Despite graduating eight seniors, the future still looks bright for the Bordentown Regional High School boys basketball team.
A solid core of eighth-graders are also graduating from Bordentown Middle School and headed for the high school. And it’s not just any old crop of players, according to 13th-year coach Kristian Rivera.
“This group was probably one of my most talented groups,” Rivera said. “I compare them to the seniors that are at the high school now. I’m excited to see how these guys do the next four years.”
Bordentown finished 7-2 and shared its division title with Pemberton and Foundation Academy Charter School of Trenton. All three teams went 1-1 against each other.
It was the first game with Foundation that nearly ruined the Bobcats season. During the first half, they lost center Brock Schenck to a season-ending injury.
“That was a tough loss because he was kind of the heart of our team; he was an important player,” Rivera said. “And he just made the hustle plays. Our team’s energy fed off him. When we lost him in the middle of that game you could feel the heart of the team got sucked out a little bit. We weren’t sure how we were going to recover.”
Swingman Julian Anderson, the team’s leading rebounder, wasn’t sure either.
“We got a little shell shocked,” Anderson said. “The first two games we were out of it. After that we started working harder and we were just playing for him. It brought us closer together.”
Bordentown showed just how well it had galvanized when it defeated Foundation in the rematch.
“That was our best game,” said Anderson, whose brother Jordan plays on the BRHS varsity. “It was mainly for Brock because he had hurt himself twice (including a knee injury last year). They beat us by seven the first time and we came back to beat them.”
Rivera added “We wanted that game really bad especially after losing Brock the first time. It came down to the wire and it was just a great win.”
Schenck was a tri-captain along with Anderson and point guard Myles Hansford. Schenck and Hansford were on the team since sixth grade and Anderson joined last year after transferring from St. Raphael’s in Hamilton.
Hansford led the ’Cats with 15 assists and was second in steals (28) and scoring (8.2 ppg).
“Myles is very calm, cool and collective on the floor,” Rivera said. “He showed great leadership, he was great defender, he saw the court well and was able to make big shots when we needed them.”
Anderson started the season on the perimeter and was counted on as being a slasher to the hoop When Schenck went down, that role altered.
“He played inside more,” Rivera said. “He really helped us, becoming a defensive stopper and just playing a great all-around great game. He was a gritty, tough player for us. This one game he was very sick but he knew we had to win that game and he was out there on the court and gave it his all.”
Anderson finished third on the team in scoring with an 8.0 average and led Bordentown in rebounding with 6.7 per game.
“I would play down low but I could also shoot the ball or drive or do any of that,” he said. “Whatever the team needed me to do I would do it.”
Eunmin Choi and Elijah Dean were also key players in the rotation.
“We try to play quick up and down the court,” Rivera said. “Eumin was a very speedy guard that helped push the tempo and he could shoot from the outside.”
Dean was the team’s leading scorer (10.2 ppg), second-leading assist man (10) and leader in steals (31).
“He was another phenomenal player for us,” Rivera said. “This was his first year on the team. I wish I had him two more before that. He was great at getting to the hole. Moments when we needed points he would kind of step in, take over. He was great defensively as well.”
Another guard in the rotation was Charles Appong, who did everything a backcourt man should do.
“He was good at handling the ball, driving in the paint,” Rivera noted. “He was good defensively, he was able to get steals, he would jump in the passing lanes.”
One of the players forced to step up his inside presence when Schenck went down was Andrew DaCosta, another three-year player. DaCosta was second on the team with 39 rebounds.
“He’s improved tremendously,” Rivera said. “He’s just starting to really grow into his body. He’s gotten taller and longer. He’s starting to really understand how to play inside better.”
One of the Bobcats best players at crunch time was Addison Kennedy, a small forward able to slash to the basket and excel at the other end of the court as well.
“He made some great defensive plays, especially in some of our last games,” Rivera said. “When we played Foundation Academy again, it was a really close game, and Addison stepped up and made some clutch free throws. He played some big minutes for us.”
Rounding out the Dynamic Dozen were Dylan Myatovich, Elijah Florence and Elijah Tradigo, who all brought something to the party.
“Dylan is another really great player who could see the floor in terms of passing and rebounding,” Rivera said. “Elijah Florence is the third Florence I’ve coached. He was a good defensive player, very long, able to block shots and kind of disrupt things.
“Elijah Tradigo is a fundamentally sound, smart player. He’s a great shooter from outside and can see the floor really well.”
The Bobcats endured another key personnel loss in the opener when Trevor McKeever, who had just moved to Bordentown, suffered a season-ending injury in the opener after showing great promise in practice.
Despite the health issues, Bordentown made it a season to remember. Anderson felt part of the reason for success was team chemistry, as his dad, Pat, coached most of the players (and the varsity players) in AAU. Pat is a former assistant for Ewing and Notre Dame high schools.
“We learned a lot of stuff from my dad and all learned how to play together when we were younger,” Anderson said. “I thought we would be pretty good. From tryouts it looked like we had pretty talented people. I think we could have gone undefeated if our big didn’t get hurt but I think we had a pretty good season overall. When we had that adversity it just made us stronger.”
Rivera feels the best is yet to come.
“I think they’re all gonna be very successful in high school,” he said. “They had a tremendous work ethic and gave a great effort. They were a pleasure to coach. I’m kind of excited to see them develop over the next four years. I wish them the best.”