Delbarton Basketball Season In Review

A successful year: Morris County Champs and regular season division Champs


Joe Narduzzi '23

Senior guard Skyler Venezia led Delbarton in scoring in 2021-22

Paul Brady, Section Editor

On the night of Saturday, February 26th, 2022, Delbarton’s varsity basketball team achieved immortality, toppling Pequannock and becoming Morris County champions. The victory that night came as no surprise to me.  As a member of the team, as I witnessed first-hand the intense work ethic and determination to win our team had since the first day of tryouts. I’d be lying if I said the year was “all sunshine and rainbows” because there was a tremendous amount of adversity to face before “We Are the Champions” sounded throughout our locker room that late-winter night. 

Despite the consistent preparedness of the starting five, the first quarter presented the largest obstacle in our road to the championship. I recall co-captain Derek Lagios reiterating the importance of a good start to the game and how everyone needs to bring intensity as early as the pre-game routine. The comeback victory against Sparta on January 17th, which ended with a game-winning three-point shot from Mike Vaccarro, seemed to cement our reputation as a second-half team. Coach Dan Whalen came to embrace this feature, and he raised our confidence levels when we were down at halftime saying that shots will eventually fall. What made this group championship material, in my opinion, was the fact that our guys were experienced playing from behind, so nobody panicked when Pequannock played us close in the county championship game. 

Coach Matt Leotti’s pre-game talk also played an essential role in our winning the Morris County Tournament. A Delbarton graduate, Coach Leotti was on the last Delbarton MCT championship team in 2006. He spoke about the importance of enjoying the big game experience and advised we each take a moment to look around and appreciate our circumstances. Having Delbarton’s name engraved in the same trophy Coach Leotti once held was the driving motivation in the mind of senior captain Skyler Venezia. “Sky” as we call him, was named MVP in the MCT, led our team in scoring with 341 points for the season, and was selected first-team all county. Undoubtedly, Sky reliably put the ball in the basket all season long, and these individual accomplishments would not have been possible without his hard work in the offseason. As Coach Whalen said, “Anybody can be a shooter, but we need makers.”

On a personal note, being a first-year varsity player was a blast. I think I had the most fun simply hanging out with my teammates before home games. Pre-game dinners in the Caf never failed to make me laugh, a testament to the strength of the team bond. Suffice to say, there was never drama in the locker room, although we did do our best to hold each other accountable to work hard in practice and in games. If asked to choose one word to describe our team, I would say “heart.” Whether we had to deal with foul trouble, fatigue, or difficulty communicating, our players not once conceded to adversity, and that speaks volumes about the heart of Delbarton basketball.

Each of Delbarton’s seven seniors: Joe Azzinaro, Charlie Foley, A.J. Gubler, Derek Lagios, Braden Lalin, Andrew Sanzone, and Skyler Venezia stepped-up to become a pillar of the team. Not only did the seniors perform on the court, they proudly represented Delbarton athletics with class, good sportsmanship, and leadership, and truly were “pillars” of Delbarton basketball. I speak on behalf of the other eight players and our four coaches when I thank our seniors for their dedication to the program and for supplying the heartbeat to our team this year.