BRISTOL - This season was an overall successful one for the area boys basketball teams. Three out of the four teams reached their respective state tournaments and the four teams combined to win 40 regular season games. The 9th annual All-Press Boys Basketball Team is filled with talented players, many of which will be back next season for their respective teams.
St. Paul had the most productive season of all of the area teams, winning 15 games in the regular season and reaching the quarterfinal round of the Class S state tournament. The Falcons were lifted to that level by an abundance of talented players, three of which were selected to this season’s All-Press team.
Playing in all 24 games this season, Michael Palmieri was St. Paul’s leader on the floor. The junior captain averaged 15 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game, while shooting 47 percent from the field and 45 percent from 3-point range. Palmieri put up double-digit point totals in 18 of the Falcons’ 24 games this season and averaged 18.3 points in the postseason.
Because of his performance this season, Palmieri earned many accolades. Among others, he was named to the All-NVL team and the Class S All-State First Team.
“Michael continues to exemplify all that we strive for our players to be in our program,” St. Paul coach Steve Phelps said. “A quiet leader by example, his off-season commitment to develop his skills has brought him recognition on a state-wide level and beyond. He is a role model for the younger players in our program as he exemplifies that hard work and dedication can result in a team’s success. Mike is a very humble young man who derives more satisfaction in the program’s success than his own individual accomplishments. This is a testament to his strong family values and his proud support network.”
Coming over from Bristol Eastern, Tyler Arbuckle was unable to play the full season for St. Paul, but when he was on the floor, he made a difference. The junior averaged 19.1 points per game over 14 games, adding 5 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. He led the Falcons at the free throw line, hitting 81 percent of his foul shots, and put up double-digit points in 12 of his 14 games played. Arbuckle also tied a St. Paul record by hitting nine 3-pointers against Seymour back on Feb. 1. Along with Palmieri, he was selected to the CO Academy All-Star Game this season.
“Tyler’s impact on St. Paul Catholic basketball has been significant,” Phelps said. “His passion for the game is second to none. He is a relentless competitor, constantly dedicated to perfect his game. His commitment is impressive and, hopefully, contagious. What has been very gratifying, for him and our coaching staff, has been his success returning after a debilitating injury which caused him to miss an entire year of competition. We are excited for the future for Tyler and his continued development as a St. Paul Catholic basketball family member.”
While Palmieri was St. Paul’s playmaker from the outside, Austin Jones was the Falcons’ presence on the inside. The senior captain dominated down low this season, nearly averaging a double-double, with 13 points and nine rebounds per game. He recorded 10 double-doubles this season, while also averaging 2.3 assists per game. For his play this season, Jones was chosen for the CHSCA Senior All-Star Game and was named to both the All-NVL Copper Division team and Class S All-State Second Team, among other honors.
“Austin has made significant improvement throughout his high school basketball career,” Phelps said. “His contributions will be very difficult to replace going forward in our program. However, his influence on the success of St. Paul Catholic basketball during his career will be a constant source of motivation for those who follow him.”
Bristol Central finished the regular season with a 10-10 record, qualifying for the Class L tournament. But the Rams were bounced in the first round by No. 9-seeded Windsor.
Despite the .500 record and the early tournament exit, Bristol Central had some players have good seasons and three of them were selected to this season’s All-Press team.
Selected to the First-Team, Jaekwon Spencer was undoubtedly the Rams’ star this season. The 6-foot-4 junior forward averaged a double-double, with 17 points and 11 rebounds per game. His campaign earned him an All-CCC nod.
“He’s a unique talent because he’s 6-4 and he can handle the ball like a guard,” Bristol Central coach Tim Barrette said. “It’s definitely a benefit to us to have a player of his caliber and size.”
He wasn’t as flashy as Spencer, but Alex Bernier had a strong season as well. Playing down low for Bristol Central, the junior was a formidable post presence on both offense and defense. He averaged 9.8 points per game, as well as nine rebounds.
“The first thing that comes to mind is he’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever had,” Barrette said. “He works hard in practice and in games and he often outworks his opponent. I always say the word potential is overused but I really think the potential for him is almost unmeasurable. He had never played varsity before this year and I think he could have a humungous year next year.”
Aaron Collins wasn’t able to play a full senior season this year due to a battle with mono but when he did play, he was arguably the best player on the floor. Collins posted 22 points against Bristol Eastern in the regular season finale and 17 against Windsor in the first round of the state tournament. Over the entire season, he averaged 8.5 points, two steals and four assists while shooting 38 percent from 3-point range.
“I told my team and I told the parents, I don’t believe we would have been 10-10 this year if Aaron played all year,” Barrette said. “He’s that much of a difference-maker. We would have won some of the close games we lost.”
Like Bristol Central, Terryville finished the regular season with a 10-10 record, but the Kangaroos had to fight for the .500 mark and a Class S tournament berth after starting the season 1-5. Unfortunately, they ran into No. 8-ranked St. Paul in the first round and were eliminated. In order to get back to an even record after the start it had, Terryville needed some big seasons and a couple of Kangaroos have been selected to this season’s All-Press team.
Evan Dorso was the Kangaroos’ top scorer this season, earning him on a spot on the First-Team. The junior point guard averaged 12.8 points and 3.5 assists per game. Dorso was selected to the All-Berkshire League Second-Team.
“Evan had some great moments this season,” Terryville coach Mark Fowler said. “His game really improved and the team relied on him to make plays all year. We are counting on him to really move to the next level and have a great senior season.”
Dorso is joined on the All-Press team by teammate Shawn Iwanow. Also a junior guard, Iwanow narrowly missed averaging double digits this season, with 9.7 points per game. He also had four rebounds per game for Terryville.
“Shawn really played with a lot of heart and energy all season,” Fowler said. “He improved his ability to get to the basket and finish. Shawn loves basketball and I believe he’ll come back even better next season.”
Bristol Eastern was the only area team to miss out on the postseason but the Lancers still won five games and two of their players are on this season’s All-Press team.
Roderick Jenkins was the hands-down leader on the floor for Bristol Eastern. Coming in this season from Waterbury Career, Jenkins averaged 20.1 points for the Lancers, as well as 6.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists. Bristol Eastern’s biggest win of the season came on Jan. 20, when it defeated cross-city rival Bristol Central. Jenkins led the Lancers in scoring that night with 28 of the team’s 55 points.
“Roderick had a tremendous season shouldering much of the ball handling and scoring duties,” Bristol Eastern coach Bunty Ray said. “He was asked to play big minutes and he gave 110 percent on both ends all of the time. Aside from his obvious production on the court, he was a great influence off the court and a great teammate, which, ultimately, is the best compliment anyone can get.”
Jenkins did not have to do everything alone, though. One of the players that helped provide secondary scoring and assistance was Carter Dziedzic. Despite battling injuries, the sophomore put up 10.4 points per game and reeled in an average of 4.9 rebounds. In the win against the Rams, Dziedzic was second on the Lancers with 13 points.
“Carter is a great player that had to work through injuries all season,” Ray said. “When he was on the court, he had great minutes and showed glimpses of being a great player. I kept forgetting he was only a sophomore and look forward to seeing him continue to add to his game.”