MARLBORO – Last year was magical for the Marlboro High School boys basketball team.
The Iron Dukes went on an unprecedented run, reaching the New York state final four for the first time in program history, losing only to Section 6’s Olean in the Class B championship game.
But, that was 10 months and seven graduates ago.
Just five of the 2016-17 Iron Dukes experienced that run through the playoffs, and the team has already matched its loss total from a year ago. Monday’s suffocating 92-32 home setback at the hands of Class AA foe Pine Bush was its fourth loss in 10 tries.
But, the players who remain from that 22-4 2015-16 team, as well as coach Mike Koehler, have noticed some similarities between the two groups. Mainly, Koehler praised his players’ grit.
“How scrappy we are. We fight,” the coach said, comparing his teams. “When we’re playing well on defense, we get after loose balls, we take charges and work well on the defensive end as a team.”
And though the team lost its two top scorers from a year ago, junior guard John Perugino thinks his team’s on-court skills are comparable to last year’s edition.
“We have a lot of talent, just like we did last year. We’re starting to move the ball better, like we did last year,” Perugino said. “We work hard.”
Seniors Joe Nugent and Yazeed Haidaoui, as well as fellow juniors Austin Casey and Jaiden Allen are the other returners.
Xavier Oliver — the Dutchess County Basketball Coaches Association’s co-Most Valuable Player for small schools a year ago — Tyler Jollie, Jack Rusk, Nick Mongelli, Joe Marshall, Josiah Alvarez and DaQuan Jackson were among Marlboro’s graduating class last year.
Oliver averaged 12.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals and one block per game last season. Jollie followed him, averaging 11.5 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Despite losing his offensive stars from a season ago, Koehler said his five returners have “done a really great job.”
Allen scored a team-high 24 points in Marlboro’s 68-55 win over New Paltz on Jan. 6. Casey added 12 points, while Perugino chipped in 10. On Monday, Allen led all Iron Dukes with 12 points.
And, the Iron Dukes have kept their confidence. Moments after sustaining that lopsided loss Monday, a blowout that could have left his group shaken, Perugino said the team believes it can return to states in 2017.
“Yeah. I mean, we’re always confident in our ability. I think we have a lot of talent on this team,” Perugino said. “If we just put it together, we have a good shot. We’re always playing hard, we’re in the right direction.”
A.J. Martelli: email@example.com, 845-437-4836, Twitter: @AJM_PoJoSports
The Marlboro boys basketball team’s next three games:
Friday, Jan. 13 at Highland, 5:45 p.m.
Tuesday, Jan. 17 vs. New Paltz, 5:45 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 20 vs. Red Hook, 5:45 p.m.