As the new year gets under way, the Somerville High School boys basketball team is ready to turn the corner for the stretch run toward a possible postseason berth.

But before the run commences, coach Mark Antonelli took timeout of his busy schedule to answer the following questions for the Somerville Journal on the current state of the team. 

What has been one of the best total team-effort games so far, and why?

We have had some good team efforts so far, but I feel this team is just starting to scratch the surface.

We have three losses against teams that have been ranked in the Top 25 EMass polls, and in all three games we were disappointed, because we should have or could have won those games.

Our ongoing goal is to play a complete 32 minutes. In our last game, a 68-48 win over Malden Catholic, we came close, but we still have a little ways to go. Once we get that consistency, the sky’s the limit for this group.

How has the transition gone from the Greater Boston League (GBL) to the Northeastern Conference (NEC)? What do you enjoy most about being a part of a new conference?

It's been exciting to be a part of the NEC. We have played some of the teams in the NEC over the years like Peabody, Lynn English, Lynn Classical and Danvers, so the players have some familiarity with their styles of play.

From a coaching standpoint, I have had to do a lot of extensive scouting to learn some of the other NEC programs. This has been very time-consuming, but still exciting as I think scouting and game planning is a way that a coach can give his team an advantage, and that is what we have tried to do.

What is it like to coach this current group of seniors, and how long have you known them?

We have three tremendous seniors in Lucas Saint-Jean, John Kalton and Jio Pierre. John and Jio are three-year varsity players, and Lucas is a four-year varsity player.

It is great to have their experience and leadership to rely on, not only in games, but especially in practice. They are selfless and humble kids, who are a coach’s dream. All three guys played in our Tradition travel program, and came to my fall clinics, so we have known each other a long time, and I think as a result I have a special bond with each and every one of them. I am going to make sure to enjoy this last ride with them, and our goal is to take it as far as we possibly can.

What do you enjoy most about coaching at Somerville High School? Do you ever share stories of playing for the Highlanders with your team?

I enjoy all aspects of coaching at Somerville High School from being involved in the youth programs to seeing alumni come back and visit us during games and practices.

I was blessed to be exposed to this program at a young age. I still remember my dad taking me to see coach Rich Melillo's Somerville High teams, when the likes of Jimmy Perry, Ken Olson and "Truck" Nickerson were playing here. This continued on as I watched my brother and his classmates Bill Herron, Kevin White and Danny Murnane play on the team. I always wanted to be a Highlander, because of those experiences.

Then when I was in high school I knew that I wanted to coach this team someday. Not many people get to live out their dreams. I am extremely lucky, and with that I think I have a great responsibility to maintain the integrity and culture of Somerville High basketball. That sense of pride, and instilling that into a new generation of Somerville kids, is what I enjoy the most.

I don't talk much about my stories when I played here, because we are too busy working on their story. The only thing I do talk about is to remind them on how lucky they are to put on that uniform, and what many guys like myself would do to be able to play one more game in that gym. We tell them to cherish it, because they will miss it dearly when it’s over.

What is the one thing that many fans don’t know about your current varsity team?

They are all homegrown products, who were developed in the youth, travel, summer and middle school leagues right here in Somerville. Other schools have guys that arrive at their school in high school. Our guys have been through all levels of basketball right here. They have had great mentors along the way, and they are a product of that. That's special.

Finally, can you go into detail about this coming Sunday’s game against Medford at Tufts University? What are you looking forward to the most that day, and why?

Anytime you get to play a game in a great venue like Cousens Gymnasium, it’s exciting, and then you add in the fact that you get to play against your neighbor Medford High School. These are the types of games that you work hard work for. It should be a ton of fun.

Both teams will be collecting warm clothing during the game, with all donations benefiting the Somerville Homeless Coalition.

Sports correspondent Matt Noonan also contributed to this story.