On Wednesday afternoon, the Saunders team bus pointed north, bound for the three-day Zero Gravity Holiday Basketball Tournament in New Hampshire. Along the way, the Blue Devils learned snow had pushed the event back a day, so they stopped at the National Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., to kick off a day of team bonding.
“We all love basketball,” senior Erickson Gonzalez said. “Going to the basketball Hall of Fame, it’s like we were all still at home. We were seeing all the greats and our team was together.”
Coach Anthony Nicodemo scheduled the tournament with that in mind. As much as the basketball will matter, so will every experience away from the court, too.
“It brings the family closer,” Gonzalez said.
Saunders will play all three games at Keene State College, one of which could be a semifinal against Sleepy Hollow Saturday. Nicodemo, who coached at Plymouth High School in New Hampshire and in the tournament 10 years ago, helped Sleepy Hollow coach Rob Rizzo enter his team into the field.
“We don’t play each other this year,” Nicodemo said. “If that’s how it works out come Saturday, that’s fine with us.”
Both teams open today. Saunders will meet four-time tournament champ Smithfield (R.I) while Sleepy Hollow faces Coe-Brown Academy (N.H.).
“It’s well run. It’s a diverse tournament with teams from a couple of different states,” Nicodemo said. “You want to go out and play teams that you’re not going to see normally during the year.”
League season on tap: With the new year comes a new season for many. League play will hit full swing for teams across Section 1 beginning on Jan. 3. The section will play host to 30 league games on Jan. 3 and 4 and just two non-league games.
The highlights include rivals New Rochelle-White Plains and Scarsdale-Mamaroneck on Thursday and Rockland County’s only two unbeatens, Clarkstown South-North Rockland, as well as a game between defending sectional champs Tappan Zee and Albertus Magnus.
Around the rim: Dobbs Ferry star Eric Paschall returned to the court Thursday for the first time since Dec. 12. He missed the last two games because of a family obligation. … Somers’ John Decker scored the second-highest point total in Slam Dunk history (39) on Thursday. Stepinac’s Tony Taylor set the record with 54 on Dec. 29, 2007 in an 88-86 triple-overtime loss to Briarcliff in the tournament’s seventh-place game.