Our tour of LoHud basketball began today where last season ended, with Nanuet. The Golden Knights return all but two of the key members of their Class B state and Federation state champions, and they eagerly await an opportunity to repeat.
I was a few minutes late, as always, and practice had already begun buzzing, playing spread at all baskets to shoot about 15 minutes before the session was scheduled to start.
The mood there was upbeat and confident. But as senior Nikki Saponaro told me, “confident, but we can’t be cocky.” Last season provided plenty of evidence why, because Nanuet saw first-hand just how difficult the rigors of the Section 1 crop can make a repeat. Briarcliff returned similarly armed after winning state titles in 2008, but the Bears were upset at the County Center by Nanuet.
Second-year coach Carlos Fidalgo has hammered home the idea that the Golden Knights are targeted now, just like Briarcliff before them. Of course, the whole “target on our backs” is a sports cliche for any defending champion, but it turns out to be quite a valid one.
“We have to be prepared,” Lauren Kahn told me today. “Teams are going to be gunning for us and trying to beat us, but that’s what you get for winning.”
Indeed. Nanuet has plenty of talent to offset it being thrust under the crosshairs of its competition. Kahn and K.C. Jentzen (right) return for their senior season as easily the most accomplish pair of teammates in Section 1. They are two-year all-section players who rank among the very best in the area, regardless of class.
Fidalgo said last year’s experience has elevated them as leaders. They were already unsurpassed as players. Kahn, a three-sport star, will play lacrosse at UConn, bypassing interest from colleges for basketball and soccer. And Jentzen will like play Division II hoops somewhere.
At Saturday’s scrimmage against Warwick, “They didn’t skip a beat,” Fidalgo said.
The Golden Knights must replace two key pieces in Christine Brezovsky, perhaps their best shooter, at least outside of Kahn, and Ryan Mulligan, another starter who was among their top defenders. Fidalgo believes Lisa Kahn (Lauren’s younger sister) and Christina Fitzgerald, a bench player last season, can pick up the scoring of Brezovsky. Morgan Miller, another bench player from last season, will be asked to channel Mulligan’s stopper mindset. Add to them a new weapon in 6-foot freshman Dana Rohan and Nanuet feels confident it has players to account for what it lost — and then some.
“We’re deep enough to be competitive again,” Fidalgo said. “If we work hard enough, good things will happen for us.”
Yet again, the Golden Knights will earn their stiffest competition from fellow County Centerites Briarcliff, Irvington and Dobbs Ferry. The last two return almost intact; and Briarcliff will be much better than people may think after losing Maggie Blair and Taylor Pescetti.
No matter what, all three must still surpass the state champ. That is how this works, pressure or no pressure.
“They’re very, very good teams,” Fidalgo said. “It’s going to be a heckuva sectional tournament. We’ll be fortunate if we’re in position to win something that that point of the year.”