A Senior Moment For the Holliston Boys Basketball Squad

By Ken Hamwey, Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
January, 2018
Article Body: 

“Elite Eight’’ is a popular phrase heard during the NCAA basketball tournament. At the interscholastic level, those words could also refer to Holliston High’s veteran contingent for the 2017-18 season.
Eight is the number of seniors who comprise the nucleus of coach Jenna Galster’s squad. And the way they’ve improved since their freshman year has been impressive. The wins and losses are telling and reveal just how far they’ve advanced.
Three years ago, Andrew Lynch and Dylan Kasarjian were freshmen, and they got minutes on a team that finished 1-19. Ryan Benco joined them a year later on the varsity and the trio of sophomores helped the Panthers go 10-10 to earn a berth in the playoffs. Last year, Zak Latifi, Emile Exilhomme, Patrick Jewett and Jake Armstrong were added to the varsity and the seven juniors sparked Holliston to a 15-5 regular record and their second trip to the tournament. This season, New York transfer Dan Dagnachew was added, rounding out an eight-man senior corps.
“It’s a huge testament that they didn’t accept mediocrity,’’ Galster said. “They understood that time and effort were needed to improve. I’m not surprised at their progress, because I watched them compete in grades 6-8 and I quickly discovered they were gym rats who loved the game. They’ve decided to make something out of our team.’’
Here’s a capsule look at Holliston’s eight seniors who’ve helped the Panthers start the 2017-18 season on a positive note with a 2-0 record:
*Andrew Lynch — The 5-foot-11 shooting guard averaged 10 points and four rebounds last year and scored 27 points against Framingham in the Keough Classic. Galster is bullish on the two-time captain. “Andrew is a fantastic shooter,’’ she emphasized. “He’s accurate from the three-point line or from mid-range. He’s fundamentally sound, leads by example and is quick to help teach younger players how to approach the game.’’
*Dylan Kasarjian — Another captain who leads by example, the 5-foot-10 shooting guard averaged 13 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists last year. “Dylan shoots 50 percent from the floor,’’ Galster noted. “He sees the court well and has great instincts. He’s fast and quick and he’s a very capable passer.’’
*Ryan Benco — The 5-foot-10 point guard was the Panthers’ sixth man last year, averaging five points and supplying lots of energy as a reserve. This season, he’s a captain, and his role will be more of a floor leader. “Ryan is a leader by example and by being vocal,’’ Galster said. “He a good distributor, pushing the ball up court well, and he also plays strong defense. A good shooter, his assist numbers should increase this year.’’
*Zak Latifi — A 5-foot-11 guard-forward, he didn’t get many minutes last year but he’ll be in the mix to see time at quick forward. “Zak works extremely hard at practice, and he’s become a strong shooter who’s effective on a drive or a pull-up jumper,’’ Galster said.
*Emile Exilhomme — The 6-foot-10 center didn’t get much playing time last year, but his improvement has been significant, thanks to his work last summer on the court and in the weight room. “We need Emile to rebound and score,’’ Galster said. “He’s got nice moves at the hoop, he’s fine-tuned his game and his mid-range jumper has improved. We need him to be a presence in a big-man role.’’
*Patrick Jewett — A captain, the 5-foot-11 guard-forward got average playing time last year but still managed to get three assists a game. “Patrick is a role model on the court,’’ Galster noted. “He knows the game and he’s like a coach on the floor. His hoop IQ is high, he moves well without the ball, and he’s become a good finisher with his mid-range shot. He worked hard in the off-season developing his drive to the basket.’’
*Jake Armstrong — A 5-foot-10 guard whose playing time was limited last year, he’s a hard-worker who likes playing defense. “Jake’s aim is to be a super defender,’’ Galster noted. “He’s got a quick first step, quick hands and fast feet. He’s an ideal athlete who runs the floor well. If I tell him to jump, he’ll say ‘how high.’’’
*Dan Dagnachew — The 5-foot-10 guard arrived during the pre-season and has fit in nicely. His work ethic, physical style and shooting ability have impressed Gallster. “In our opener against Hopkinton, Dan played a role in that victory,’’ she said. “He scored four points, and they were big-time points.’’ Most of his time in the backcourt will be in the off-guard slot.
The Panthers won’t be strictly a senior-laden team. Galster has some sophomores and juniors who’ll be in the mix and contribute on a daily basis. But, she’s delighted with the seniors and admires the way they’ve paid the price for success.
“They’re coachable, determined, thoughtful and considerate,’’ she said. “They’re excellent team players who set good examples. And, they’re fun to watch, especially when they make that extra pass and run in transition. If they decide they want to win, they will.’’
Now in her fifth year as head coach, Galster says she no longer sets long-range goals — like aiming for the Tri Valley League title or qualifying for tourney play. She merely thinks about the task at hand. “Our focus is on our next game,’’ she said. “I’m a huge fan of Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick. He’s all about his team’s next game. My goals are to have winners in the classroom and on game day. We want to handle business one step at a time.’’
Unsure of which teams will contend for the league title, Galster views Westwood and Medfield as traditionally strong and likely to be in the mix for the top spot.
The Panthers no doubt will also contend and they hope to register a plethora of victories on a sparkling new hardwood court. “The Friends of Holliston Basketball deserve the credit for our new court,’’ Galster emphasized. “They were the key fund-raisers and they made the new court a reality.’’