Boys Basketball Preview: Monarchs welcome underdog role

If the McGann-Mercy Monarchs need inspiration, they can always look back to 2001-02. The Monarchs stumbled through a 2-16 season, only to come back the next year and win the county championship.

Mercy coach Mike Clauberg knows it’s a different set of circumstances this year as the Monarchs begin a new season after posting a 1-17 record a year ago. Most notably is how the Monarchs have continually climbed into higher leagues and classifications, pitting them against stiff competition.

This year, their third in a row in the competitive League VII, the Monarchs will play as a Class B school for the first time since the ’80s, Clauberg estimated, adding that they’re the smallest B school in the state after the enrollment numbers were adjusted for this year.

It’s a tough road, one that doesn’t get any easier in the non-league schedule when the Monarchs play big schools like Lindenhurst.

“We don’t mind being the underdog,” Clauberg said.

The Monarchs went winless in league last year and have totaled only three wins in the last two years combined. They’ll look to turn that around this year with a roster that features a lot of experience. The Monarchs lost only two players off last year’s team and return a trio of players who are in their third year on varsity.

“I have a decent nucleus this year and I’m hoping to be a little more competitive than last year,” Clauberg said.

Patrick Stepnoski returns to play forward alongside Danny Hartmann, a versatile swingman, and Joe Crosser, who will run the point.

Senior Junior Paul, a stronger defensive player and rebounder, returns along with guard Brian Willet, who had a strong game in the team’s scrimmage Tuesday night against St. John the Baptist.

A newcomer to the varsity is sophomore Nykel Reese.

The Monarchs scrimmaged against Shoreham earlier in the week before facing St. John the Baptist Tuesday. Clauberg said the team came out sloppy against the Wildcats but was much sharper against St. John the Baptist.

“My starting lineup did very well,” he said.

Mercy opens the League VII season Dec. 16 on the road at Southampton.

[email protected]