Staying Positive as it Dealt with Ups and Downs, Hun Boys’ Hoops Advanced to MAPL, Prep A Semis
INSIDE JOB: Hun School boys’ basketball player Anthony Aririguzoh heads to the basket in a game this season. Senior star Aririguzoh provided leadership and production this winter to help Hun go 14-13 and advance to the semis of both the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) and Prep A state tournaments. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
For the Hun School boys’ basketball team, its two games against the Lawrenceville School this winter proved to be a microcosm of a season filled with highs and lows.
In a regular season meeting between the local rivals on January 31, Hun sputtered in a disappointing 85-65 loss. But when the foes met in the first round of the Prep A state tournament two weeks later, the Raiders turned the tables on the Big Red, rallying from a late deficit to pull out a dramatic 68-66 win as Anthony Aririguzoh drained a half-court buzzer beater.
In reflecting on his team’s 14-13 campaign, Hun head coach Jon Stone acknowledged that it was a bit of a roller coaster ride.
“We were definitely up and down; we had some great moments and some great wins and we had some not so good moments,” said Stone. “Yet it was a really fun group to be around. It is a really, really great group of guys and fun to go to practice every day and work with them. Unfortunately we didn’t quite achieve what we were hoping to, but we still had a good season and a lot of good wins.”
Another very good win for Hun came when it edged 61-60 at Academy of New Church (Pa.) on February 2.
“They are tough to beat at home, they came out and they were beating us up pretty good,” said Stone. “We were down 15, I think, at two different points during the game. We kept grinding it out, we had some different guys make some really big buckets and really big plays. We took our first lead with a minute to go. Anthony Loscalzo hit a three when we were down two and took a one-point lead. Mac Kelly hit a really big shot that put us up by three. We wound up pulling out the game in the last 30 seconds. It was a really good road win for us.”
The Raiders faced two tough foes to end the season as they lost 86-51 to the Patrick School in a regular season contest on February 18 and then fell 77-43 to St. Benedict’s in the Prep A state semis three days later.
“We scheduled the Patrick School game because we knew we might have to play St Benedict’s in the Prep A tournament,” said Stone, whose team also advanced to the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) tournament semis where it fell 76-57 to Blair Academy. “We knew they we would be tough and we were trying to prepare ourselves. We ran into a little bit of a buzz saw. We could not have shot the ball any worse and I am not sure they could have shot the ball any better. It was a tough game. We couldn’t right the ship for St Benedict’s — we didn’t shoot the ball well.”
Stone created his senior group with providing the right stuff for the squad.
“We relied a lot on our seniors this year, they were a great group,” said Stone, whose Class of 2023 included Dan Vessey, Ethan Gross, Michael Jolly, Anthony Aririguzoh, Anthony Loscalzo, and Symeon Efstathiou. “Three of them (Dan Vessey, Ethan Gross, and Michael Jolly) have been around for four years. We are going to miss all of them. They all brought different things to the table and really helped us.”
Sharpshooting guard Vessey, a career 1,000-point scorer who is headed to Army West Point where he will be playing for its men’s hoops program, brought a special work ethic to the program.
“Throughout his whole career, he has been a model of consistency,” said Stone. “He was the ultimate gym rat. We have been spoiled by him. It is going to be tough not having him here next year for sure.”
Loscalzo gave the Raiders a one-two punch with backcourt running mate Vessey.
“He hit some really big shots for us his year and yet as great of a shooter that he is, he led our team in assists,” said Stone of Loscalzo, who has committed to Stevens Institute of Technology and will be playing for its men’s basketball team. “He was best in assist to turnover ratio and he led our team in steals. He has proven to be way more than just a great shooter. We are going to miss him tremendously too.”
Aririguzoh, an athletic 6’6 forward, developed into a force for the Raiders.
“He has grown and matured so much in the time he has been with us,” said Stone of Aririguzoh, who will be going to Wesleyan University and playing for its men’s hoops program. “He was with us three years and his development has been tremendous. He is really an emotional leader for us and more of a rah-rah guy. He was able to really give us the spark and also have the poise to be patient and make good plays. He is so versatile, he does everything from blocked shots to post up to shoot jumpers and he could make great passes. His versatility was really great for us.”
Hailing from Athens, Greece, Efstathiou gave the Hun squad some international flair.
“Symeon bought a special skill set,” said Stone of Efstathiou, who has committed to Brown University and will be joining its men’s hoops team. “You talk about versatility, from shooting threes to his passing ability was really, really incredible. His posting up, handling the ball, and rebounding was great. He was a rebounding machine for us. He had a triple double for us and he had a 24-rebound game this year. He is really versatile and had the ability to do a lot of things.”
Gross and Jolly made some special contributions over the years to the Raiders.
“Their dedication and the commitment to the program has been terrific,” said Stone, noting that Gross is headed to the University of Rochester where he will be playing for its men’s basketball squad. “The improvement we have seen in both of them has been terrific.”
With a group of returning players including junior Mac Kelly, junior Matt Land, sophomore A.J. Mickens, and sophomore Drae Tyme, Stone believes the Hun program is in good shape going forward.
“We are really excited about those guys,” said Stone. “Mac proved to be a super valuable part of this team with his ability to score and yet guard really, really good players as well. He was remarkable. We were really happy with the progress Matt and A.J. made as guards. Drae gave us tremendous energy off the bench; he gave us a lot of pop with his athleticism.”