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  • Writer's pictureJack Bienvenue

Lasers’ hot streak ends with the Cadets

Junior guard Conan McCusker talks with first-year guards Che Hanks and Cameron Foster-Martez during a home win against Husson in December. (Joe Giacco)

As the 2023-2024 season loomed over the men’s basketball team in early November, so did many questions. 2022 was an underwhelming campaign, in which they missed the tournament for the first time since 2012 and saw four key players' careers come to an end, point guard EJ Day (‘23), who had been the program's leading scorer for the past four seasons.

It quickly became clear that the summer of 2023 was slated to be one of the most crucial recruiting periods in recent years and would significantly affect the trajectory of the program's future. With that being the case, Head Coach Aaron Galletta got right to work, making it a priority to continue constructing a team of competitors. 

Galletta, who has now entered his 18th season as the Lasers head coach, saw flourishes of his vision as early as pre-season practices.

 “Practice has been competitive. It was competitive in September, and that’s something we needed to address in the off-season,” Galletta said. “The guys have really bought into what we are trying to do.”

With the combination of recruits such as guard Che Hanks, wing Andy Medesko, and forward Cameron Foster-Martez, the Lasers went into the season eager to make a statement despite an eighth-seed rank in Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) preseason rankings. Being ranked in the bottom half of the conference served only as fuel to the new-look Lasers, having their sights set on proving the rankings wrong.

Junior guard Marcus Lewis sets up at the free throw line against Husson. (Joe Giacco)

The first half of the season did not go as the Lasers planned, as injuries would not be kind to the men in white and Carolina blue early. They would be without one of their most vocal leaders, senior guard Demerrick Warren, for the first half of the season and would lose one of their best all-around players, sophomore forward Quinton Partee Jr, in only the sixth game. As a result, the Lasers went into the break with a 6-5 record. 

The back half of the season automatically started on a positive note for the Lasers as Warren returned to the court, providing an instant spark. Galletta emphasized the importance of Warren's return, as he likes to live by the philosophy of “player-led teams are better than coach-led teams.” Galletta has built a roster of players with a leadership mindset, translating to an unprecedented turnaround. The Lasers began 2024 10-5 in the regular season, with nine of the wins coming consecutively.

Junior guard Marcus Lewis, who had a breakout season, credits much of the Lasers run to their ability to focus on what they can control: the next game. 

“We play every team once, so getting those teams in our rearview and focusing solely on who we got next is our goal because one game can decide whether you're in the playoffs,” Lewis said.

Andy Medesko (2): First-year guard Andy Madesko posts up against a Dean defender in a January 2 home victory. (Matt Johnson)

The Lasers' played with a next-game-up mentality stemmed from their head coach. Galletta remains present, prioritizing getting the most out of each day.

Andy Medesko (2): First-year guard Andy Madesko posts up against a Dean defender in a January 2 home victory. (Matt Johnson)

“We’re just focused on today. On getting better today, going 1-0 in practice and film, and then trying to go 1-0 tomorrow,” Galletta said. 

Continuing into the playoffs, the Lasers looked to continue turning heads by riding a wave of confidence and poise into the tournament, with a chance to bring home their first GNAC title in 16 years. Their 10-4 conference record garnered the fourth seed in the GNAC tournament, with Norwich traveling to Auburndale for the opening round of the playoffs. The Lasers last hosted a home playoff game in 2022, defeating Norwich 69-57.

The playoff run did not live up to the heat of the months prior. The Lasers' season ended on a stepback three by Norwich’s Kohlby Murray, falling 68-67. Madesko led the Lasers with 20 points and 14 rebounds in the loss.

“The expectations that were set on the team in the beginning of the season were always high. We developed as a younger team to go out and compete every night against more veteran players,” Madesko said. “As a team we did not reach our goal of winning the league however, we learned a lot through our wins and losses and we will come back stronger and more experienced next year to bring the GNAC championship to Lasell.”


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