By Ed Niser
GROTON — The Crusaders basketball team (7-2, 3-9 Mid Wach B) under the guidance of third-year head coach Greg Gillette are coming off a successful trip to Cape Cod for its annual preseason tournament.
Groton-Dunstable won all of its games over the weekend — notching victories over the likes of Dennis-Yarmouth, Upper Cape Tech to name a few.
Groton-Dunstable has been hard at work over the summer months and in the fall — competing in both the Monty Tech Summer Basketball League and the Westford Academy Fall Tournament.
“The guys really want to get back in the postseason,” Gillette said. “They showed that with their willingness to work together in the offseason to get better. They drove themselves to compete in these off-season leagues. We ended up falling in the finals in a very good game with Greater Lowell Tech in that Westford tournament. We have a great cohesive unit and are all about putting the team first. It is really a great group of guys to be around.”
Six-foot-3 center Danny Howes will lead the Crusaders on the hardwood along with junior co-captains Tyler LeClerc and Gavin Keough.
Junior Alex Platt saw time at center during the Crusaders trip to Cape Cod.
LeClerc will commandeer the point guard duties for Groton-Dunstable.
Junior Logan Higgins will split time with LeClerc at the point. Justin Flanagan, who saw significant time at guard last season, will be a solid contributor for the Crusaders. Rounding out the junior class are Ethan Cook and Matt Naughton.
Ethan’s freshman brother, Evan, will likely log minutes off the bench.
“We are a year more seasoned,” Gillette said. “My junior class is very talented and is mixing well with that talented senior class which includes: Danny Howes, Jacob Barnes, Shane Dawson, Brandan Medeiros, Shane Dawson, Kyle Priest and Jack Wadden.”
The Crusaders goal in 2015-2016 is to qualify for the Clark Tournament. Groton-Dunstable last made it in 2012 and advanced to the semifinals before being knocked out, 47-46, by Northbridge in the large school bracket.
Groton-Dunstable owns an overall record of 25-17 in Clark Tournament play.
“It is just a great overall experience for the kids,” Gillette said. “We really want to get back to the postseason. Some of these kids got to experience the playoffs a couple years ago, but for most, it is kind of a mystery.”
The Crusaders will put the majority of their focus on defense this season, while using a balanced offensive attack.
“We have been pretty good defensively over the last two years,” Gillette said. “Defense is going to be our staple again this year. Higgins and LeClerc will be our top-two defenders.”
Groton-Dunstable will not have an easy ride through Mid Wach B play — it never is, if you ask any coach in the league. The Crusaders open up on the road Friday night at 7 p.m. inside the friendly confines of Bartlett Gymnasium against Border rival, North Middlesex.
“The kids are really excited,” Gillette said. “They are a well-coached and a competitive group of kids. There are no easy games in the year. North Middlesex is brutal –Justin has a great group of guys that he is confident in. NM is well-coached and tough to prepare for. You know you’re going to in it for a close game with them every time you play.
There are not a lot of places when where you can say you have a home court advantage — NM is one of them that can.”
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