Wildcats seek to replace elite scoring

Evan Heath will be relied on as part of an experienced backcourt this season for the Lee boys. (Photo by Matthew Tonis)

GREAT BARRINGTON — For the past nine seasons, Eric Cardinal has been an assistant and junior varsity coach in Berkshire County between the now closed St. Joe and Lee, where he has spent the previous two seasons serving under former coach Jason Bliss.

This winter, the coach will get his first opportunity at the front of the bench, taking the reins of a Lee boys’ basketball team looking for a new identity.

The Wildcats will have to replace the production of four seniors who made up a bulk of the offensive production from a season ago. JJ Jimenez was a playmaker at point guard, while Myles Whitney-Nason and Dominic Bartini each were in the top 20 in the county in 3-pointers made, giving Lee reliable outside shooting.

But the biggest loss was that of center Ben Harding, who scored 19.5 points per game during the regular season in 2018-19, becoming the latest Wildcat to surpass 1,000 career points in the process and served as both the focal point of the offense and the safety net if the rest of the team were to go cold.

With so much of the program’s identity graduated in the spring, Cardinal set out to do the same thing when it comes to coaching the team, as well.

“I wanted to make my own footprint this season,” Cardinal said. “My style is going to be a little bit different… This team is different than last year’s team. This year’s players are a little bit different from last year’s players, so this year it’s all about that team chemistry. We have to be able to read each other on and off the court.”

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