BRISTOL - If the St. Paul boys basketball team makes a run in the Division III tournament, senior guards Tyler Arbuckle and Mike Palmieri will be a big reason why.
Arbuckle has developed into a lethal scoring threat every night for the Falcons, averaging 25.1 points per game.
Scoring isn’t all he does, though, as he also averages 7.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.3 steals.
Most impressively, Arbuckle shoots 48 percent from the field.
Palmieri averages 16.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
Arbuckle transferred into St. Paul following his sophomore season with Bristol Eastern.
The first year in transition wasn’t the easiest. Both he and Palmieri had to go from being “the man” to being “the guys.”
“It took a little while for us to start clicking,” Arbuckle said. “But we’ve grown a lot and he’s my teammate. I’d do anything for him on the court.”
This year, the two have come together and put up an impressive regular season, leading St. Paul to a 12-8 record and earning the No. 11 seed in the Division III state tournament.
Arbuckle’s arrival on the team has provided the Falcons with a pair of scorers that both want the ball in their hands down the stretch, and St.. Paul has drawn up plays for both of them in those moments.
“It’s really amazing that the two have played so well together,” St. Paul assistant coach Brendan Phelps said. “It’s not the easiest thing when somebody comes in like [Tyler], and [Mike] is the guy already. But they’ve done a good job playing together.”
Palmieri reached 1,000 points in a loss to Waterbury Career Academy and Arbuckle is near that mark, an impressive feat considering he only played seven games as a sophomore due to a torn ACL.
“I realized that the game could be taken away at any time,” Arbuckle said. “[Tearing my ACL] honestly could have been the best thing that ever happened to me. I just worked so much harder and wanted to get better. It felt like people stopped believing in me, because people that were saying I had potential disappeared.”
Both players plan to continue their
basketball careers following graduation from St. Paul.
Arbuckle is looking primarily at doing a post-grad year to improve his prospectus at the collegiate level.
Palmieri is deciding between a pair of colleges - Eastern Connecticut State University and Roger Williams University.
Winning the state tournament and finishing their high school basketball careers on top is the first priority, though.
“It’s huge, it’s all I’ve been thinking about,” Arbuckle said. “This is my last go around in high school. I’m going to do everything in my power to reach our goal coming into the season, which is a state championship.”
“It would mean a lot,” Palmieri said. “That was our goal coming into this year and we want to finish it. We can do so if we play to our level.”
No. 11 seed St. Paul (12-9) begins play in this year’s CIAC Division III state tournament on Monday, when it will host No. 22 seed Joel Barlow (8-12) at 7 p.m. Second round games are scheduled for Wednesday.
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org