Summer League Helps Irvington Hoops Players Hone Their Skills
by Tom Pedulla –
As the sun sets over the glistening Hudson River, enthusiastic young players develop their skills before appreciative fans without the pressure of winning. A better setting than the O’Hara Summer Basketball League at Scenic Hudson Park in Irvington may be impossible to find.
“It’s fantastic. It’s such a beautiful facility,” said Chris Starace, varsity basketball coach at Sleepy Hollow High School. “Thank you so much to Irvington for putting this together every year.”
Other coaches and players from nearby schools would undoubtedly echo his gratitude, for the seeds of winter success are sown in this idyllic summer setting.
“I always tell kids our season and our team starts to get formed in July,” said Scott Brennen, Irvington’s varsity coach. “Each year there is a different group of kids, different team chemistry, different personalities that have to jell and combine.”
The summer league is especially useful this year because local teams face especially stiff challenges. The Irvington girls, after reaching the state championship game, have the stern task of replacing four senior starters. The boys must find offense after guard Colby Martins, a prolific scorer, transferred out of the area. Starace has only three players – Saeed Alonzo, Manny Perez and Danny Williams – returning. The Sleepy Hollow girls are something of an unknown since they do not field a team in the O’Hara League.
For the Irvington girls, they are keenly aware of the work they must do to approach the lofty standards set by their predecessors.
“We had such a great team last year. We’re worried about how it’s going to turn out,” said guard Miranda Farman, entering her senior season. “Seeing everyone playing together in summer league, it’s really reassuring.”
For Irvington’s Mia Mascone, another player who will be a senior, being on any court is big. She tore the lateral collateral ligament in her knee in the opening quarter of the opening game in 2017.
“It’s not weird being out here. It feels just like it did a year ago,” she said of her return to the lineup. “It’s a fun way to get back into the game.”
Sydney Thybulle, an imposing center, views the summer league as a chance to show that Irvington can remain a force without the dynamic Martins.
“We definitely want to establish ourselves as contenders in our section,” he said. “We want to establish some kind of control of our league and definitely show what we have.”
Luke McCarthy, about to be a junior at Sleepy Hollow, is encouraged by what he sees this summer and has high hopes.
“I want a good season for our team, to make it far. That’s pretty much our goal,” he said. “I think this is really helpful. We get an early start.”
Starace welcomes that early start as he begins to evaluate players after high turnover.
“It really gives coaches an opportunity to kind of see what’s going on and players an opportunity to play and have fun,” he said.
Players work to develop certain aspects of their game. McCarthy is intent on improving offensively. Teammate Ben Good, who will be a sophomore, knows playing in the heat of summer will benefit his conditioning. Dylan Seymour, who will be a senior for the Bulldogs, works on becoming a tenacious defender. Farman aims at improving her shooting percentage.
Beyond that, summer competition helps players develop bonds with teammates they will always treasure, and even opponents.
“They get in the game and play hard; one wants to beat the other,” said Irvington girls coach Gina Maher. “And then the game’s over and they go for ice cream.”