Dan McFarland, pictured here driving to the basket, averaged a team-leading 17.9 points during a standout junior season. (Photo by Michael J. Petro)
Men's Basketball: Hawks look to build on record-setting season
Coming off their most impressive season since joining the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference, Hilbert is looking to take last winter’s success to an even higher level in 2012-13. Eleventh-year head coach Rob deGrandpre is hoping to be in a position where his team is playing for a conference championship come late February.
Hilbert finished an impressive 15-12 last winter and 11-7 in conference play – good enough for a fourth place finish. After a first round home playoff win over D’Youville College, the Hawks watched their season come to a close after a late rally at eventual champion Medaille College came up just short. The loss marked the fourth time deGrandpre’s Hawks have reached the conference semifinals, including in the last two years, only to lose to the eventual conference champion.
The Hawks will have to compete in what has blossomed into a very competitive conference in men’s NCAA Division III basketball. Two years ago, the conference was tough enough to send at-large berth recipient Penn State Behrend and conference tourney winner, La Roche College to the NCAA Tournament.
“We’ve accomplished a lot the past two seasons by getting our program back to being contenders in this league,” deGrandpre said. “I just don’t think our kids are satisfied with simply appearing in postseason play. They want more.”
The success of Hilbert will depend greatly on returning starters Dan McFarland and CJ Hodge. McFarland averaged 17.9 points during his junior campaign and can score in a variety of ways. The 6-foot-2 first team all-conference selection ranked among the league’s best, and now has 1,168 career points. Hodge, the AMCC Newcomer of the Year during his rookie campaign, has dished out more than 100 assists in each of his two years quarterbacking the Hilbert offense.
Returning post players being counted on include 6-foot-3 senior Isaac Bushey and a pair of sophomores in 6-foot-10 Mike Jones and 6-foot-6 Ryan Brewster. All three are quality finishers and rebound the basketball well on the defensive end, deGrandpre said. Senior guard Anthony Hodge averaged eight points in his first season wearing the royal and white. The continued development of sophomores Rob Cuomo and Trevor Stark have also have been pleasant surprises for the coaching staff.
Seven true freshmen join one sophomore transfer in rounding out an eight-person recruiting class that should solidify the continued growth of one of the conference’s most competitive programs. The Hawks poured in 76.7 points per game and averaged a league low of 13.1 turnovers per game.
A preseason pick to finish fourth in the AMCC coaches poll, Hilbert’s non-conference contests against St. John Fisher College, Alfred University, Keystone College and Elmira College should be a good measuring stick. The Hawks get underway Thursday (Nov. 15) at home against Fredonia State as part of the 2012 Hilbert College Tip-off Classic.
Frontier High School graduate Sarah Lorusso enters her second season for Hilbert as the team’s main point guard. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)Women's Basketball: Deeper Hilbert team looks to keep program improving
Hilbert looks to add to the victory column this year by adding to its roster. A more full roster to start the season than in recent years includes the return of several key players from last year’s team, as well as the addition of some talented new athletes.
The depth will not only be beneficial when the regular season gets underway but also during practices as the Lady Hawks prepare in an effort to keep the program improving.
“We have a competitive and athletic group of players who are working hard and are ready for the start of our season,” explained encouraged coach Rob Peterson, who returns for his third season to lead the Hawks. “A full roster already helps us as we prepare for the long season. The addition of five freshmen creates competition with the returning players and everyone is forced to step up their efforts. Plus, we have more combinations to work with which we know is beneficial.”
The Hawks will rely heavily on the experienced upperclassmen for leadership. Senior Amber Grosch, who averaged 20.9 minutes a game last season was a vocal player and one of the hardest working Hawks. Junior Natalie Whitman’s 11.5 points per game and 8.3 rebounds were a big part of the Hawks success a year ago. Those numbers should improve now that the team is deeper, which will force defensive attention across the board, Peterson said.
Sophomore Sarah Lorusso of Hamburg led the team in assists with 63 last year and will continue to handle most of the point guard responsibilities. Sophomore Jenah Labuski is expected to be a major contributor, as she was second in rebounding with a 6.2 average and scoring (8.2) her freshman year.
Jessica Jamison should have a bigger role with the team after her mid-year transfer, while fellow sophomores Kateland Ball and Jenna Crans will both provide energy to the team. Newcomers include sophomore Tiara Thomas and freshmen Dashlyn Johnson, Lauren Eggleston, Wyann Jackson, Erin Smith and Courtney Coots.
“As with last year’s freshmen, this year’s group of new players will also be looked upon to contribute,” said Peterson, whose team opens its season hosting Wells College on Nov. 15.