Aurora -- Second-year head coach Jim Wallish was thrilled to see his Aurora boys basketball team finish the season with one of the region's most improved programs.
After a season of installing a new system, Wallish helped guide Aurora from a 1-22 campaign to 9-14 this winter. The turnaround included a much-improved 6-6 showing in the rugged Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division.
"It was an exciting year and we're starting to build an identity for AHS basketball," said Wallish, who had a nice mix of underclassmen and seniors.
Returning players from last year included seniors Paul Kollat, Drew Daff, Joe Roberto, Anthony Quaranto and Andrew Rinicella, and juniors Joe Dinardo and Pavel Galchenko.
Wallish will miss his large senior class that also included Scot Adsit. "We went 6-5 in our last 11 games and there were three close losses there, so I give a lot of the credit to our seniors," said the mentor.
"They battled. They could have easily packed it in when we were 3-9, but they didn't."
AHS competed hard against No. 6 seed Cleveland Heights (15-9) in a first round 69-54 loss in the Division I sectional tournament. "We were right there," said Wallish of his team's tourney achievement.
With 3 minutes left in the third quarter, AHS had fought back from a double-digit deficit to trail by 50-48.
Kollat was a first-team all-CVC performer, averaging a team-high 11.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.2 steals. He led the club with 34 3-pointers and a 37-percent shooting mark from the arc.
Quaranto had one of his best games ever in the tourney loss with a season-high 17 points, including three 3-pointers. "It was very cool for Anthony to go out with one of his finest games," said Wallishy. "Our seniors did a great job."
Quaranto hit for 4.7 points a game, with 2.8 boards and 1.3 assists.
Roberto and Daff were key performers on defense and help on the glass. Roberto had 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds, and Daff added 2.9 points and 1.7 boards a game.
"We will miss the seniors. Daff lost some minutes [in the player rotation)]earlier in the season, but he came back and played a big role later," said Wallish.
AHS gave up 9.0 points a game less than last season, which is a great defensive improvement, forcing an average of 17.1 turnovers this year, and averaged 13.4 assists.
"We're building the program, and want to focus on creating more turnovers and better defense," Wallish said. "The guys are learning how to be successful."
Dinardo was second-team all-CVC, hitting for 9.3 points through 22 games, 2.6 assists, 2.5 boards and 1.3 thefts.
Galchenko was honorable mention all-CVC after adding 6.1 points and grabbing a team-high 5.0 rebounds a game. He blocked 13 shots.
Other contributors were junior guard Michael Durkin, sophomore guard Parker Blunt and sophomore Kyle Fayne played in 22 games.
Durkin averaged 3.8 points and 2.7 rebounds, Blunt 5.4 points 18 3-pointers), 1.9 boards, 1.8 assists and 1.1 steals and Fayne 3.2 points and 1.8 boards.
Junior guards Nick Ely (1.6 points in 17 games) and Jimmy Smith (1.0 point in five games) also saw action, as did sophomore guard Brody Miller.
Aiding Wallish were varsity assistant Jordan Carnevale, JV coach Ed Schaefer, assistant JV coach Drew Snyder, head freshman coach Jay Price and assistant freshman coach Chad Radke.
The JVs included Jack Brubaker, Mitch Evans, Collin Garnek, Miller, Ben Nelson, Josh Nutting, Nino Oliver, Andrew Seidel, Nolan Sotka. Smith and Fayne.
The freshman went 12-7 with players Trenton Bollinger, Donovan Boyle, Leo Caito, Kyle Delrosa, Alex Ely, Andrew Glantz, Brett Graham, Brandon Howard, Billy Korecky, Austin Mac, Jimmy Richards, Holden Semancik and Jeremy Thorn.