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12/28/2022 12:44 PM

Grizzlies Boys’ Basketball Coming in Hot With Strong Core

Senior Riley Swan will look to be a crucial factor on offense for the Guilford boys’ basketball team this season. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier
Senior captain Justin Hess will help lead the Grizzlies to success this season after being an All-Conference player last year. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier

The Guilford Grizzlies boys’ basketball team started their season on Dec. 1, and their first official game was on Dec. 15 at home against the East Haven Yellowjackets. The Grizzlies won the game in dominant fashion, topping the Yellowjackets by a score of 62-30.

The Grizzlies are coached by 14th-year Head Coach Jeff DeMaio, who has been coaching basketball for 31 years at the high school level. He has a stacked support system, with three assistant coaches in Cal Bucci as his assistant coach, Dante Parisi as the junior varsity (JV) coach, and Rusty Gordon as a volunteer assistant.

The Grizzlies started their season 2-0 and hope to continue the hot streak. After defeating the Yellowjackets, Guilford then faced Amity on Dec. 20, winning 70-33.

“We got off to a good start. We returned a lot of players, including eight seniors on the team as well,” said Coach DeMaio. “I know that the expectations to have a good year are pretty high, but we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, we are going to take it one game at a time.”

The Grizzlies’ varsity basketball team includes 18 players, with senior Justin Hess as the lone captain. “Justin has a lot of experience, he’s been starting since he was a sophomore, so this is his third year starting,” said Coach DeMaio. “He was also an All-Conference player last year as a junior, so we’re very confident that he can lead us on the court.”

Hess, a guard, was also a captain of the boys’ soccer team at Guilford, coming off of his final season this past fall. He was a part of the Class L-All State team as well as the All-New England team for soccer, so being a multi-sport athlete has proven to be successful for him.

The Grizzlies are classified to compete in Division II in basketball for overall states play and the Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC) for league play.

Coach DeMaio looks forward to what his team can do in the months to come and possibly move up a division next season.

“There’s a formula that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) uses that is based on last year’s success,” said Coach DeMaio. “Last year we were competing in the Division III and this year we moved up to Division II.”

There are eight seniors on the team: Ryan Alviti (guard), Kevin Goldberg (forward/center), Isaac Ott Hill (guard), Brendan Skoglund (forward), Luke Ste. Marie, (guard/forward), Riley Swan (guard, forward), and Josh Violette (guard) as well as Hess. Coach DeMaio looks forward to seeing what the eight seniors can do for the team this season.

“Seniors are expected to be leaders. They know what the basketball culture is that we want, they know what the expectations are and how we run the program,” said Coach DeMaio. “They really are the key for guiding the younger guys, and so far, they are doing a good job.” Coach DeMaio expects Luke, Kevin, and Riley to help produce most of the points for the Grizzlies this campaign.

On Dec. 20th, Guilford hosted the 0-2 Amity Regional Spartans and topped them 70-33. Key players of the game were Ste. Marie, Swan, and Hess.

“The game against the Spartans went well. We won 70-33. Ste. Marie had 16 points, Swan had 14 points, and Hess had 10 points,” said Coach DeMaio.

Although they’re off to a great start to the season, DeMaio and the Grizzlies still have several goals they want to achieve, but one sticks out more than the others.

“The most important goal is to qualify for our league playoffs. We always start with that, as the basis of what we want to accomplish and going as far as we can go,” said Coach DeMaio. “Certainly we always want to beat Hand, which is our rival, advance in the tournaments, compete for the division championship title, but for us, we try to keep it simple: to go as far as we can in the tournaments and see where things go from there.”

Last season, the Grizzlies finished with a 13-10 overall record and 6-6 in the SCC. The team played in the first round in the Division III state tournament and beat the Yellowjackets by a score of 64-38. Guilford then fell short in the second round when they took a 72-61 loss to the Kennedy Eagles.

During the offseason as well as the preseason, players stay fit by training in the weight room. To prepare for games, Coach DeMaio looks out for certain players on the opposing team that could be a threat.

“We always prepare for games by watching film, we try to prepare our guys the best that we can, so we are ready for every opponent,” said Coach DeMaio. “We try to prepare for each opponent going from game to game and put together a game plan.”

The Grizzlies’ roster includes the 8 seniors as well as juniors Jaco Corso (guard), Jaden Iannaccone (guard), Lucca Rivera (guard), sophomores Jameson Benben (guard/forward), Liam Cain (forward/center), Anthony Cerino (guard), Max Freeman (guard/forward), Metages Ivy (forward), Noah Young (guard), and Zachary Young (guard). The freshmen include Cameron Foster (guard), Carter Gagnon (guard), Vincent Malatest (guard), Gumwel Malek (guard/forward), Finnian Matlosz (guard), Logan Matlosz (guard), Patrick McGowan (guard), Lucio Nastri (forward), Devin Ridley (forward), Max Steffen (guard), Wesley Tandler (forward/center), Zisis Vasiliou (forward/center), Andrew Voytek (guard), Zack Wardaki (guard), and Kelley Webster (guard).