Matanzas boys basketball went 9-15 last season. This year, the Pirates hope to keep afloat by keeping all hands on deck — and injury-free.
The Matanzas Pirates boys basketball team was decimated by injuries last season, and coach Tony Zaksewicz said for his team to experience success this season, it has to stay healthy.
The Pirates are off to a 2-3 start this season. In their most recent game, they lost to Bolles 54-47 in overtime Tuesday, Nov. 30.
Last season, Jay Jones and Ivan Tsabak were the only two varsity players who made it through the entire season without missing significant time because of injury, Zaksewicz said.
Jones comes into this season as a senior captain; he also was the team MVP last season. Tsabak started on varsity as a freshman last season, and through the first four games of his sophomore season, he’s leading the team in scoring, averaging nearly 18 points per game. Senior forward Wendell Powell, also a team captain this season as a senior, was limited to eight games last season because of a fractured ankle. In those eight games, the 6-foot, 5-inch forward averaged 17 points and nine rebounds per game.
He was the team MVP as a sophomore.
Jalen Hancock, another one of the team’s six seniors, also was limited to 13 games last season because of a fractured ankle. Zaksewicz said Hancock provides interior strength.
Zaksewicz said the Pirates had a hole at the point guard position but got a nice surprise Friday, Nov. 26, when the Pirates defeated the Flagler Palm Coast Bulldogs for the second time this season, 55-53.
Nikko Bembry played on the varsity team as a freshman, but took his sophomore season off. He’s decided to play basketball again this season as a junior, Zaksewicz said, and he earned the starting point guard job last week.
The Pirates went into last season’s district tournament as the sixth seed and lost in the first round to Pedro Menendez. Now in his fourth season, Zaksewicz hopes to contend for the district championship. He said Creekside is the defending district champion and lost in the regional finals last season. Creekside brings a lot of experience and skill back this season, Zaksewicz said, but if his team stays healthy, Matanzas is a force to be reckoned with, too.
“I expect this team to compete for one of the top district spots this year,” Zaksewicz said.
He added: “After what we experienced last year … it’s definitely about staying healthy. And it’s also about building chemistry on and off the court — and that is higher now than ever.”
Contact Andrew O'Brien at [email protected].