On Tuesday night, the Statesmen proved they’re still a force to be reckoned with, as they destroyed visiting Highland 76-53. Coleman jumped out to an early 23-10 lead, winning every quarter on their way to the victory. With Chris Chatelain (25 points), Ben Mesuda (21 points) and Donny Timbrouck (16 points) leading the way, the Statesmen looked every bit as dangerous as they did one year ago.
Coleman opened the season in similar fashion, stomping Rondout Valley 58-30 in the season opener on Dec. 1. They stumbled a week ago in their Mid-Hudson Athletic League (MHAL) opener against Rhinebeck, but the dominant performance against Highland shows they’re at least able to rebound from a disappointing outing.
Alex Albany returns this season to coach the Statesmen, and while he admits the team’s first state finals appearance in nearly three decades will be a tough act to follow, though he’s hopeful they’ll be able to continue their streak of winning the Section 9, Class D title before the year is up.
High school teams don’t exactly have to start from scratch every season, but they do have to contend with the annual task of replacing outgoing seniors. The Class of 2010 produced some of the program’s best basketball players in recent memory, including MHAL Player of the Year, Jacob Palmer. Also lost to graduation were starters Kyle Chambers, Phil Timbrouck and Paul Lettieri, as well as reserves Mike Smith and John Quigley.
Chatelain and Mesuda bring varsity leadership in their senior seasons, while Timbrouck and Jordin Shaw are on Coleman’s top squad for the first time. Also new to the team are Kevin Mackey, Austin Koo, Justin Bressack and Evan Ducker.
Albany said the team’s success will depend upon how well they become a single functioning unit, with every player contributing with the goal a win every time they step onto the court. Albany is joined again by assistant coaches Corey Chambers and Jeff Tomaseski.
Chatelain will prove tough for opposing front line players to defend in the post. A center with a deadly inside-outside game, Chatelain can rebound, pass and hit consistently both in the paint and from outside the three-point arc. He’s been paying since the seventh grade, finding his way to the sport so he wouldn’t find himself doing something less productive with his time.
“Well, it was a way to stay out of trouble,” he said. “It’s very competitive and people love to watch the game. I have to say that it’s fun.”
Transfer from Tigers
Timbrouck, who looks set to run the point and work the small forward position this season, has been playing basketball since the age of 6. Timbrouck transferred to Coleman from Kingston High before the start of this year, and he’s enjoyed the change of pace.
“Since the beginning of the summer, I started working out with the team,” he said. “I wanted to try something new and I am glad I came to Coleman; it’s a lot better. I like the intensity and that my teammates are like my brothers and we all get along.”
That intense chemistry is something Albany hopes will help carry his team through a season where they’re suddenly under the microscope. For four years, the school’s varsity girls’ team has been one of the state’s best teams, and while the boys’ team improved consistently during each of those seasons, last year’s surprise isn’t likely to leave them catching anyone off guard in 2010-11.
Bressack, a junior guard, is also new to the varsity team, though he played on Coleman’s JV squad for the past two seasons. He said he believes the team’s talent and heart will be what determines how their season shakes out.
“I feel like some of our key strengths are that we are strong defensive team, we have a good mix of athletic ability, team defense, communication, and most importantly the desire to be shut a team out completely and get them out of their rhythm,” he said.
That was certainly evident through most of the Highland game, where the team ran its offense with little opposition while still managing to put up an impressive defensive front on the other end of the court.
This Statesmen squad will have undoubtedly heard about the ghost of last year’s accomplishments in relation to everything they’ve done so far this year, and they must also know the only way to take advantage of that is to carve out their own success.
“Well, last year we didn’t reach our goal, and that was to win it all,” said Chatelain. “This year the plan is to head back to the state final four and win it all.”
For the varsity players, it’s about more than living up to the expectations of success generated by last season’s terrific run: It’s about hard work and pride.
“It would reflect all the time we put into the gym for being the very best, pushing each other not to benefit our personal success, but the success of the team,” Bressack said. “It would be a good feeling seeing our hard work pay off and reach our common goal in winning a state championship.”
Chatelain added that he thought it would mean a lot to the Coleman community as well.
“Succeeding at Coleman means much more than basketball,” he said. “It has a meaning of legacy, and legacy is a big part of life. I know when I succeed and graduate, many people would be very proud of me. Going to Coleman sets higher standards for us as students. We expect to have better grades, be better students, and just do better overall in school than in public schools. Succeeding at Coleman means so much for teachers and staff and parents and ourselves as students.”
The Statesmen travel to Ellenville for varsity hoops action on Friday, December 17. They return home the following Wednesday to host Valley Central in non-league action.