With a new coach and only four players back with varsity experience, the Pilgrim boys’ basketball team is getting a fresh start this season.
That might be a good thing for the Pats. Last year, while fellow Warwick schools Toll Gate and Vets moved to Division III for boys’ basketball, the Pats stayed in D-II and ended up in the toughest of the league’s four sub-divisions. Rogers, Tiverton, and Barrington all had at least 12 wins, while Pilgrim struggled to a 4-14 record.
The Pats are in the same position this year, but they’re ready to leave their struggles in the past.
“The kids’ attitudes have really been great so far,” said new head coach Mike Batalon. “I’m excited.”
Batalon, a Pilgrim teacher, isn’t new to the basketball scene. He had a three-year stint as the head boys’ coach at Vets and also was the interim Pilgrim girls’ coach for a season.
He inherits a team that’s short on experience. Only four players were on the varsity roster last year, and they didn’t all see big minutes.
But the Pats are optimistic.
“We’re very young, but I told the kids we have one goal for every game,” Batalon said. “It’s a tough goal but we just want to be the hardest-working team on the court in every game we play. Since we’re so short on experience, that’s what we have to do to have success.”
Sophomore Ryan Morris heads the list of returning players. As a freshman, Morris teamed with brother Bill to give the Pats a strong inside presence. His brother has graduated, but Morris should once again provide some punch in the paint.
“He’s our biggest player and he’s one of our most talented players,” Batalon said. “He played a lot last year so we’re going to rely on him a lot for scoring and rebounding inside.”
The other returning players are juniors Cole Furney, Kaelon Pittman and Luis Pimental. They have varying levels of experience but they’ll all be ready for bigger roles this season.
“Those four guys coming back are going to see a lot of time,” Batalon said.
Also in the mix are seniors Colin Douglas and Braedon Yoder-Logue, juniors Dan Colabella and Charles Johnson and sophomore Brendan Rix.
Together, those new players give the Pats some depth, but it may take a while for everything to come together.
“They’ve got to get used to playing with each other,” Batalon said. “I think just being out there, getting a couple of games under our belt, will be really good for us.”
Batalon sees defense as the team’s biggest strength. Without a proven scorer, it may have to be.
“We don’t have a lot of scoring, and we’re fairly athletic, so I think defense could end up being big for us,” Batalon said. “We want to play tough on that end.”
If it works, the Pats envision themselves using some full-court presses and playing a fast-paced game.
“We’re going to try to play up-tempo,” Batalon said. “I think we may struggle in half-court sets so if we can get out on the break and get some easy baskets, that would be good for us.”
It’ll be a challenge, especially considering Pilgrim’s competition. D-II’s top teams are strong and looking to contend for the overall state championship. There won’t be any nights off.
“We’re one game at a time,” Batalon said. “With a new system and a lot of new guys, it’s going to take some time. I wouldn’t rule out playoffs, but right now, we’re just focused on getting better.”
The Pats will open the season with an Injury Fund game tonight at 6 p.m. at Davies. They’ll visit Juanita Sanchez for a non-league game next Wednesday before opening up the league season next Friday with a 7 p.m. home game against Barrington.