HALF HOLLOW HILLS, New York, Mar. 5
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
Bill Mitaritonna had taken teams to a Suffolk County championship before Monday night. As head coach of the Half Hollow Hills High School West varsity boys basketball team, in fact, he’s been all the way to the Long Island Championship and into the state tournament during his 15 years with the program.
But, despite falling to Brentwood 80-60 in the Suffolk Class AA championship on March 2, not one of those other teams can quite compare with what the 2014-2015 Colts brought to the table.
“This is the best ‘team’ we’ve ever had,” Mitaritonna said. “This is the greatest assembly of unselfish kids we’ve had. They left their egos at home in November… They just wanted to work so hard to get to this point.”
After earning the no. 2 overall seed in this year’s county tournament, the Colts reached the championship game for the first time since 2011. Hills West faced No. 1 Brentwood (21-1), a team widely regarded as one of the best in New York, and fought hard but ultimately saw the game fall out of reach in the fourth quarter.
“We went up against a team that’s extremely talented,” Mitaritonna said.
After the game as the Colts reflected, and it became apparent what Mitaritonna meant when he said this was the best “team” he’d ever had.
“I was lucky to be a part of this team,” Justin Leonard, the Colts’ only starting senior, said. Leonard went for 13 points in his final game wearing a Colts uniform. “We’re all best friends… I’m going to miss all the fun moments we had.”
Senior Jon Faraci – dubbed “Mr. Fourth Quarter” by Mitaritonna for his clutch gene – scored 7 points against Brentwood. After taking a year off from basketball as a junior, Faraci made the decision to hit the court one final time as a senior before heading to St. John’s University – where he’ll play baseball – this fall.
“This was the best season of my life,” he said. “Deciding to come back and play basketball was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. I love this team. I made friends, and brothers, for life.”
Senior Josh Koval, another multi-sport athlete – he will play soccer in the fall at Lafayette College – sat out his junior year but found the court beckoning him as a senior. Although he may have preferred to end on a win, the senior said this playoff run was a great way to close out his career.
“To finish that game with my best friends on the court really meant a lot to me,” Koval, who scored 4 points, said. “It just made high school that much better.”
Hills West also graduates Owen Clark, Cody Clarson and Curtis Weingard, all who round out a senior class that Mitaritonna said will be missed.
The future, however, is bright. Junior Richard Altenord, a speedy forward who does most of the ball handling for the Colts, established himself as one of the team’s leaders on the court this season. Junior Kian Dalyrimple is a tall guard who is a threat to pull up from just about anywhere on the court. Cameron Jordan, a hard-nosed forward at 6-foot-5, already drives to the basket hard as a sophomore. Deven Williams, whose crossover left a few defenders stunned during the Suffolk final, will return next year as a senior point guard.
“I can’t wait to start working with them again; they’re just so young, they’re still growing,” Mitaritonna said. “The sky is the limit.”
Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills
(Thursday, Mar. 5, 2015; A23)