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Highland boys basketball coach happy with program

3/16/2017 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

GRANGER — Now with two seasons under his belt as head coach of the Highland High School boys basketball team, Adam Cestaro said he likes the way the program is currently positioned.

“We have some really dedicated kids and some real hard workers,” he said. “We’re headed in a really positive direction both on and off the court. The kids are doing really well in school, they’re having a positive impact on the community and they’re playing some pretty good basketball as well.”

This season, Cestaro said, Highland finished with a 13-11 overall record, including a 6-6 mark in league play.

“It was a good season,” the coach said. “You start out every year wanting to compete for a league title and we did have a couple of disappointing losses in the league, but overall we played a really tough schedule and I thought we played well in the tournament. We won our first tournament game, against Walsh, and then lost in the sectional championship to Stow, who had a really good year. I thought we gave them everything they could handle and put ourselves in a good position to win that game.”

Cestaro said he was “absolutely” happy with Highland’s improvement this season.

“I thought we came together well as a team,” he said. “We had some ups and downs throughout the season — we had both some nice winning streaks and a couple of cold stretches — but all in all I thought we were really dedicated to improving. We were really able to make some growth as a young team.”

The only senior in this year’s starting lineup, Cestaro said, was guard Jake Mall.

“Jake led our team in assists, scored some for us and was our leader on the court for sure,” the coach said. “He was our best communicator on defense and he was a defensive stopper. He usually had a tough defensive assignment on the perimeter. He’s going to be tough to replace.”

Junior guard Collin Rittman earned first-team honors in the Suburban League’s American Conference this season, Cestaro said.

“We relied on Collin a lot to score and he scored almost 22 points a game for us,” the coach stated. “He led us in steals and was also our leading rebounder, with over five a game. He played really good in our pressure defense.

Cestaro said he is expecting “more of the same” from Rittman as a senior next season.

“He’s a great natural scorer, so we’re going to let him do his thing there,” the coach said. “He’ll have a ton of varsity experience as a returning two-year starter.”

The other members of Highland’s starting lineup this season, Cestaro said, were junior center Landon Mazzocco, junior forward Ryan Frederick and sophomore point guard Jake Rogers.

“Landon was very solid and steady for us. He had eight points and five rebounds a game, and defended the other team’s biggest guy on a nightly basis. He rebounded, shot the ball really well and did a nice job passing from the five spot,” the coach said. “Ryan was probably our best individual defender. He led the team in charges taken with 23 this year, which is probably close to a school record. He also made 45 3-pointers, which was two off of the school record. He really stepped up, especially down the stretch. And Jake had a lot of the ball-handling responsibilities for us and he took care of it. He ran the offense well, he pushed the tempo and he was a really great on-ball defender. We’re looking forward to him coming back as our point guard next year and making us go.”

According to Cestaro, other players who played key minutes for Highland this season included seniors Ryan Cook (forward), Matt Fry (guard) and Josh Filips (guard), juniors Ryan Acks (center), Pete Gmitric (guard) and Jarrett Smith (guard) and sophomore guard Devin Myers.

“We got a ton of energy off of our bench, especially on the defensive end,” he said. “They also provided some nice scoring and shooting for us. What our bench did was vital not only in the games, but also in terms of the intangibles that they would bring to practice every day. Their work ethic really made us better as a team throughout the year. Coming in, that was the biggest thing we wanted to accomplish this year and overall I think we really improved and grew this season. We were able to get better every single day, come together as a team and represent our school really well.”

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