Panthers push to sneak into tournament

By Tom Phelan - Staff Writer
East Windsor - posted Thu., Feb. 17, 2011
At 6'4" and 220 pounds, Rick Reilly is hard to keep out of the middle. His determination and intensity in practice and games set the tempo for his teammates. Photo by Tom Phelan.
At 6'4" and 220 pounds, Rick Reilly is hard to keep out of the middle. His determination and intensity in practice and games set the tempo for his teammates. Photo by Tom Phelan.

“You always want your wins to be reflective of and parallel to the work you put in, and sometimes that doesn’t happen,” said East Windsor High School boys’ basketball coach John Cessario, just before his team took the floor to face Bolton at home on Feb. 15. He was trying to emphasize that his players have given it everything they have, but the result is not often registered in terms of wins and losses. “These guys come after it every day,” he added.

Weather forced frequent school closings in the month of January. That means athletics were canceled, too. But concerns for snow-laden roofs forced EWHS to be off-limits for more than a week, making opportunities to practice erratic and putting the Panthers through a stretch when they were not able to get into their gym for two weeks.

They were finally able to have two consecutive practices. “It’s an incredible situation,” said Cessario, shaking his head. They last practiced at EWHS on Jan. 30, and had to reschedule their “home game” against Stafford, and play on the road instead. It was their fourth win of the season.

The Panthers have only two seniors of the team. “Leadership from our two captains – Rick Reilly and Ryan Briggs – is tremendous,” said Cessario, who is in the fourth year with the East Windsor basketball program. He has nine freshmen on the squad, and two of them are starters.

Kevin Mocadlo and DaJon Farley have performed beyond their freshman status, according to Cessario. “We run a pretty complicated system,” he said. “I let a lot of their natural ability take over, but they are really starting to make the appropriate reads. Their basketball IQ is very high.” Mocadlo had 20 points, and Farley contributed 10 points in the 61-30 win against Bolton.

Before their second win against Bolton, their record was 4-11, and Cessario said he felt they needed four wins in the next five games to have a chance to sneak into the tournament.

“We have winnable games, but there are a couple that are going to be really tall tasks,” the coach said. They faced NCCC foe Enfield on Feb. 18, and Cessario was trying not to look ahead. “I make a sign of the cross every time we go into that [game],” he said. “We’ve got to play as close to perfect as we can.”

They also have a make-up game against Suffield, followed by a match against Granby the next day - Senior Night at EWHS. Their last game of the regular season is at Windsor Locks.

The Panthers have lost in a quintuple OT game and a triple OT game, and lost in the final seconds on a 3-point bank shot. “People can look at us as the hardest-working group in the NCCC,” the coach said. Different outcomes in those three games would have made the team more comfortable about squeezing into the tournament. “NCCC is not an easy conference,” Cessario said. “We’ve beat teams that are going into the state tournament.”



Coach’s corner-

East Windsor High School Basketball Coach John Cessario

Number of Seasons: 4

Seniors: Ryan Briggs and Josh Canning

Season schedule at



Spotlight Players–

Ryan Briggs is a four-year starter. He’s been through the very difficult times that took them through a 0-40 stretch. His first year was also Cessario’s first in the EWHS program. “He’s one of those guys that does everything we ask him to,” said Cessario. Briggs is a National Honors Society member, with a work ethic that is contagious.


Junior Rick Reilly has a big heart. “That’s what he brings,” the coach said. At 6’4” and 220 pounds, Reilly is more vocal than Briggs. “He’s someone who bears down when it’s crunch time in a game,” said Cessario. “He is a mentor to some of the younger guys.”



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