Syracuse, a GBA team in town, finished an undefeated season in March. Pictured, top row: head coach Dave Mitchell, Dylan Mitchell, Michael Brennan, Dillon Farina, Connor Gilday, and assistant coach Thom Gilday; bottom row: Aayan Banglawala, Adam Kukulka, Owen Ciaglo, and Greyson Giangreco. Not picture: assistant coach Michael Farina.
Head coach David Mitchell said it was a “great group of kids” that allowed his Syracuse team to polish off a perfect season in the Glastonbury Basketball Association (GBA) ACC league.
Syracuse, a team consisting of local 7th and 8th graders, swept through the regular season, winning all 13 games, before taking in a pair of playoff games and putting an exclamation point on the season with a 43-24 victory over Villanova in the championship game at Gideon Welles School on March 13.
“It starts with teamwork,” Mitchell said of the unblemished season. “[The players] were great listeners, they were great teammates, they were disciplined, and they worked hard.”
It was a thoroughly dominant 16-game stretch for Syracuse, who outscored their opponents by over 28 points per game and 450 points overall (783-333). The team both scored the most and allowed the fewest points in the seven-team league.
Mitchell said it was the team’s stingy defense that ultimately made the difference.
After learning the coach’s full court press and zone defense, the eight players were a defensive juggernaut, holding eight opponents to under 20 points.
“We preached defense,” added Mitchell, “We were able to teach them the fundamentals, and the biggest reason for our success was defense.”
Handling the scoring load was Mitchell’s son, Dylan Mitchell, who scored over 20 points per game.
David Mitchell, who also coaches youth football in town, said his son was a defensive specialist when he coached him in basketball a year ago and came alive on the offensive end this season.
“I don’t know what happened to him in the summer. All of a sudden he’s scoring over 20 points per game,” David Mitchell joked about his son’s development on the court. “I didn’t know what I had in my own son.”
The team had very few hiccups this year, but Mitchell pointed to a 29-26 win over the UConn team in January as a wakeup call.
“Whether we won or lost that game, we needed that game. It showed them that we could be beat,” recalled Mitchell. “It wasn’t hard to keep them motivated after that.”
Following the close call, the team steamrolled through the rest of the season, defeating North Carolina 60-22 in the first round of the playoffs and eliminated Butler 49-26 to advance to the championship game.
With perfection on the line, Syracuse left little to doubt, jumping out to a 25-3 lead as they cruised to the 19-point victory over Villanova in the title tilt.
David Mitchell said the team was notoriously a slow starting team, but said they were all business from the opening tip in the championship game.
“It was super exciting,” he added. “We came out extremely fast.”
Dylan Mitchell led the way with 22 points in the championship triumph. He completed the Most Valuable Player (MVP) trifecta—winning the league MVP, the finals MVP, and eventually winning the league’s All-State game MVP.
Connor Gilday, who added 11 points in the championship win, did a lot of the dirty work down low this season, averaging over 10 rebounds per game.
David Mitchell added the undefeated run was a complete team effort, saying every player knew their role.
He pointed to Owen Ciaglo, who was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year, as a key piece. Despite Ciaglo’s lack of size, Mitchell said he could guard anyone on the court because to his effort and athletic ability.
Dillon Farina was named the team’s best all-around player, starring as the team’s jack-of-all-trades.
Greyson Giangreco, Michael Brennan, Aayan Banglawala, and Adam Kukulka also played major roles throughout the season.
Making the accomplishment even more amazing was that none of the players had competed on the court together in any official capacity prior to the season.
“It was putting a bunch of young men together and hoping it works, but they all had the right attitude,” noted David Mitchell. “They each knew their role and they knew what they were good at, and they knew what they needed to do to win.”
The proud coach added that his team also had limited gym time, often practicing only once a week.
Therefore they had to learn to play together during games and Mitchell could see his team gelling after only a few games together.
“I knew we had something special,” recalled Mitchell. “It’s pretty astonishing how they came together so quickly.”
Mitchell added it was the first time he had been involved with an undefeated team in any sport and credited his assistant
coaches Thom Gilday and Michael Farina—a 13-year old who was learning the ropes under the two veteran coaches—for helping secure a perfect end to a memorable season.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin