“Let’s go Panthers!”
That will actually be a cheer – and chant – that will echo through Johnston High’s Edward L. DiSimone Gymnasium beginning at 6 o’clock tonight.
The cheer portion will come from Panther partisans who’ll be looking for the now 4-3 JHS boys’ basketball team to maintain its first-place standing in the Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s Division III Central against Mount Hope High’s visiting Huskies from Bristol.
As for the chant – or words of encouragement – that will come from JHS head coach Dan Mazzulla who is looking for the Panthers to step up their game and rebound from Tuesday night’s difficult 68-41 loss at Toll Gate High in Warwick.
“I’m not happy with the way we’re playing right now,” Mazzulla, who once starred at JHS and ranked among the state’s most highly-touted all around players, offered. “We’re one of those teams that plays seven to ten guys … there’s no secret to success in (Rhode Island) high school basketball; kids need to have big hearts and work hard from start to finish.”
Given that, the coach announced that Tom Zednick - son of former JHS standout Tom Zednick who Mazzulla also coached and whose brother Ralph Zednick once starred on Cherry Hill - who scored a team high 12 points and hauled down a team high 15 rebounds vs. a talented Toll Gate troupe, will be one of five JHS starters tonight.
Another Panther starter tonight will be Cameron Sabitoni, whose twin brother Matt Sabatoni shares the distinction of being a JHS captain along with Will Juarez.
When asked to name the other three starters, Mazzulla quickly replied, “I honestly don’t know; we have to play better team basketball. We are not playing that way right now; we have to figure some things out and step up our games.”
As was the case gong into Tuesday night’s game at Toll Gate, Johnston will face a top-ranking opponent and the Huskies are also sitting atop the RIIL’s Division III North with a 6-1 division record and overall 8-2 mark and are fresh from Tuesday’s 57-43 win over Rogers High’s Vikings from Newport.
Mazzulla said he also plans to use Cameron Sabitoni, Jason Canton, Cameron Iasimone, Anthony Tavares, Anthony Angelone, Hunter Remington and Nathaniel Vasquez at different times tonight vs. Mount Hope.