Blues ‘Staying Focused’

Blues ‘Staying Focused’

PM JUNIOR forward Spencer Hamilton takes a shot inside. Hamilton led all players with 31 points and 11 rebounds. (Stephanie Mikels Blevins photo)

Blues ‘Staying Focused’

FIGHTING BLUE senior guard Will Dunlap defends a Grayson County player while teammate Justin Wade (15) moves in to help. (Stephanie Mikels Blevins photo)

Blues ‘Staying Focused’

PM HEAD coach Mike Cartolaro (black shirt) and his players come together for a huddle for the game begins. (Stephanie Mikels Blevins photo)

PM Boys Prepare To Defend Regional Title

Coming off winning its first regional championship in 25 years, the Parry McCluer High School boys basketball team approaches the upcoming season with gratitude and hope.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic that began in early March, shortly after the Fighting Blues’ ended their run with a 49-46 loss to Grundy in the Class 1 state quarterfinals, the Blues had the start of this season delayed from early December to early January.

“It’s such a different year,” said fifth-year PM head coach Mike Cartolaro after the Blues’ New Year’s Eve morning practice. “It’s changed goal setting to the point where we’re trying to come in, stay focused and work daily, knowing that our schedule could change at any moment. It takes quite a bit of character, which these guys have shown.”

Cartolaro, a PM alumnus who won four state championships and 502 games while coaching at Altavista High School, is optimistic about what the Blues can achieve this season.

If the Blues do get to complete their condensed season, he said their goals include winning the Pioneer District title, repeating as the Region 1C champions, and taking the next step at the state tournament.

Last year, the Blues won the Pioneer District regularseason title by going 11-1 in district action, but lost in the district finals to Narrows, 40-46. They then bounced back to take the Region 1C title with a 44-42 win over Auburn in the finals.

PM went 20-7 last year and only graduated two seniors, Treveion St. Clair-Helm and Baris Esmeroglu.

Commenting on the Blues’ progress last year, Cartolaro said, “This group really improved a lot from the beginning of last year. The two categories we improved the most were defensive intensity and, on the offensive side, taking care of the ball.” Cartolaro said the Blues did a great job of limiting turnovers.

Returning to lead the Blues as co-captains for the second year in a row are seniors Will Dunlap, Ethan Moore and Talen Roberts. “Those are the guys that we depend on the most, not only on the floor but the leadership in practice,” said Cartolaro.

Dunlap, a 6-foot-4-inch guard, was last year’s Pioneer District player of the year and was named to the all-district, all-region and all-state first teams. He is a fourth-year varsity player and a third-year starter who is a strong scorer, rebounder and defender.

Moore (5-8) and Roberts (5-10) are both guards who are playing their third year of varsity basketball. Roberts is a talented shooter who made clutch free throws to lift the Blues to the regional title, and Moore is a solid shooter and defender. Roberts was selected to the all-district second team last year, and Moore received all-district honorable mention honors.

Along with Dunlap, Moore and Roberts, the Blues’ other starters will be junior forward Spencer Hamilton (6-11) and junior guard Ryan Perry (5-10). Hamilton steadily improved last year and is a strong inside scorer and 3-point shooter, rebounder and defender. He was named to the all-district first team and the all-region second team last year. Perry’s speed, passing, shooting and experience should help the Blues this year.

Coming off the bench, the Blues return four players: senior forward Durham Baker (6-4), senior guard Justin Wade (5-11), junior forward Trey Secrist (6-0) and sophomore forward John Snider (6-2). All four contributed to last year’s success.

New to the varsity level are senior forward Ty Ruley (5-10), junior guard Jalen Mitchell (5-8) and freshman guard Evan Cook (5-8).

Returning as assistant coaches for the Blues are Rad Patterson, Tyler Kerr, John Armstrong and David Smith. “We have a very good coaching staff with a lot of experience,” said Cartolaro.

In the Pioneer District, Cartolaro expects Narrows to be PM’s toughest rival. The Green Wave graduated several seniors but move up some players with what Cartolaro said was the best junior varsity team in the district. He also expects Covington to be tough.

PM’s schedule is subject to change, but the Blues are slated to open Pioneer District action at home against Narrows on Thursday before traveling to Grayson County on Saturday and to Bath County on Tuesday. Against Narrows and Bath County, action begins with the JV game at 5:30 p.m. At Grayson County, action begins with the JV game at 1 p.m.

Pleased with the character his team has shown to endure the pandemic and continue to work hard in practice while following COVID-19 protocols, Cartolaro said, “They’ve been through the wars. They just really want to play.”

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