By Mark Kitchin
Jefferson season review
After several very successful seasons, the Jefferson Falcons bumped into a rebuilding year. In 2009-10 the play of guard Gavin McCarney, kept Jefferson among the top teams. This past year the Falcons had a young squad that battled but had difficulty winning games on a consistent basis. “We’ve been very fortunate,’’ Jefferson coach Joe DiGennaro said. “We lost eight seniors along with Gavin to graduation. No one really stepped up. We moved up to the American Division and we were really competitive in a ton of games.’’ Plenty of returning players saw action on their 7-15 team which should help them for next season.
Senior leadership: The Falcons lose only one senior this year but he was their most consistent scorer. Evan Valentini averaged 15 points per game and was a steady source of double-doubles. One of his top games was a 25-point effort against an improved Mount Olive squad.
Highlights: The Sparta-Jefferson rivalry dates back to the early days of the Sussex County Interscholastic League. Beating the Spartans 48-45 early in the season was huge for the Falcons, especially since Sparta was coming off their championship run in the J. P. Flynn Holiday Tournament. A home win over Randolph in the prelims of the Morris County Tournament was a nice lift, too. Unfortunately the 14th-seeded Falcons advanced to play defending champion Mendham in the next round. The Minutemen would eventually win their fourth consecutive title.
Hope for the Future: There’s plenty of hope and a lot to build on. Next year the Falcons will have four returning starters with clearly defined roles. Andrew Hall will be back to run the point. He will be a 3-year starter by then. He averaged 12 points a game as well as a good distributor and a long range threat. Steve Cuccio, 6-foot-4, had a healthy season after dealing with concussion issues last year. Jeff Oster knocked down 38 treys apart from being a well-rounded competitor. Evan Rapp was the team’s defensive specialist who did a good job covering most of the opponents he faced. Jon Kristofferson was chosen the team’s most improved player and provided a spark off the bench. Kenny Ginefra is terrifically talented but inconsistent. If he can harness his powers, the Falcons will have more reasons to cheer.
Off-season plans: The Jefferson team works hard in the offseason. Apart from working out and weight training, they hold open gyms twice a week. The Falcons traditionally have a team in the Hopatcong Summer League but are also considering getting together a squad for the Morris Knolls league. They also participate in East Stroudsburg University’s weekend team camp. Finally Jefferson holds its own youth camp in which the players become counselors and help the town’s younger players improve their games.