Playing Big

Center Matt Bowen is one of the top returning players for a senior-laden Mashpee High School boys’ basketball team.

If you want to know why it’s a good thing that the sports season will be held this winter, talk to someone associated with Mashpee High School’s boys’ basketball program. The Falcons’ varsity roster is not just heavy on seniors, it is almost all seniors. If the year had been canceled, all of those boys would have been robbed of their last years on the court wearing the blue, black and white of Mashpee High.

Head coach Justin Clark kept 15 players for his varsity roster this year. A full dozen are seniors, with just one junior and two sophomores making the cut. It’s a pretty talented group of players, and they may have had a chance to make some postseason noise if there were a state tournament this winter. Still, the fact that they’re playing is like winning a tourney game unto itself.

“We’re excited. With this group, I wish that we had a full season. It’s a really great group of kids. We just have a lot of good kids,” Clark said.

Clark said he feels his team has what it takes to make every game interesting and to compete in the very difficult South Shore League. He noted that the team’s basketball IQ is high as a unit and that with the experienced roster he has, there are plenty of different things that this team can do that a less-experienced squad would struggle with.

“Our league is so tough. To take the next step is to find a different way to capitalize. We’ve been very competitive; now it’s little things. Finding ways to make a run (by the other team) to just be six or seven points instead of 12, and making the most out of what we do well,” he said.

Up front Mashpee has two starters who are two of the better athletes to come through MHS in the past few years. Though their specialties are different sports, Matt Bowen and Will Baker are seasoned competitors who know how to win.

Bowen, the center, is going to college to play football and will bring that lineman’s mentality to the paint, where he fights for every rebound and loose ball. “He’s grown and he’s proven himself the last two years,” Clark said.

Baker, who is one of the best baseball players in the South Shore League, brings a sense of calmness and maturity to the lineup that is settling and uplifting. His athleticism and ability to make plays make him a problem for other teams. Clark said he was quite excited to find out Baker was coming back to the team after sitting out as a junior to focus on baseball through the winter.

“It’s been awesome (having him back). He’s just like an adult in the room and he hasn’t missed a beat. He’s so coachable,” Clark said.

Sophomore Sean Fancher is a big forward who earned his way onto the team, thanks to some real skills and hard work. Fancher can stick a shot and is a solid addition to the team. Coach Clark said he believes the youngster is ready to play at the varsity level.

Nick Santos would have brought some great athleticism back to the lineup, not to mention work ethic and hustle. Unfortunately the senior will be on the sidelines for most, if not all, of the abbreviated season due to an injury. He hopes he’ll be ready to go for the football season in March.

Eddy Hilton-Schmalz is the biggest surprise on the roster. The senior worked hard to improve and it shows. “He looks like a new player,” the coach said.

In the backcourt, Ryan Hendricks will be leading the way. The senior all-star is in his third year on the varsity and has grown to become the team’s leader on the floor. “He’s very talented and we’re looking for him to take that next step in scoring,” Clark said. “He’s proven that he can do it.”

Backing up Hendricks at the point is senior Gabe Tellez. A late-season addition to the roster last year, Tellez is playing like he belongs, with confidence and poise. A strong facilitator, Tellez can set up his teammates and also has improved his shooting to add a dimension to his game.

Jordan Vasquez will also see time at the point. Vasquez transferred from Florida, but has ties to the area and is looking forward to getting going.

Brady Johnston, a junior, is also a guard for the team. A strong defender, he can move the ball around the court and help the cause.

Senior Shea Eaton will be one of the shooting guards, and probably start. Eaton is known for being an “effort guy,” and it has not gone unnoticed. “He probably has the school record for steals, and maybe fouls,” coach Clark said. “Shea is just wicked competitive. He plays hard.”

Sophomore Jack Spencer can do more than hit the ball on a golf course. The all-star on the links is also a very accomplished outside shooter and will be a great “three and D” addition to the team. “He brings defensive energy and he’s been earning the respect of his teammates since day one,” Clark said.

Every team needs a player who will figuratively run through a wall for the cause. Senior Jared Barr is that guy, and he might be able to do it literally. Barr, who is a standout linebacker and catcher at MHS, missed competing and did not want to wait for football to begin, so he decided to go out and play some basketball with his friends. It turns out that he can do that pretty well, too. “Jared adds to the quality of the team. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have him covering the other team’s top players,” Clark said.

Caesar Hendricks is back for his senior season and gives the team athleticism and shooting depth off the bench. The veteran goes hard on the court and can knock down shots.

Rounding things out for MSH are seniors Logan Westcott and Robert Foster. The pair will add depth to the roster and bring effort.

Mashpee is scheduled to open up the new season on Friday, January 8, at home against Norwell.

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