Ashland Boys Basketball “Enjoys Shortened Season”
By Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
For the past five seasons Mike Normant has been coaching the Lincoln Sudbury boys’ basketball team. Prior to guiding the Warriors, Normant was an assistant coach with Westwood, so taking the position at Ashland put him back into familiar territory playing in the tri valley League.
“I knew the TVL when I was at Westwood and I have a lot of friends in the league,” the new Clocker Coach said. “When I left, I still followed the league closely, so I know the teams Ashland will be going up against. The TVL is a competitive league where any team can be successful on any night and Ashland has always been a competitive team.”
Over the past few years, the Clocker basketball team has found itself to be a little inconsistent on the court, while its players were always very passionate about the game. With the heart to give 100% each and every night Normant felt drawn to the opening.
“This year has obviously been a challenge to not only myself not knowing the kids, but to them as well with an entirely new culture,” Normant said. “With Covid still around we really had no opportunity to get to know the athletes prior to the season getting underway. They didn’t know me, and I didn’t know what made them tick.”
With covid still raising havoc on high school sports, the basketball season was relinquished to a 3 ½ week season with a mere seven-game schedule. Although it was not what the Clocker basketball players were hoping for, at least they have some semblance of a season, despite being abbreviated.
Having not played organized sports for some time the kids were glad to be on the court while learning a new system from a new coach.
“Coming in. my original goal was to take things one day at a time and appreciate the opportunity to be in the gym, although as little as it was,” the Ashland Coach said. “We had to teach them an entirely new system that I was looking for them to play this year and it didn’t give us a lot of time to prepare. We literally only had 10 practices all year long.”
Unfortunately, Ashland finished Normant’s first season winless in their seven games but provided the first-year coach with a competitiveness during each game.
“We accomplished a lot this season while demonstrating commitment despite our record,” Normant said. “I was looking to progress game to game. I wanted to leave the court two hours later being a better team and I think we’ve accomplished that.”
Ashland played their most competitive game in their very last contest of the season and the coach firmly believes that if they had another month and a half, they would have been ok.
Jake Rymszy, the team’s only TVL All-Star and leading scorer as a junior, logged a ton of minutes this year while opposing teams focused their game on defending him. In addition to Rymszy, the Clockers had 6 seniors, 2 of which hadn’t played basketball prior to this year; 2 juniors and 4 sophomores and although they really never had any time to play together the group was incredibly in sync with one another.
Playing in a covid-dealing season with no tournament play the seniors had an open mind about learning while teaching the younger kids on the team. Leading the Clockers onto the court this past season were captains and guards Jeff Dollaway and Devon Yules. Other seniors playing in their final campaign were guard Evan Litichevsky, guard Spencer Roth, forward Jake Lima, and forward Nick Simpson.
One other senior who would have been on the court for the Clockers had he not torn his ACL prior to the season was Mason Dubabowitz, who was not only named a captain by his teammates but showed up for every practice as the team’s vocal support.
The underclassmen gave the coach a sense of what they could do on the court while getting some exposure to varsity level basketball. Next year Ashland will return its only All-Star in addition to a handful of other athletes who will not only be a year older but should be able to provide some good contributions on the court in what everyone is hoping is a regular season.
“Overall, the younger kids got some valuable exposure to the game and were able to learn from the seniors this past season. It will definitely help them come next year,” Normant said. “Not only were they able to get onto the court they also got to know my systema and what I will be expecting from them next year.”