Oneonta High gets a fresh start tonight in boys basketball.

The reigning Section Four Class A champions open the season at home in the Anthony C. Drago Tournament tonight when the Yellowjackets play Southern Tier Athletic Conference rival Maine-Endwell at 8 p.m. Laurens plays Metropolitan High School, out of the Bronx, at 4:30 p.m. in the other first-round game.

OHS, who finished 20-5 last season and won its first state-tournament game in 11 years, have moved back to Class B and will have to replace four starters _ including Daily Star Player of the Year Dan O'Brien, who finished with a school-record 1,121 points and 346 assists.

"We lost four guys who are playing college basketball," said OHS coach Jerry Mackey, the Daily Star's reigning Coach of the Year. "That doesn't happen too often. To think we're better is unrealistic. Our goal is always to be better in February than now. We feel we have the pieces.

"I'm excited because we have guys in the program who had to basically wait their turn because the guys we had last year were that talented," Mackey said. "I'm excited for these guys to get the game minutes and see what they can do."

O'Brien and Daily Star second-team selection Brendan Harder are playing for Rochester Institute of Technology. Alex VanDeusen, a second-team selection last year, is at Pitt-Bradford and Zach Harlem is playing at Wells.

Those four were important pieces to helping the Yellowjackets win the Section Four Class A championship last year. OHS then beat New Paltz, 44-39, in the opening round of the state tournament before falling to Peekskill, 89-32, in a quarterfinal.

The Yellowjackets won the sectional Class B title two years ago.

One starter returns from those two teams in 6-foot senior guard Alex Mirabito. A Daily Star first-team selection last year and a two-year starter, Mirabito is a strong defensive player who had a team-high 70 steals last year. He also averaged 10.3 points and had 89 rebounds and 74 assists.

"I think he's looking forward to the challenge (of being a leader)," Mackey said. "I'm looking forward to it. He's one of the better players, not only in the STAC, but in central New York and maybe the state and he's a top-flight perimeter defender."

Junior forwards Monte Richardson (6-3) and Nate Eastman (6-4) saw ample playing time last season and will be looked upon to be the nucleus along with Mirabito.

"On paper, to lose two kids 6-4 or bigger that are as multi-functional as (O'Brien and Harder) were, and Harlem and VanDeusen to handle the ball and knock down jump shots, we're basically starting over," Mackey said. "Mirabito and Richardson will draw a lot of attention. Nate is there too. With those three we have a good core. Then it's up to the other kids to do their jobs and play their roles and hopefully have kids emerge to have a chance to put their hard work on display."

Senior guard Ben Ehrets (6-1) will be one of the final two starters and Mackey said senior forward Tony Burns (6-2) or junior guard Ty Southard (5-11) will handle the fifth spot, pending on what team the Jackets are facing and matchups.

The Drago Tournament, named after former longtime coach Tony Drago, began in 1958 and is one of the longest-running tournaments in the state. OHS athletic director Joe Hughes said though snow was in the forecast for today, he didn't think there would be any problems playing the games.

"I'm not too worried about it," Hughes said. "Mother Nature's a basketball fan, so I think we'll play."

The consolation game is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Friday, with the championship to follow at 7 p.m. Hughes said three teams are in the JV portion of the tournament with Oneonta playing M-E at 6:15 p.m. today and the Yellowjackets meeting Laurens at 3 p.m. Friday. Hughes said Metropolitan doesn't have a JV team.

OHS girls to

open Wednesday

Oneonta, which won the Section Four Class A title last season, meets Unatego in the opening round of the Drago at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Gloversville and Niskayuna play in the other first-round game at 6:30 p.m.

The Jackets, who finished 18-5 after a 57-31 loss to Cornwall in the state quarterfinals, return a strong core from last year's team, including senior Madie Harlem, who averaged 12.5 points for the season, but increased that to 19.3 points during the postseason.

Also back are 6-foot sisters Meredith Ridgway, a senior, and Val Ridgway, a junior. Sophomore Sienna Wisse is also a returning starter for the Jackets, who lost starter Rachel Sason to graduation. Lesley Harlem, a junior guard, will be the fifth starter.

Sophomore guard Erin Wolstonholme will be the first off the bench for the Jackets. Juniors Kate Bredin, Kasondra Hughes and sophomore Jen Dilello could also see ample time off the bench.

"We were the hunters last year and this year we will be the hunted," said OHS coach Bob Zeh, who begins his 43rd year coaching and eighth with the girls team. "We have a little star on our backs and everyone wants us. People will be ready. So far, we've scrimmaged well."

Zeh also said he thinks the offense will be more consistent than last year.

"I think we have more weapons," Zeh said.

The consolation is slated for 6:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by the championship at 8:15 p.m.

In the JV tournament, Oneonta and Unatego meet at 3 p.m. today, followed by Gloversville and Niskayuna at 4:45. The consolation is 3 p.m. Saturday and the championship is at 4:45.

Edmeston Tournament

Gilbertsville-Mount Upton meets Afton at 5 p.m. today in the varsity opener of the Edmeston Tournament. The host Panthers play Oxford at 6:30 p.m. in the other first-round game.

The consolation is scheduled for 3:15 p.m., with the final slated for 5 p.m.

The JVs opened the tournament Monday, with the consolation and final scheduled for noon and 1:30 p.m., respectively. Afton and Edmeston play in the consolation and G-MU meets Oxford at 1:30 p.m. in the championship.

South Kortright

Thanksgiving Tourney

South Kortright will host its annual boys Thanksgiving Tournament on Friday and Saturday. The varsity matchups are Roxbury vs. Schenevus at 6 p.m. Friday and South Kortright vs. Worcester at 7:30 Friday. The consolation is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday with the final slated for 7:30 p.m.

The JVs will precede the varsity with SK and Worcester playing at 2:30 p.m. Friday, followed by Roxbury and Schenevus at 6.

Joan Martin

Thanksgiving Classic

Morris plays host to the annual Joan Martin Thanksgiving Classic girls tournament on Friday and Saturday.

Downsville plays Hamilton at 4 p.m. Friday and Morris meets Deposit at 5:30 p.m. The consolation is at 3 p.m. Saturday with the championship at 4:30.

In the JV tournament, Downsville meets Schenevus at 1 p.m. Friday, followed by Deposit and Franklin at 2:30. The consolation is at noon Saturday, with the championship scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

___

P.J. Harmer can be reached at pharmer@thedailystar.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 229.

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