Though the 2023-2024 school year is just around the corner, we are wrapping up our recognitions from the 2022-2023 season with our boys and girls basketball coaches and players of the year. These were selected based on the performance and win/loss results of the respective teams and their qualification for the postseason. We now give you our 2022-2023 Hernando Sun Boys & Girls Basketball Coach/Player of the Year.
Boys Player of the Year: Caden Bergantino, Central, Sr.
Without Bergantino, having the kind of season the Bears had wouldn’t have been possible. A returner from last season’s 25-5 team, his leadership and playmaking abilities are what set him apart from other candidates. His contributions on the floor, whether playing either a guard position or as a forward, make him interchangeable anywhere on the court. Last season, Bergantino averaged 14.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 2.3 steals per game.
Boys Coach of the Year: Matt Zandecki, Central
Coming off the kind of magical season the Bears had in 2021-2022, they had to follow it up with another deep playoff run. Zandecki put all the right pieces where they needed to be to have Central back in the thick of it in Class 4A. He guided Central to a second straight 20-plus win season, in which the team fell in the region’s final round against a solid Fort Myers Gateway team. Nonetheless, the Bears have compiled 45 wins and multiple playoff victories in the last two seasons under Zandecki.
Girls Player of the Year: Paige Atwater, Weeki Wachee, Jr.
If there was any doubt that the junior combo guard wouldn’t have a standout season for the Hornets, the first thing you have to look at is her work ethic in the gymnasium. Atwater is a constant gym rat when it comes to getting up hundreds of shots a day, putting her in a position to be one of the best around. Last season, Atwater, through 25 games, averaged a team-high 15.4 points per game, along with 2.3 steals and 2.1 assists. Her best game of the season came back on December 14 in a 61-19 win over Inverness Citrus, when Atwater scored 30 points on ten field goal makes. She won’t have to travel too far once her high school playing days are over, as she’s already committed to Saint Leo University.
Girls Coach of the Year: Billy Hughes, Weeki Wachee
In his third season at the helm, Hughes had arguably one of his best campaigns on the bench yet. Hughes led the Hornets to a 20-6 record, which was good enough to lead the club to the Class 4A, District 9 championship against contenders like Anclote and Crystal River. It’s the second consecutive 20-win season that Hughes has under his belt, and with another talented squad slated for 2023-2024, Weeki Wachee could be starting another successful campaign ahead.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at andyv[email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Andy_Villamarzo.