Notre Dame High’s loss in last year’s Section III boys basketball playoffs – to a Whitesboro team, no less, they had beaten by 22 and 15 points during the regular season – has not been forgotten.

No way.

At the time, that state-ranked Notre Dame team was 18-2 and the No. 1 seed in the Class A tournament. And the five players who started that season-ending, 63-61 loss to Tri Valley League rival Whitesboro are still around, hoping to use that shock to the system as a wake-up call this year.

"It’s about wins and losses," Notre Dame coach Ryan Goux said. "But what you learn from your losses is more important than what you learn from your wins. We got complacent last year, and it snuck up on us.

"We spent a lot of time as coaches and as players looking at that and trying to learn from that."

So far, so good.

On Wednesday night, two guards who two years ago helped the Jugglers reach the Section III finals – senior Dante Griffin and junior Jaylen Warmack – scored 24 and 16 points, respectively, and Notre Dame opened the season with a 76-51 nonleague win over Bishop Grimes.

And Friday night, the Jugglers play none other than Whitesboro’s Warriors – off to a 2-1 start in nonleague games – in the teams’ TVL opener at Whitesboro High School.

Notre Dame led by as many as 30 points at Bishop Grimes, but the Jugglers never got complacent. "It still felt like it was a two-point game," said Goux, hoping for more of the same intensity in their league opener, and beyond.

"Whitesboro’s a good team and a good program, and their guys always play hard. Based on last year, I think our guys are up for it. They’re looking forward to it."

Notre Dame has won three straight TVL division titles, but the Class A Jugglers – by choice – have moved from the Pioneer Division to the Colonial Division this season, meaning both games against Thomas R. Proctor, Rome Free Academy, Whitesboro and New Hartford will be league games. The Jugglers were 8-0 against those four during the regular season last year, but one game counted in the TVL standings and the other was a nonleague crossover.

This season, Notre Dame also has beefed up a nonleague schedule that includes six games against teams that were ranked in the state at one time or another last year – including Bishop Ludden (AA), Bishop Kearney (AA), Bishop Grimes (A) and Section II champion Lansingburgh (A) – and two New York City teams are entered in next month’s annual Juggler Classic.

"We knew we wanted to go out and toughened up our schedule," Goux said. "We didn’t want to be comfortable with our schedule. We wanted it to be a challenge every day. We wanted to test ourselves.

"Two years ago, we were a bunch of freshmen and sophomores with one really good senior (Jerome Brabham). Last year, we were a bunch of sophomores and juniors. Now, it’s good to see how these guys are maturing and looking more at the big picture. It’s much different now. The attitude, the preparation, the focus is much different."

The team is the same that went 18-3 and was beaten only by Whitesboro, eventual Class B state champion Westhill, and Ithaca – a Class AA team that reached the Section IV finals last year.

Griffin earned all-state honors as a junior, after averaging 15.3 points and 5.7 assists. Warmack was an all-state honorable mention as a sophomore, when he averaged 15.7 points and 4.1 assists. Griffin was an All-TVL first team all-star, and Warmack and classmate Treijen Garrett (12.9 ppg) made the All-TVL second team.

All three guards made over 40 3-pointers – Garrett had 47, Warmack 45 and Griffin 41 – and 6-foot-6, 235-pound senior center Nick Courto (13 ppg) and 6-2 junior forward Derek Lindsay are the other starters returning for a Notre Dame team that also returns 6-3 Patrick Espinosa and has added Warmack’s brother, sophomore point guard Isaiah Warmack, the leading scorer on last year’s junior varsity.

"We’re well-balanced – last year, we didn’t play to our strengths as well as we could have – and we have a really deep bench," Goux said. "It’s the same guys, but they have all gotten better and we can be more aggressive challenging shots and getting up on the ball.

"Offensively, we’ve got options. Lindsay is a real worker and we’re looking to get Nick more touches. He’s the key to that inside-outside game working for us."

• Like Notre Dame, Rome Free Academy – the TVL Colonial champion at 10-1 – has everybody back from one of RFA’s best teams in many years. The run-and-gun Black Knights finished 17-4 overall, including an overtime loss to Henninger in the Class AA quarterfinals. All-TVL first team guard Ethan Powell earned all-state honors last year, when he led RFA with 20.8 points per game and 64 3s. Backcourt mates Tristan Hunzinger (13.4 ppg, 5.2 apg, 30 3s) and T.J. Behlin (11.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 6.4 apg) made the All-TVL second team, and Gavin Mosher (14.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg), Dante Cummings (51 3s) and Zach Wilbert also return for RFA coach Nick Medicis.

• At Whitesboro, Tommy Morreale, last year’s sophomore sensation, was an All-TVL second team choice who averaged 17.2 points and 7.5 rebounds. Coach Garrett Herthum returns three other starters – Cameron Hunter, Zach Britt and Collin McAndrew – from a team that finished 14-9 overall, and this year’s Warriors are coming off a 69-66 win over Class AA Baldwinsville.

• After finishing 11-9 last year, Thomas R. Proctor graduated All-TVL first team swingman Orion Anyango (15 ppg, 46 3s) and point guard Jacob Phoeung. Coach Mark Joseph, however, still has shooting guard Anthony Giglio (39 3s) and two athletic returning lettermen in Todd Manolescu and Landon Johnson.

• Big-time Division I prospect Frankie Policelli (28.1 ppg, 13.6 rpg) missed the last half of his junior season with a knee injury, and the all-state guard later chose to leave New Hartford and enroll at perennial downstate powerhouse Long Island Lutheran. Seniors Joe Murray and Vinny Perrotta are the Spartans’ returning starters.