Tanner Winchester scored a team-high 23 points Friday, but Unatego opened its boys basketball season with a 98-73 loss to Johnson City in the first round of the Anthony C. Drago Tournament at Oneonta High.
“They’re a lot more athletic and a lot quicker than we are, but that was to be expected,” first-year Unatego coach Cal Locke said of Johnson City, which plays in the Southern Tier Athletic Conference. “They did a really nice job of getting to the rim and finishing at the rim. They’re very quick and good in the paint.”
Matt Czeitner scored a game-high 25 points for the Wildcats, who received 24 points from Colin Arvanitakis. Dominic Nadz contributed 11 points for JC, which jumped to a 30-17 lead after one quarter.
“I was happy with our effort,” said former Unatego junior varsity coach Locke, an Oxford graduate who took over for Jim Knight this season. Knight, who retired after last season, is an assistant coach under Warren Kelly for Midstate Athletic Conference rival Delhi this season.
“Obviously you don’t want to lose by 25, but I’m happy with our effort,” Locke continued. “We played hard and we’re doing this to get better.”
As for coaching his first game at the varsity level, Locke said: “It’s different. There are butterflies, but there are butterflies every season. This group of players, I’ve had all these guys before and they’re really good kids.”
Locke added that playing in the Drago is part of Unatego’s plan to prepare for the postseason. The Spartans will play Seton Catholic Central of the STAC in the consolation game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. After that, Unatego will host Cooperstown of the Center State Conference on Wednesday.
Locke said his team also scheduled two games against Owego of the STAC this season.