Coast Guard basketball / 2017-18 preview

Men's basketball

Coast Guard returns nine players, including four who made 14 or more starts from a team that finished 7-17 overall and 3-11 in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference. The Bears open their 2017-18 season on the road Wednesday at Roger Williams.

Coach Kevin Jaskiewicz, who begins his ninth season, welcomes a team that was competitive a year ago despite its record, suffering 10 losses by 10 points or less.

"We have to learn from that experience," Jaskiewicz said. "We know how hard we played in games, but we have to play harder to get over that hump. We could have been 6-4 in those 10 and it's a very different year."

Sophomore Packy Witkowski and senior co-captain Micah Baldez, the Bears' top two scorers last season, return in the backcourt. Witkowski averaged 13.7 points per game (15.1 in conference games) and 6.4 rebounds, and led the Bears with 54 3-pointers (40.9 percent from behind the arc).

Baldez, CGA's lone senior, averaged 12.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. He was tied for the team lead with 55 assists while leading the Bears with 34 steals.

Junior Luke Daniels, who also had 55 assists, provides depth in the backcourt along with sophomore Sean Graytok and with junior Bryce Schroeder, who missed the 2016-17 season with an injury.

Sophomore Justin Kane (8.9 points, 5.8 rebounds), classmate Noah Baldez (6.9 points) and junior Nolan Benson (5.2 points) all return to bolster the frontcourt.

Coast Guard also adds four freshmen — guard Yonas Gordon, swing player Paul Costain  and big men Tyler Jones and J.T. Cox.

"I believe all four of the freshman will make a contribution this season," Jaskiewicz said. "They all had a good preseason."

The Bears will play nine games in the first semester before jumping into NEWMAC play in the second semester.

"The way we can measure ourselves and our progress early in the season is to see if we are winning those close games," Jaskiewicz said. "The guys are showing a deeper understanding of our system and are applying the experience they gained from last year.  We are excited about the start of the new season."

Women's basketball

Coast Guard heads into the 2017-18 season with a deep roster that will look to the leadership of its juniors and seniors and the athleticism of its freshman and sophomores to make a deep run in the NEWMAC tournament for the sixth straight year.

Coach Alex Ivansheck, a Norwich Free Academy graduate, has amassed 75 wins in her first five seasons and returns 10 players from a team that won eight of its final nine regular-season games and earned a trip to the NEWMAC tourney quarterfinals.

Senior Gillian Gerton, who has started 49 games (averaging 10.1 points and 7.3 rebounds), returns to lead the Bears and is on pace to become the 10th player in school history to score 1,000 points (she already holds the career record for blocks with 102.

"(Gerton) has really developed over the past three years," said Ivansheck, whose Bears open on Wednesday night at UMass Boston. "I think this is going to be a year where she takes control and leads the team. She has been working with teammates on and off the court and has an even, composed presence."

Seniors Jill Bray (51 career starts) and Amanda Klawinski will also provide leadership along with a strong junior class of Micaela Martinelli, Johanna Moolenaar and Jayla Joyner, who have combined to play in 120 games for the Bears.

"Johanna and Micaela have made huge strides," Ivanscheck said. "Johanna picked up her play at the end of last season and she has continued that growth. Micaela gives us size at the guard position. She is creative with her scoring and her unorthodox style makes her difficult to defend."

"Jayla returns to full strength for her junior season and has played well during preseason. She is seeing the floor well and is making good decisions with the basketball."

Sophomores Breanna Wood, Laura Irish and Zoe Riis-Fallica will benefit from big minutes as freshmen and will continue to improve in their second year.

The Bears will also feature four freshmen — Annabella Farabaugh, Rachel Everson, Meghan O'Brien and Brenna Farrington — who lengthen the bench and bring an immediate athletic boost to the team.

"We are able to play at a different pace this season than ever before," Ivansheck said. "This year, top to bottom, one through thirteen, is the most competitive roster that we have had since I have been at the Academy."

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