Breakout seasons for Clarke basketball


It was a banner year for Clarke High School basketball – playoffs for everyone. 

 Ironically, both squads were upended by Sewanhaka in the playoffs. The boys’ Round of 16 loss ended the stellar career of James DeSimone, who earned Conference A5 Player of the Year.

For the girls, it was a larger surprise to make the postseason with four junior starters. The Rams broke a playoff drought that extended to 2019. It was only the third time they’ve qualified in 19 years. 

Clarke’s girls season ended Feb. 16 in a 41-25 first-round loss to Sewanhaka, but only positive vibes came out of it. After all, Clarke was good enough to have led by 4 at halftime. 

With his four juniors returning – leading scorer Michelle Diaz, Madeline Millman and the Mehta twins – and an infusion of two promising junior varsity players, the Rams should be formidable next season.

Clarke finished 14-6, 6-4 in the A5 for third place. 

“It was a disappointing end to a really strong season but the experience we gained from practicing and playing in the playoffs will be invaluable,’’ head coach Shaun Fean said.  

Diaz, who plays shooting guard/small forward, earned All-County honors after averaging 13 points. In the loss to Sewanhaka, Diaz contributed 12 of the team’s 25 points. She also hit a buzzer-beating 3 that sent Clarke into intermission up 4. 

“She broke their pressure,’’ Fean said. “She was a stud for us all year and showed her All-County honor was well-deserved.’’

 The second half got away from Clarke after a 10-0 late third-quarter run crushed its upset dreams. Rina Visvanathan had 9 points, matching her average on the season.

 “They were very athletic and hammered us on the boards,’’ Fean said. “They hit a couple of corner 3’s to get the crowd got into it. We’re chasing the rest of the way in a tough environment to play in. Our girls haven’t been in the playoffs so it was their first experience in a playoff environment. It will go a long way to our development.’’

Two players were promoted from its 11-7 JV team for the playoffs - center Althea Borleo and guard Kate Welsh. They figure to be key pieces next season. “Things look bright for us,’’ Fean said. 

Meanwhile, Joe Hasbrouck’s boys are looking at an uncertain future with their top eight players graduating – five of them award winners. 

Hasbrouck believes it’s the first time he’s had five honorees. Joining scoring point guard, DeSimone, (17.5 ppg, 4.5 assists) as all-county selection was small forward Tammyson Emile (13.5 ppg, 8 rebounds). 

Three players made all-conference: seniors Zeak Mercado, Jack Hollywood, the team’s hardest worker belying his last name, and Jonathon Segura.

DeSimone will definitely play in college. “He has the ball in his hands all game,’’ Hasbrouck said. “He gets in the lane, threat from outside, lightning quick and could finish against bigs.’’

DeSimone was held to 12 points in the season-ending 50-36 loss.  

And now the boys’ rebuild is on. “It’s bittersweet after such a fun season,’’ said Hasbrouck, in his eighth season. “It didn’t end the way we hoped. We’ll restart from scratch next year.’’