For Pete Aguilar, Monday afternoon was a day four years in the making. Ever since he enrolled in Mount St. Michael junior high, the sophomore guard from the Bronx has been waiting to make his varsity basketball debut with the Mountaineers.
After a year on the junior varsity team, Aguilar finally got his chance on Monday, scoring a game-high 27 points for the Mount in an 82-51 romp of Salesian.
“Really I don’t care about the points, I care about the win,” Aguilar said. “It doesn’t matter how much I have as long as my team wins.”
As soon as Aguilar could join the varsity team, he’s had a mentor in senior guard Willie Williams.
“Me and him just have that chemistry,” Aguilar said of Williams, who had 13 points. “We do everything together. After school he helps me with my homework and we just talk and call each other on a daily basis. He’s my big brother.”
The relationship between the two guards, Mount coach Tom Fraher said, is mutually beneficial. Before Aguilar, Williams had to do a little bit of everything for the Mountaineers – play lockdown defense, run the point and score. Now he has that scorer that’s been missing at Mount for three years.
“The difference we have this year that we haven’t had in other years is the sophomore Pete Aguilar, he’s a great finisher,” Aguilar said. “He’s strong, he catches, he’s got a great nose for the rim. We have a finisher this year we haven’t had here in a long time. He’s going to be a really, really good player the next three years.”
And Aguilar has a hard-nosed old-school point guard who can get him the ball in good spots.
“He knows once I have the ball to look for it because he might get it,” Williams said. “I feel like once he starts to get us going, the defense turns up and we start getting easy buckets in transition.”
That’s what happened on Monday in the Mountaineers’ regular-season opener. Led by Kevin Punter (17 points) and Shadyne Philbert (14), Salesian jumped in front, 10-8. But then Mount went on a 19-0 run to take a 27-10 lead on Williams’ putback and never looked back.
The Mount used a suffocating full-court press to cause numerous turnovers and score at ease in transition. It’s always been the core of Fraher’s philosophy in his 16 years on Murdock Ave. and it will be a big part of the Mountaineers’ success this season.
“We’re a good defensive team,” Fraher said. “We’re quick, athletic and we rebound. Those are some good ingredients… When you defend, you’re in every game. When you defend and rebound, you’re in good shape.”
Of course, it also helps to have a pure scorer like Aguilar, too.
“There’s lot of reason for optimism,” Fraher said.
A year ago, Mount lost to eventual CHSAA Class A runner-up Iona Prep by three points in the intersectional semifinals. The Gaels are again a favorite, as is Chaz Williams and Bishop Ford, but Williams likes to think the Mountaineers will have something to say about who plays at Iona College this time.
“This year we have way more balance and we finally have a scorer in Aguilar,” Williams said. “I feel like a lot of people are sleeping on us this year, but I think we have a good chance to win it all.”