By ALEX SPONSELLER
The Johnston boys basketball team had a down year in 2017-18, finishing the season with just three overall wins.
The Panthers will now compete in Division III after dropping from Division II, and are looking forward to making some noise in their new group.
“We made the move down from Division II to Division III so we’re anticipating a pretty competitive season. We’re still looking for one or two players to really emerge out of the cloud of smoke and lead us. We’re looking for one or two guys to lead us on the court, off the court, but I’m expecting it to be a good season,” said coach Dan Mazzulla of the move down in divisions.
Although the Panthers will be taking a step down in competition, there is still the challenge of getting acclimated to a new schedule that features largely new opponents from the last few seasons. Although it may be tough at first, Mazzulla believes that the Panthers will be able to make a seamless transition, especially considering the experience they had in D2.
“We’re now where we need to be so that’s a good thing for us. The realignment process has worked well for us. We’re going to be seeing people that we have not played in recent years but we will be able to make that adjustment smoothly,” said Mazzulla.
Another advantage that the Panthers take into 2018-19 is experience. With a group that is heavy with upperclassmen, Mazzulla feels that the Panthers have enough talent and experience to make a run at a title … and going the distance will be a matter of each player playing to their potential and identifying their roles on the team.
“We’re top heavy, we have four seniors, seven juniors and a sophomore. Right now, all of these guys have been competing pretty evenly but like I said, we still are waiting for someone to come out of the cloud of smoke,” said Mazzulla. “We’re looking for energy, effort, and being ready to go every single night. We’re expecting a lot from our two captains, our sophomore Tommy Zednik is a big kid, he’s long, we’re hoping that he may be one of the guys to emerge.”
The Panthers kick off their season Friday evening when they welcome the Pilgrim Patriots to town in a non-league battle. The Patriots recently moved down to Division II from Division I. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.