resurgence.
“I’m feeling pretty confident about our team,” Greenwich senior guard/co-captain Christopher Genaro said. “We lost a significant amount of guys from last season, but we have our backcourt back, which is a huge help. We have a lot of young guys back, which will fill holes. They are not very experienced, but they have the tools to produce.”
One of the squad’s leading scorers from last season, Genaro will be relied upon to lead the backcourt play, along with senior co-captain Max Steinman.
“It’s a younger team, but they played well on JV and I am excited to get together with this team,” Steinman said. “The year before we were 4-16, then we jumped to 12-9, and I think we’re just looking for greater things than that. We want to build on top of that.”
A late-season run propelled Greenwich into the state tournament last winter. The Cardinals were 6-6 over its first 12 games, before going 6-2 in its final eight matchups of the regular season.
“We had a lot of adversity,” GHS coach Chris Lovermi said. “We had injuries during the course of the season and we didn’t have home games for a while, because we had some court renovation issues going on. But we fought through the adversity and the second part of the season we were tough. We had some excellent wins.”
Greenwich opens its new season Saturday with a 12 p.m. home game against non-conference foe Hamden.
“Our goal is to win a championship,” Genaro said. “We want to win the FCIAC tournament make a run in the state tournament. If our goal isn’t that, than you shouldn’t be playing.”
AT THE HELM: Lovermi is starting his second season as coach of the Cards. Before taking over as head coach last year, he served as an assistant coach on the staff for four seasons.
A 12-8 regular-season record qualified Greenwich to compete in the CIAC Division II Tournament in Lovermi’s first year at the helm. Seeded 14th in the tournament, the Cardinals dropped a 56-48 decision to No. 19 Xavier in the first round.
“We were a little bit disappointed with our state tournament appearance, but I was very satisfied with what we accomplished last season,” said Lovermi, a guidance counselor at Greenwich High School.
WHO’S GONE?: Captains Oliver Milledge, Gavin Muir and Billy Nail were among the graduates from last season’s squad. The 6-foot-6 Milledge led the Cardinals in scoring, averaging double figures in points and rebounds his senior year.
Muir, who is playing football at Dartmouth, was a reliable presence in the frontcourt, while Nail brought consistent 3-point shooting and leadership at the forward position.
Chris Mark, who emerged as a scoring threat in the low post midway through the season, was also among some of the graduates, along with forwards Luis Mercado and Brian Ricks.
“We graduated a good group of seniors, who were a huge part of our team,” Lovermi said. “They were a tight-knit group and they really helped each other and believed in each other.”
WHO’S BACK?: The Cards return their starting backcourt in Genaro (6-foot-2) and Steinman (5-10).
“They’re versatile, we are going to depend on them, not only for their leadership, but for their court presence,” Lovermi said of the backcourt duo.”
With his ball-handling and shooting skills, Genaro can play both guard positions.
“Chris Genaro is very athletic and he is going to go from a secondary scorer to a primary scorer,” Lovermi said. “He has all attributes and we are looking for a big season from him.”
Steinman fills the role as the squad’s starting point guard.
“Max is going to play the point, he is going to control the tempo and we are going to depend on him for scoring as well,” Lovermi said. “He has progressed so much from last year and we are looking forward to a big year from him as well.”
Returning guards from last season’s team include, junior AJ Barber, senior Edward Hasapis and senior Daniel Lustosa. Barber starred on Greenwich’s football team, which won the Class LL championship in 2018 and made it to the Class LL quarterfinals this fall.
Back at the forward position are sophomore Chason Barber (6-3), junior Mason Muir (6-4) and senior Matthew Pilc (6-3).
Muir, Barber and Pilc were also members of Greenwich’s football team this fall.
“Our questions regarding the front court are being answered quickly,” Lovermi said. “Chason Barber has a world of potential and Mason Muir and Matt Pilc are also very athletic. The three of them are really leading the way.”
Among the first-year varsity players is junior guard Kobe Comizio, who also played a key role on the Cardinals’ football team.
STRENGTHS: “Our athleticism and our running are some strengths we are going to rely on,” Steinman said. “We run the floor really well and our guards — we have depth at the guard position this year. Also one of our biggest facets is defense.”
Said Genaro: “We have quick guards and big kids like Mason and Chason, so we’re a well-rounded team.”
Lovermi likes the team’s depth.
“We can play a lot of guys,” Lovermi said. “We’re deep, we’re athletic and we are going to be able to push the tempo.”
QUOTABLE: “There are no easy nights in the FCIAC,” Genaro said. “Top to bottom, the FCIAC is tough. If you take one night off, your opponent is going to hand it to you.”
SHOWDOWNS: Ridgefield, home, Jan. 3; New Canaan, home, Jan. 7; Darien, away, Jan. 10; Stamford, away, Jan. 14; Norwalk, home, Jan. 27; Danbury, away, Feb. 3; Westhill, away, Feb. 6; Wilton, home, Feb. 10; Trumbull, home, Feb. 19; Trinity Catholic, home, Feb. 24.