Dartmouth basketball begins season with hard-earned victory against Lakers

Dec 12, 2023

Despite a challenging first half fraught with turnovers and an injured player, the Dartmouth boys basketball team picked up the intensity in the second half to defeat the Apponequet Lakers 73-61.

“I feel great about the way they played,” said Manny Cordeiro, who cheered on his nephew Hunter Matteson, senior and forward for the Dartmouth Indians. “The second half came in really strong … Hunter always plays hard, but he also rallies the team, and he’s a team player. It’s good to see him come out this first game strong.”

Dartmouth begins this season with four new starters on the court, as some of its former players have either graduated or transferred. Among those players to leave was Aiden Smith, one of the team’s top players, who transferred to Tabor Academy. The four new starters are junior forward Jhoan Valdez and three senior guards Elaijah Monteiro, Adam Mogawer and  Logan Kennedy. 

Smith’s departure has left a big hole to fill in the team.

“We have a lot of guys who have to step up and haven’t played varsity minutes,” Coach Nick Simonetti said before the game. “But we feel very confident in them.”

Although they were down 9 points at the end of the first quarter, Dartmouth fought their way into the lead in the second half despite senior Donovan Burgo rolling his ankle early on and sitting out most of the game.

He’ll need an x-ray, but he expects to be back on the court soon.

“We have four new starters, so it’s new for all of us,” Burgo said. “But we’re doing good.”

Being their first game of the season, Simonetti expected there to be some mishaps, but he sees this as an opportunity to sharpen their skills for the season to come.

“I thought our energy was pretty good,” he said. “Offensively, we had way too many turnovers — we should 100 percent limit the turnovers. I think it was way too much ... I thought our first quarter was a little slow.”

Some in the audience had similar critiques of Dartmouth’s performance.

“I would like them to just run the floor and take the first option that they get,” said Erique Monteiro, parent of Elaijah. “They’re looking for something special, but at the end of the day, you have to take the easy stuff … They’re a very smart team, good chemistry. They just have to trust each other.”

Dartmouth shined in the second half, a comeback that Simonetti attributes to an intense defense that bolstered their offense.

Parent Derek Stevens said that overall, despite the team’s restructuring and loss of key players, Dartmouth’s season is off to a good start.

“I thought it was a good first game of the season,” Stevens said. “There’s a lot of new guys in a lot of new roles, and they shook off that nervousness from the first half and played a strong second half. If we can maintain that defense, intensity, as well as ball movement, we’ll be OK.”

Dartmouth next plays Greater New Bedford Vocational Technical High School on Friday, Dec. 15 at 6:30 p.m. in New Bedford.