The Red Hook High School boys basketball team didn’t just enjoy its run to the 2014 Class A state semifinals, it learned from it.
“After the run last year we know how hard it’s going to be to have the success we had,” junior guard Dennis Hare said. “We’re more experienced. We learned to play with more composure and relax. A lot of players have the experience and it’s carried over.”
The fruits of that experience have been evident thus far this season. After losing its season opener, Red Hook has won six consecutive games entering Tuesday’s Mid-Hudson Athletic League Division 2 clash with visiting Highland.
Head coach Matt Hayes likes what he has seen so far, but would like some improvement on offense.
“I’m happy with where we’re at,” he said, “and how we’re playing defensively against some good teams. But if we’re going to win a section title, we need to be scoring — we haven’t shown that we’re going to score a lot.”
The Raiders beat Mahopac in a challenge game of the Duane Davis Memorial Tournament on Dec. 30 at Roy C. Ketcham High School, edging last year’s Section 1, Class A semifinalist, 70-48. They followed with a 47-42 win over New Paltz on Jan. 6, led by sophomore Beau Smith’s career-high 14 points.
Hayes pointed toward a collection of returning Raiders — Hare, Will Avis, Nick Michitsch and Nolan Dalton — as his top performers thus far.
“Dennis Hare is having another good year,” Hayes said. Hare has scored 33 combined points in the last two games. “He’s averaging more in terms of his 2-point field goal shooting — he’s shooting 60 percent from the floor.
“Will Avis is our second–leading scorer, and his field goal percentage is up in the high 50s. Nick is coming on offensively, starting to play with the confidence and aggressiveness that we need him to. Nolan doesn’t light up the stat sheet, but does so many important things for us that help us.”
The Raiders haven’t had a fair amount of time to practice recently on account of inclement weather, and Hayes said Tuesday’s game will be a battle.
“Ideally we wanted a little more prep time,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough division game. Highland is a senior-driven team. We’re expecting a tough, physical game.”
Hare, on the other hand, doesn’t think the lack of practice will have an affect on the Raiders.
“We’re a tight-knit group,” he said. “We’ll play shoot-around after school. We know what they do and know what we do.”
Red Hook beat Highland (4-2 overall) by one point, 37-36, on Dec. 16. Hayes said he wants his team to come out with a little more firepower in the early going this time around.
“I’d like to see us come out aggressive in the first half,” he said.
Hare said the Huskies work well on both ends of the floor.
“Highland is a very good team — they play good defense, and work hard for baskets on offense,” he said.
Looking ahead, Hayes expects the same type of test when the Raiders host Poughkeepsie, a longtime Section 1 power in its first Section 9 season, on Jan. 23, following a Jan. 20 date at New Paltz.
“When we do get Poughkeepsie it’s going to be tough,” he said.
A.J. Martelli: 845-437-4836, email@example.com, Twitter: @AJM_PoJoSports