MARLBORO – Coach Michael Nausedas and his Marlboro High School boys basketball team have been as close as one can get to winning a title in each of the past two seasons; literally seconds away from claiming a championship.
During the 2020-21 season, Marlboro lost on a last second layup to Manasquan in the Shore Conference Pod A tournament championship game. New Jersey’s traditional post-season tournaments were changed during the coronavirus pandemic.
During the 2019-20 season, Marlboro lost on a layup at the buzzer to South Brunswick in the Central Jersey Group IV state sectional tournament championship game.
Two years of tough endings to incredible seasons have been tough to handle for the Mustangs, but those outcomes have made the players more hungry to win a championship in 2021-22.
A senior-laden squad led by three-year starters Jack Seidler and Jonathan Spatola has its eyes set on winning the program’s first state sectional tournament championship.
“This team has legit goals,” Nausedas said. “The competitiveness and sense of urgency in practice is something I have never seen. This group is determined to win a championship.”
As a junior, Seidler averaged 20.2 points per game last season. Over the past two years, Seidler has been a dominating presence in the front-court, scoring more than 19 points per game and being a force on the boards with eight rebounds per contest.
Nausedas has been impressed with the improvements Seidler has made as a player over his high school career and even more impressed with the leadership he has shown during this preseason.
“Jack is saying all the right things,” the coach said. “He is bringing great energy and communication to the team.”
Spatola returns to run the offense at point guard. In the Shore Conference Pod A tournament last season, Spatola averaged 22 points per game, including a game-high 25 points in Marlboro’s 71-65 victory over the Ranney School of Tinton Falls in the semifinals.
“He’s a freak athlete,” Nausedas said of Spatola. “I think he can be one of the best players in the Shore Conference.”
Senior Jay Ratner is another three-year starter and Nausedas calls Ratner the ultimate role player with his abilities to defend and to distribute the ball.
The most improved player on his roster this year, according to the coach, is senior Zack Molod, who is entering his second year as a starter. Jonathan Spatola’s brother, Vincent Spatola, is the final piece of the senior starting five.
Nausedas said his starting five is a special group of players, but most importantly they are friends, having played basketball together since they were 8 years old.
“These guys are the epitome of a team,” the coach said. “They are a true team and they are true friends. They are so much fun to be around. They deserve success after what they have gone through these past two years.”
Juniors Ryan Mendes, A.J. Schwartz and Sohan Eletti, and senior Cole Evans are expected to contribute off the bench for Marlboro.
Having significant depth is something Nausedas said his teams have lacked over the years. It will be a challenge at first to figure out how to rotate the players, but he knows that being able to call on nine or more players will help the Mustangs in the long run this season.
Marlboro will open the season with home games against Union High School and Manalapan High School and the Mustangs will participate in the 37th annual WOBM Christmas Classic.
As he enters his 10th season as Marlboro’s head coach, Nausedas believes this is his best group of players and that they have a good chance of being the best team in program history.
To make that happen, however, Nausedas has preached to his players about taking things one day at a time for now as they gear up for a marathon of a season.
“We can’t look past anybody,” the coach said. “These guys want to win a championship and they understand we need to take things one day at a time right now.”