When Ryan Van Buren looks up at the boys basketball championship banners in the Massapequa gym, he mostly sees barren cloth.
Yet he can sometimes hear the 1976-77 banner (that of the program's lone county title) speak to him.
"Work hard, Ryan, and you too can get up here," it says.
Wait, no, that's just the voice of Marty Voight, who was a member of that championship squad and is in his 19th season coaching the team.
"Coach Voight won the title, so we hear about that every day," Van Buren said on the bus after an 11-point, seven-rebound performance in Massapequa's latest ascent into the county's elite, a 43-42 win at Hempstead on Friday.
Is Massapequa likely to win a county title, or even the Conference AA-I crown? Not likely, based on a 22-point loss to Uniondale on Dec. 21.
But the Chiefs are off to an 8-1 start (with wins over top teams like Whitman, Freeport and Lawrence) behind their five senior starters, and believe they can play with anyone this season.
"I wouldn't say we're the new kids on the block," Van Buren said. "We definitely have a good opportunity to do something special this year."
Added Voight: "I pray that we get there. We're not too often mentioned with those guys."
The Chiefs' seniors have been playing together since grade school, and it shows. Five different players — Matt Smocovich, Matt Young, Chris Husmann, Michael Donohue, and Van Buren — have led them in scoring in a victory this season.
"We're an extra pass kind of team," Voight said. "We have to value the ball, pay attention to detail and play within our strengths."
Says the mysterious voice coming from the gym wall.