The Maspeth High School varsity boys basketball team has made waves throughout their season, playing to a perfect 15-0 record as of Jan. 11, with two of those wins coming against opponents from different leagues.
Having already established themselves as arguably the best team in the Queens B I Division, the team is looking to leave their mark by winning the school’s second PSAL title, having previously won it in 2015. The team’s head coach, Daniel Franchese, credits the effort and production of all 14 players for their success this season.
“I think this is probably my most talented team that I’ve seen,” Franchese said. “I’ve had really amazing players in the past, but never had a group of players where I could go 1-14 and know that someone can put the ball in the basket for me. We’re really seeing the competition amongst the boys because they’re all seeing the equal talent level amongst themselves and they recognize that they need to produce. It makes a little more of a competitive atmosphere.”
According to Franchese, one of the seniors on the team is being looked at by a CUNY school. He also said there’s been some interest from schools for junior year students. In that regard, he’s begun to reach out to coaches from Division II and Division III schools.
For junior Cristopher Guaba and senior Tommy Cieslik, this season has been some of the most fun they’ve had playing basketball. They credit the bond between each other as a contributing factor for their success.
“We motivate each other and keep the energy up,” Guaba said. “We make sure that we’re good mentally and physically. We always check up on each other, especially after injuries or to talk about how we played after games. We always bring each other up, no matter what. There’s a good brotherhood.”
“Everyone’s hungry for that PSAL championship,” Cieslik said. “A lot of people are working harder and playing smarter for that championship because we know that’s the main focus.”
Maspeth High School athletic director Shawn Baumann took a lot of joy in watching the team perform this year. He emphasized the maturity shown by the players, crediting it for playing a role in their success. Baumann also praised their ability to adapt when called upon by coaches, from running different types of offenses and defenses to team bonding activities.
“Right now, I think there is a new talent level that we are witnessing,” Baumann said. “This year, there’s just new abilities that we’re seeing, there’s new inspiration and motivation and a chemistry on this team that is recognized.”
Baumann also provided some insight into the work he, Franchese and the rest of the coaching staff have been putting in to try and get the student athletes recognized and recruited by college basketball programs. They’ve used recruiting apps and websites to highlight the players and get them to speak to coaches on the collegiate level. Additionally, Baumann and Franchese have invited college coaches to watch them play, including during a winter tournament the two helped organize, with Maspeth High School emerging victorious.
The tournament over winter break also helped the players display their skills against tough opponents from all across New York City. This included some top teams from the Bronx and Brooklyn.
“Rather than just playing our division, they were expanding throughout the boroughs of who they were going to play, especially when they see them in the playoffs,” Baumann said. “I think the level of preparation for them has increased this year as well.”
The PSAL varsity boys basketball playoffs can include anywhere from 30 to 60 teams from across the city. The fact that it’s rare for teams within the same division to face off during the playoffs adds to the importance of the non-league basketball games that Maspeth High School has played in. According to Baumann, there are usually five or six rounds in the playoffs. Teams are typically seeded in a way so that they face competition they did not regularly play throughout the regular season.
Franchese recently revealed to his team that they were ranked as the fourth-best basketball team in the state. The only other instances in which they were ranked that high were in 2015, when they won the city title and 2018, where they spent some time ranked as the No. 1 team in the state.
Maspeth High School’s next varsity boys basketball game is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 18. Playoffs are set to begin in the last week of February.
However, Franchese said there’s a chance that they may be selected for the borough playoffs, which would start in mid-February. If they are chosen to take part in it, they’d get to face basketball teams from the AA and A divisions.