At this time last year, St. Paul's basketball coach Seth Goldberg wasn't confident in his team's chances of winning the MIAA B Conference championship. In fact, he didn't think his team was very good at all.
"At this time last year we thought we were going to be a pretty bad team," Goldberg recalled.
The team chemistry improved, the wins came with it and the Crusaders rebounded to win the conference tournament crown and finish with a 17-7 record.
St. Paul's defeated Boys' Latin in the title game.
"When we got into January and February, everybody just kind of played a great role," Goldberg said. "There was nobody who was trying to do too much and the chemistry was tremendous, and the effort was just amazing."
Although the top two scorers have moved on, the Crusaders return several pieces, including eight veterans who were on varsity last season.
The seniors include Alexander Matsinye (6 feet 3), Blake Brown (5-9), Ryan Lee (6-2, Daniel Wilson (6-6), Juwan Kearson (5-7), Malcolm Jews (6-3) and Ben Bagli (5-11). Junior Zach Bare (6-0) played last season in the backcourt.
Wilson is the biggest player on a squad with a roster filled with guards and forwards. But don't leave them alone beyond the three-point arc.
"Our guys spent a lot of time in the offseason working on their shot," Goldberg said. "We don't have anybody who I would not feel comfortable with shooting the three."
"Blake Brown, I think, is one of the best three-point shooters in the area," Goldberg said.
While the shooting might be a strength, St. Paul's will need to have everyone crashing the boards. "We will be undersized," Goldberg said.
They plan to make up for that with defensive pressure.
"We like to be a team that shows our intensity level," Goldberg said. "We are not going to press all the time, but we will try to speed things up in the halfcourt. The big thing for us is really getting these guys to play together defensively."
Goldberg also likes his team's chemistry and unselfishness.
"We are a different team this year," he said. "We do have some similarities, in that we have a great group of guys like we did last year and we've got great leadership having so many seniors."