It was a winter in which the Highland girls’ basketball team made it to the Section 9 semifinals and had a 1000-point scorer to boot, when New Paltz wrestling crowned three Section champions and Highland crowned one, when the New Paltz boys’ swimming garnered two Section titles (both by the same swimmer), and in which the Huguenots won the Section 9 champion in Nordic skiing. It was also a winter when the New Paltz girls’ and Highland boys’ basketball teams failed to make the Section tournament. So, like every other season in every other year in the 20 years since we here at the New Paltz Times sports department have been declaring the Best of the Best, it was a season of surprises and individual accomplishments. We also take a look into the future of New Paltz and Highland winter sports.
Best game/meet (team):
The New Paltz wrestling team crowned three individual champions in Theo Chazkel, Ben Cuppett and Chris Massaro, had a couple third-place finishes, and came close to defeating Red Hook for its first Section title in many a year.
The Highland girls’ basketball team defeated Class A powerhouse Cornwall — the Huskies are Class B — in an early season game, setting the team off with a 7-0 start to the season.
Best game/meet (individual):
In New Paltz, Seamus Trzewik-Quinn of the boys’ swimming team scored a dual win in the Section meet, winning the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke.
Highland girls’ basketball’s Ali Rozzi hit ten three-pointers (and had 33 points) in a season-opening win over Millbrook on her way to becoming only the fifth Huskies’ girl to score 1000 points in her career.
Best of the unsung players:
New Paltz : Senior wrestler Theo Chazkel won the 182-pound title after finishing third last season and finished sixth at States. Jordan Nagel Sophomore Nordic skier, Jordan Nagel won her first Section 9 title and finished fourth at the State Meet. Senior tandem Mike Krebs and Matt Kanan (boys’ basketball) were the backbone of the breakeven Huguenots, the Slasher and the Shooter, and made the others around them better players. The undersized girls’ senior basketball center Ally Pannuto (5’8”) was the heart and soul of the team, leading the Huguenots in rebounding and floor burns for the second straight year. Junior boys’ sprinter Brennan McEntee challenged the Section in the 50 and 100 freestyle and was the anchor leg on the 200 medley relay team that just missed States by 0:01.
Highland: Freshman wrestler Christian Canino, in a tough weight class (113 pounds), finished third for the second straight year at Sections. Where would the Huskies’ basketball team have been without seniors Jacob Rao and Michael Doxey, leading scorers on a rebuilding team, keeping the team competitive when it would have been easier to just fold it up? Kate McCutcheon did most of the inside work for the Huskies’ girls’ basketball team, rebounding, defending the paint, scoring around ten points per game, and being the super role player on a good team that almost won Sections.
For New Paltz, boys’ senior basketball player Grant Harlow pulling down close to ten rebounds and averaging close to two blocks a game, and girls’ senior Keely Dolan (girls basketballer constantly harassing the opponents’ top scorer (Highland’s Ali Rozzi, Red Hook’s Jess Wilkinson, Marlboro’s Julia Rusk, Saugerties’ Tanisha Edge, etc.)
Highland sophomore basketball player Candace McCutcheon single-handedly turned games around for the Huskies solely with her defense, case in point the Section 9 quarterfinal win over O’Neill (with eight steals).
The Angela Robins Zen Award
(given to player who makes it look so easy):
New Paltz swimmer Seamus Trzewik-Quinn had an effortless stroke in any event and can win all of them.
The Christie Morano Zen Award
(given to player who makes it look so easy):
Highland’s Bri Rozzi, non-plussed freshman basketball player who scored 16 points in a State playoff game as a seventh-grader … and has gotten even better since.
Best of the future:
New Paltz – Junior wrestlers Ben Cuppett and Chris Massaro won Section 9 titles and went to States, Cuppett for the second season in a row. If New Paltz is to win another Section title it will be the uber-talented freshman open-floor basketball player Axel Rodriguez and the surprisingly effective sophomore inside presence Mike Holohan, only 6-1). Girls’ basketball freshman swing-player Hayley Osborne led the Huguenots in scoring. Talented sophomore swimmer Chad Catania looks to be the heir-apparent to Trzewik-Quinn, Emile Kuyl, Hudson Carroll and the other Section 9 double-winners.
Highland freshman wrestlers Matt Malheiro and Christian Canino finished third in this year’s Sections for rebuilding. Girls’ sophomore basketballer Sam Garcia, injured most of the season, showed some great defense at season’s end. To be closely watched in boys’ basketball is Cameron Ness, a 6-8 freshman who’s improving fast, can run the floor and rebound, and is getting more aggressive on the offensive end.
Best out of nowhere:
Alex St. George, unknown freshman New Paltz wrestler, had a big year as the big man (285 pounds), finishing fourth in Section 9.
For Highland girls’ basketball, freshman Jayda Jackson came off the bench numerous times to hit big shots from the outside and pull down some big rebounds.
And now for the Best of the Best:
New Paltz – the wrestling team, with three Section champions, two third-place finishes and a close second-place finish to Red Hook for the Section 9 Division 2 championship, and with most of the team returning, next season should be the year that the Huguenots win their first Section title in a long time.
Highland – just another solid year for the girls basketball team, their 15th straight appearance in the Section tournament, where they were defeated by three points by a Marlboro team that is in this weekend’s Class B Final Four; a tough, overachieving team led by the Sister Act’s of Ali and Bri Rozzi and Kate and Candace McCutcheon.
New Paltz – wrestling head-coach Ryan Pullman nearly pulled it off this season, with the Huguenots riding the experience of Theo Chazkel, Ben Cuppett and Chris Massaro, combined with relative newcomers Alex St.George and Guy Soumah, to finish a close second to Red Hook for a Section 9 title.
Highland – Girls basketball coach Jim Malak, who inherited a solid program and kept it rolling along, tweaking his star players – the Rozzi Sisters and Kate McCutcheon – and developing the likes of Candace McCutcheon, Sam Garcia, Jayda Jackson, Emily Peterson and Taylor Farino, into one of the best teams in the Section.
New Paltz – Seamus Trzewik-Quinn of boys swimming, who became the third New Paltz swimmer in a row (after Hudson Carroll in 2014 and Emile Kuyl in 2015) to win two events (100 backstroke and 200 Individual Medley) at the Section 9 Meet, then followed that with two top-10 finishes at States…and he’s only a junior, a State title is in the future.
Highland – (tie) wrestler Mark Castellanos and girls basketball’s Ali Rozzi. Castellanos was the sole Section champion for Highland, coming off a solid season the 132-pounder used his relentless work-ethic and speed to get to States; Rozzi scored her 1000th-point in the last regular season game against New Paltz. It was a three-pointer (of course!), but more her game rounded out this season as a rebounder, defender and in assists. One of the best ever at Highland.
That’s it for this winter season. Congratulations to all the Best of the Best for winter 2015-16.