Maple Hill boys basketball preview: Wildcats’ looking to continue the success

@Connor Hall

Castleton, NY- Another very successful Fall season has come and gone at Maple Hill. Racking in three Patroon Conference titles, one sectional title, a regional finalist, and sending two runners to states; it’s safe to say it was a Fall season full of accomplishments for the Wildcats.

That success has helped create a smooth transition into the winter season, with most athletes having no break in between sports. The hope for the boys basketball team is that their success in the Fall can translate to success on the hardwood, something that head coach Scott Hanrahan has been preaching since the first day of tryouts.

This 2016-17 Wildcats team aren’t just teammates on the soccer field and basketball court, they have known and developed together since they first started playing organized sports.

“We all want to see what we can get out of ourselves this year, and a good part of that comes from our want to improve on ourselves and our program from last years early loss, however I think a great deal of us want to see how good we can do for each other,” senior captain John Paul Kulpa said. “This group of boys have been playing basketball together from our early days of CYO, so our chemistry and togetherness will surely push us to want to continue playing with one another for as long as we can.”

For the seniors, that means one last run at the sectional title they have been wishing for since they first picked up a basketball.

“We have had a running joke where we were the self entitled JV state champs, so now I guess we have an opportunity to prove it at a higher level. I expect great things from these boys,” Kulpa added.

Playing together since CYO, up through modified, then onto JV, and finally varsity, in addition to the chemistry from soccer, has made this team nothing short of a family. In Kulpa’s case, having his sophomore brother, Evan Kulpa, on the team is something the senior praises.

“This team is a family before it is a basketball team. These boys are my best friends, my brothers (in one case, literally), people who I have grown and developed around, not only as a basketball player but as young men.”

Despite showing dominance in the fall season, whether in cross country or soccer, the Wildcats are still hungry for more success.

“This years team is special. We are a tight knit group of kids who all love the game of basketball, in it’s ups and downs,” Garrett Axtmann said. “We want to succeed and go far. We are hungry to show people how good we really are.”

All throughout the fall season, Maple Hill sports represented their former Superintendent, Robert Horan, who passed away tragically this past summer, by sporting a ‘RH’ patch on all their uniforms. During his 11-years at Maple Hill, Robert ‘Bob’ Horan attended what seemed like every sporting event, sometimes being in two places at once, and always spoke highly of the Wildcats. That dedication is something that all the Maple Hill athletes, no matter the sport, are taking with them through this year.

“Mr. Horan was always our number one supporter, and to lose his energy and enthusiasm from our gym is a loss felt by all. Now we play in his honor,” John Paul Kulpa said. “After every timeout, and at the end of every practice we say “Hill RH” to honor him and remember who this season is really about. He gave all of his support and positive energy to our team for years and years, far before I came, so we owe it to him to maintain his legacy”

Although he may not be standing at the games, cheering on the Wildcats with the smile that he always had on his face, the players still feel his presence.

“The loss of Bob Horan has motivated us more than you can imagine. He was with us during our soccer season, and it is going to carry over in this basketball Season,” Garrett Axtmann said. “He is with us on and off the court. We are going to play for him, our school, and the community with the pride and respect that he would want us to have.

“The pride that Mr. Horan held for his school and his athletic program most certainly has followed him to wherever he is now,” added John Paul Kulpa. “There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Horan still watches our games in his clean pressed suit, red tie, with a huge smile on his face.”

Regardless the score of the game or the outcome, all the Maple Hill teams this year will be playing for Bob Horan, and for many years to come.

The Wildcats will open up their season tonight at Lake George. Tipoff is set for 7:30 PM

-Connor Hall (@518SportsChall)

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