FALMOUTH – If anyone knows the game of basketball, it’s Falmouth Clippers’ head coach Paul Lundberg.
On the heels of a decade-long run as a Cape hoops powerhouse, Lundberg was characteristically reticent to offer a full-blown breakdown of this year’s Clipper Five, partly because he had yet to finalize the 2014-15 roster as of Friday afternoon, and partly because, in spite of his success, he’s about as humble as they come.
Last spring, Lundberg was recognized by local referees as the region’s top coach when he was selected to receive the 2014 Paul Sargent Award by the IABBO Board 54, the game officials’ union.
According to Lundberg, this year’s Falmouth boys’ basketball team has but two return players with varsity experience – senior guard Eric Demers, an Atlantic Coast League all-star last season and junior Leo DeOlivera who was a force on the boards.
“We’re going to be very young this year,” Lundberg said. “We’ll have nine kids with no varsity experience.”
If nothing else, anyone who knows Lundberg and Clippers’ basketball can readily predict Falmouth will battle and battle hard. Finishing at 9-11 last season really cannot be a predication of what will happen this season.
“We gotta be smarter,” Lundberg said. “We’ll see what happens.”
The Clippers have 12 non-league opponents on their schedule this season, few of whom can be taken lightly including Bridgewater-Raynham, Barnstable and Lincoln-Sudbury. As for Falmouth’s league schedule, the Atlantic Coast League is chock-full of battle-hardened sharpshooters including defending ACL champions Sandwich, Marshfield and a hungry Dennis-Yarmouth team. Falmouth opens versus Mashpee on December 16.
Century-long plus rival Barnstable is sure to not take Lundberg lightly, especially second-year head coach Chuck Kipnes whose Red Raiders finished at a respectable 13-8 in the skipper’s rookie campaign at the helm in 2013-14.
Barnstable, set to tip-off the season on Friday, Dec. 12 on the road against a tough Sandwich Five that features 1,000-point scorer and two-time captain Joey Downes, lost last year’s hot-shooting transfer Isaiah Winston-Brooks who transferred schools again this fall, but gained a pair of transfer students for this season. Junior Tavian Miranda, who just finished the season starting for the Red Raider football team is a 6’1 lefty who will join junior speed merchant Nate Balthazard at the point, and Wareham native Deon Bell who moved to Barnstable from Maryland this fall. Bell is a 6’3 top athlete, according to Kipnes, who can play shooting guard, forward or power forward.
“We can put an all-six foot lineup out there or we can put four guys on the floor who shoot the three or take it to the hoop,” Kipnes said. “I’ve got a lot of basketball players this season, seven kids whose number one sport is basketball.”
Added to strength in numbers, the Red Raiders have experience with 6’4” return power forward/center Eric Holzman, a junior three-sport standout who had significant minutes and started most of the season last year for Kipnes, senior Henry O’Shaughnessy, Balthazard, Keyshawn Eddy and the smooth-stroke hand of Elijah Baptiste who led the Red & White in scoring last season.
“He’s one of the best pure shooters I’ve ever seen in Barnstable,” Kipnes said.
Barnstable dropped longtime opponent and rival Durfee after last season’s wildly-contested match-ups that were nothing short of tempestuous, to be kind, but picked up a pair of games versus Brockton (Barnstable lost to Brockton 52-51 last year) and will face fierce non-league opponents in New Bedford, Marshfield, Milton and Quincy. According to Kipnes, he made sure his squad’s first games this season were on the road to give the Red Raiders a true challenge right out of the gate.
Meanwhile, John McCarthy’s Nauset Warriors will be no less a contender come opening tip-off. Returning this year are top athletes Mike Walsh and ACL All-Star Razz Green as well as Andrew Flynn, Ethan Ladue and Chris Mazulis, Nauset went toe-to-toe with Barnstable last season in a tight 48-42 early-season match-up, even though Baptiste shredded the Warriors when they came to Hyannis later in the season, 75-44. Nauset will face Falmouth on December 18 and Barnstable on December 27.
The Dennis-Yarmouth Dolphins fell to Rockland in the first round of last season’s MIAA South Sectionals, 61-50, and were 8-11 in Rich Dalrymple’s first season, but the former Red Raider standout and Cape Cod Academy head coach is never one to be taken lightly.
Led by senior captain L.K. Metz and the basketball-breathing center Ken Dorr, the Dolphins will likely remain as competitive as ever, if not more so. Dorr, the son of one of Barnstable High’s all-time greats – 1,000-point scorer Kenny Dorr – may finally come into his own this winter. The Dolphins open on the road Friday night at Norwell High School.
Sean Walsh is the sports editor for Cape Cod Broadcasting Media. He may be reached via email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @coachwalshccbm