Black Knights enjoying the ride in turnaround season

Published Feb 16, 2017 at 4:10pm

Having fun and buying in. That’s been the mantra behind the resurgence of the Rome Free Academy boys basketball team this season.

“We told the kids at the beginning of the season, that we were going to change our style of play a little bit,” said RFA head coach Nick Medicis, who is in his 10th season at the helm of the Black Knights.

“We watched film of Loyola Marymount and the guys caught interest. So the kids turned out and put the hours in on the track to get conditioned. I give a ton of credit to the guys that were there every day.”

The Black Knights have worked to a 17-3 overall mark that included a 10-1 record in the Tri-Valley League, good for first place in the TVL Colonial Division.

This is Rome’s first winning season since the 2011-12 campaign when they went 12-7 overall and 10-1 in the TVL. RFA has earned the No. 3 seed in the Section III Class AA tournament and will host the winner of Friday’s first-round game between No. 6 Henninger and No. 11 Baldwinsville in a quarterfinal on Tuesday night.

The backcourt duo of juniors Ethan Powell and Tristan Hunzinger have provided leadership over the course of the season.

“You know, it’s been fun this season,” Powell said. “We’ve all been playing together since sixth grade, so it helps our chemistry now on the floor.”

“Besides being so close on the court, we all hang out outside of basketball,” Hunzinger said. “Even with the junior varsity guys, we all hang out. We’re like a family.”

Hunzinger and Powell have established a chemistry not only on the basketball court, but as friends, too.

Both junior guards again credit playing different sports, especially football, to strengthen their relationship.

“We’ve been playing together for so long, and now that we’re winning together, it’s fun. I’ve embraced my role as the point guard and my job is to find whoever has the hot hand and when it’s Ethan, I know where he’s going to be because of how long we’ve been playing together,” Hunzinger said.

“Yeah, we’re trying to win, but as long as we’re having fun, that’s really all that matters,” Powell added.

Powell, Hunzinger and Medicis all have given a lot of credit to the other guys on the team, especially the bench players.

“One guy who has really embraced his role this season is Dante (Cummings),” Medicis said. “Dante is our sixth man. He gives us a spark off the bench. Steve Reynolds plays hard minutes for us. All these guys could be starters anywhere else, but they know and accept their roles.”

“The bench players take their roles good,” Powell said. “Sometimes they play better than most starters.”

Another player on the team that Hunzinger and Powell raved about this season for his work is sophomore forward Zach Wilbert.

“Wilbert is great to have on the team,” Powell said. “He picks us up in ways that people don’t realize.”

“There’s always a missing piece on a team,” Hunzinger said. “Our missing piece was Zach. He does everything that goes unnoticed.”